Månedens matblogger: North Wild Kitchen // Ost & Sånt
There’s an undeniably genuine and informative presence at Ost og Sånt that greets you right away as the large, golden sign and incredible array of cheeses and goods draw you into the boutique. A boutique filled with the promise of Norwegian farm products that does not disappoint. I imagine that spending a few minutes inside with the knowledgeable staff would turn anyone, who is not already, into a cheese fan.
Frode, the Cheeseman, as he is affectionately referred to, is as passionate about cheese as his title suggests. A former chef, turned business man, turned cheeseman, Frode has an enthusiasm so great it’s clearly contagious as one happy customer after another leave with a brown bag full of delectable goodies and a greater knowledge about these high-quality Norwegian products.
Frode tells me that most cheese production is still done on farms. However, there is an increase in more city production reflecting the growing interest in artisanal cheese all over Norway. He strongly believes more and more Norwegians are appreciating and looking for types of cheese of quality. While before it was more common to shop for cheese based on price, now there is a desire for quality and an understanding that it may come with a greater price tag. And it’s well worth it because the cheeses in his shop are delicious and far superior to their mass-produced counterparts. The introduction of social media and the internet has also meant greater visibility for small-scale producers throughout Norway and the rest of the world, making it substantially easier for the consumer to orientate themselves in the market and get access to these small cheese gems across the country.
About eighty percent of the cheese stocked at Ost og Sånt is Norwegian, with the rest imported from abroad. When a customer comes in for an imported cheese, Frode and his team use the opportunity to show them similar types of cheese found in Norway as well. The customer, more often than not, leaves with the Norwegian cheese and a new understanding of the quality and range of cheesemaking that exists in Norway.
But Ost og Sånt is more than just a charming boutique selling cheese and accompaniments that conjure up thoughts of the Norwegian nature and farm life, it’s playing a critical role in the preservation and maintenance of traditional products.
Frode’s biggest hurdle isn’t demand, it’s supply. He stocks quality products from small to medium-sized producers spread across Norway. Some suppliers only produce a handful of their products at a time and that means a limited supply until the next round is ready, which could take months. But that’s the beauty and charm of Ost og Sånt – the majority of the products are based on how often and when the producers make their goods. A seaweed cheese from Lofoten might appear in the shop for a brief while, only to return weeks later. Cloudberry jam (multesyltetøy) will reappear again in the autumn when the berries are in season and a new batch of spruce tip jelly will be made in the spring. And the stock of dried reindeer hearts will be replenished when the hunting season is underway in the late autumn. It’s a beautiful cycle of how Norway’s natural ingredients are used in the traditional diet – seasonally and within limits – and how waiting can make that product even more special by knowing it’s fresh and procured straight from nature and can only be indulged in specific times of the year.
Highlighting the products made by local producers is vital in maintaining this type of artisanal and quality production. Some of the recipes and methods of production have been passed down from generation to generation and can easily face the risk of disappearing if they are not maintained. Supporting these local producers is exactly what Frode and his team are doing through their promotion of the products, the demands of the customer, and by showing just how important their work is to Norway’s food culture. Whether it’s traditional products like prim or nøkkelost or innovative products like malt crackers or truffle goat cheese, there is a positive resurgence happening for local producers and places like Ost og Sånt are playing their role to encourage this.
I could listen to Frode all day long. He’s full of interesting stories, knowledge, and has a passion and sense of humor that rubs off. And the same goes for the rest of the staff. You can easily go in and leave with delicious goods, but you also have the chance to leave with so much more.
Frode has an array of homemade jams and syrups you can pair with cheese, meats, and crackers. Here’s the recipe for his homemade spruce tip jelly (which you can also buy at the shop)