Renost, or reindeer cheese, is a traditional product of the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, who rely on reindeer as one of their main resources. Using all parts of the reindeer, the Sami preserve the animal’s meat and milk and make coats from its fur and tools from its bones and antlers.
Reindeer milk is important in the everyday Sami diet. The milk was traditionally stored in a container called naehpie and worked by hand. The milk can be consumed fresh, made into cheese, or acidified to make tätmjölk, dense milk. To make renost, the curdled milk was poured into the stomach of a reindeer, which was closed and hung in the open air. Today, the few producers who still make renost use linen cloths. In this way the excess liquid can be eliminated, while the contents become hard and grainy, thanks to the cold climate. Renost was usually made into a rounded, flat shape and decorated. The flavor is quite strong, similar to that of a matured cheese, and it was often used instead of cream in coffee. Renost is sometimes smoked to prolong its shelf life.
The vaja, female reindeer, produce very little milk, which makes large-scale renost production impossible. For this reason, the production of renost has suffered several setbacks over the years; in the 30s it seemed to have ceased completely. Today, the tradition of making renost is kept alive thanks to the efforts of a few reindeer breeders,but production remains very small scale.