Jarlsberg Cheese: The Origin Of This Creamy Delight From Norway
Image Credit: Unsplash

In the world of cheese, Jarlsberg holds a special place with its distinct flavour, creamy texture, and rich history. Originating from Norway, this semi-soft, yellow cheese has gained popularity worldwide for its unique taste and versatility. The story of Jarlsberg cheese dates back over 60 years, when a group of Norwegian scientists created a new variety inspired by the Swiss Emmental. Since then, it has become an iconic cheese loved for its nutty, slightly sweet notes and characteristic large holes.

Jarlsberg cheese is a popular type of cheese that originated in Norway. It is a semi-soft, yellow cheese known for its distinctive flavour, creamy texture, and characteristic large holes. Jarlsberg is often compared to Swiss Emmental cheese due to its holey structure, but it has its own unique taste profile. This type of cheese is made from cow's milk and goes through a specific ageing process that contributes to its flavour development. The cheese has a mild and nutty taste with hints of sweetness, making it appealing to a wide range of palates. Its smooth and buttery texture adds to the overall enjoyment of the cheese.

Jarlsberg cheese is incredibly versatile in the culinary world. It can be enjoyed on its own, sliced and eaten as a snack, or incorporated into a variety of dishes. It melts beautifully, making it an excellent choice for sandwiches, grilled cheese, fondues, and baked dishes. Its unique taste and creamy texture also make it a delightful addition to cheeseboards and salads.

Jarlsberg cheese, a mild Swiss-type cheese originating from Norway, offers potential health benefits. A study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health found that daily consumption of Jarlsberg could contribute to bone growth and regeneration.

Whether you're a cheese lover or a novice in the world of cheeses, Jarlsberg offers a delightful experience with its mild, nutty flavour and smooth texture. Its versatility and distinctive character have made it a beloved choice among cheese connoisseurs and food enthusiasts worldwide.

The History Of Jarlsberg

Jarlsberg cheese is a famous Norwegian cheese that has gained international recognition for its distinct flavour and characteristics. The history of Jarlsberg cheese begins in the mid-20th century.

In the 1950s, a team of Norwegian dairy researchers and scientists at the Agricultural University of Norway in Ås set out to develop a new cheese variety. Their goal was to create a cheese that could rival the Swiss Emmental cheese in terms of taste and texture.

The team, led by Professor Ole Martin Ystgaard, experimented with various cheese recipes and production techniques. They combined traditional Norwegian cheesemaking methods with the knowledge gained from Swiss cheesemaking, particularly Emmental and Gruyère cheeses.

Through careful selection of specific cultures, bacteria, and ageing techniques, they developed a new cheese that had a mild, nutty flavour with a characteristic sweet and slightly caramelized taste. This cheese also had the desirable large holes or "eyes" associated with Swiss cheeses.

The cheese was named "Jarlsberg" after the location of the research institute, which was situated in the village of Jarlsberg, near Tønsberg in Vestfold County, Norway. Jarlsberg cheese quickly gained popularity not only in Norway but also internationally, particularly in the United States.

How Is Jarlsberg Cheese Made?

The cheese-making vat warms pasteurised cow's milk. The starter cultures are added by the cheesemaker, including a combination of the mesophilic lactic acid bacteria used in Gouda-style cheeses and the propionibacteria responsible for the distinctive holes and nutty flavour in Swiss cheeses such as Emmentaler. Rennet is then added to the milk to cause it to curdle.

The gel-like curd is sliced, and the curds are heated while being agitated to help them release the whey. The whey is removed from the curds after they are ready, and then the curds are hoop-filled into circular cheese moulds. The cheese is salted before being kept in the maturing cave. After three months, Jarlsberg is usually bottled and sold.


When looking for substitutes for Jarlsberg cheese, you can consider Swiss cheeses such as Emmental or Gruyère, which share a similar nutty flavour and holey texture. Gouda cheese, especially the younger varieties, offers a creamy and slightly sweet taste that can be sliced, grated, or melted. Havarti cheese, with its mild and buttery flavour, works well in sandwiches or cheese platters.

Fontina cheese, known for its nutty taste, melts smoothly and is often used in gratins and grilled cheese sandwiches. Lastly, Muenster cheese provides a mild and tangy flavour, making it a versatile option for various dishes. These substitutes offer comparable characteristics to Jarlsberg cheese, allowing you to enjoy similar taste profiles and textures in your culinary creations.

Culinary Applications

Jarlsberg cheese can be enjoyed in various ways due to its versatility. It is perfect for sandwiches, adding a mild and nutty flavour to classics like ham and cheese or turkey and cheese. When melted, Jarlsberg cheese creates a smooth and creamy texture, making it ideal for grilled cheese sandwiches, paninis, and quesadillas.

It is a great addition to cheeseboards, providing visual appeal and a distinct taste alongside other cheeses, fruits, and meats. Jarlsberg cheese can be sliced or cubed and used in salads to add creaminess and a hint of sweetness. Additionally, it works well in cheese sauces for pasta dishes, as a topping for burgers, as a standalone snack, and even in baked goods. With its versatility and delicious flavour, Jarlsberg cheese elevates a wide range of dishes, making it a favourite among cheese enthusiasts.

Storage Instructions

Jarlsberg should be kept in the refrigerator in its original packaging. In your refrigerator, unopened wedges of Jarlsberg should remain fresh for up to three weeks. When the cheese is opened, keep it tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, airtight in a plastic bag, or in another airtight container in your refrigerator. The cheese should keep for up to 10 days after being opened.

Before eating, you can clip off any surface mould that has developed on your Jarlsberg. Avoid running your knife through the mould, which could spread it to other cheese components, and take care to entirely remove the mouldy area. The majority of cheeses shouldn't be frozen; however, Jarlsberg can be kept there for up to six months.

Keep the cheese in the original container or wrap it firmly in foil or plastic wrap before placing it inside an airtight plastic bag. Before use, let frozen Jarlsberg thaw overnight in the fridge. It is advisable to melt thawed cheese into recipes rather than eating it straight from the freezer because freezing will change the texture of the cheese and can make it crumbly and brittle.