I love discovering food products from my own country with a long history and tradition. Something that is unique to my culture, although variations of every food is likely to be found in all countries around the world. Norway is known for its fondness of dairy and has in turn, a rich dairy industry. Today, many artisan producers are prioritizing staying true to Norwegian roots and maintaining the country’s traditions by making old-school, wholesome and organic products. I came across an article today that prompted me to do some more research on a cultured milk product called “tjukkmjølk” or “tettemelk.”
Tjukkmjølk (literal translation: thick milk) is a traditional milk dish from the area of Røros with over 150 years of history. Røros is a town in the county of Sør-Trøndelag. Røros is known for being a mining town due to its historical copper mining business, and is one of two towns in Norway that have been historically designated as mining towns (Kongsberg being the other). The town is scattered with 17th and 18th century buildings with dark- pitch log facades, giving it a medieval appearance, which led UNESCO to name it a World Heritage Site in 1980.
The name ‘tjukkmjølk’ refers to the thick and rich consistency of the milk, which originally was produced from the butterwort (“tettegras” in Norwegian) plant. The Latin name for this plant is Pinguicula Vulgaris, where “Pingus” means ‘fat’, and refers to the shiny leaves of the plant. ‘Vulgaris’ means ordinary.
The leaves of the butterwort plant were rinsed and placed in the bottom of a wooden bowl. Slightly warm and fresh milk was poured over the leaves, and the bowl was then placed in a warm spot. When the milk firmed up, it looked almost like yogurt, and was ready for use, and referred to as “tette”, meaning the starter culture for producing tjukkmjølk, also called ‘tettemelk’. This starter was used again and again in the old days, and can be likened to making of sourdough breads today, where a small portion of starter is used to produce loaves of bread. Some say the “tette” culture lives forever. The taste of tjukkmjølk cannot be replicated anywhere else, and has been said to have the flavor of summer. The fresh, tangy flavor of the milk combines well with the summer berries found everywhere in Norway during this time of year and makes for a perfect light breakfast, snack or dessert.
Think yogurt is healthy and good for you? Try tjukkmjølk! Because the fat particles are not separated during the gentle heating process, i.e. the milk is not homogenized, the good fat will remain intact, a layer of cream will generate on top of the milk. Tjukkmjølk also contains living lactic acid bacteria. During the souring process, the casein (milk protein) is broken down – we do not see this in any other milk products (yogurts, cottage cheese, etc).
Image from beskyttedebetegnelser.no
Tjukkmjølk is now a protected geographical name from the region of Røros in Norway, and was in fact the first food product in Norway who received this protection. This means that the milk has to be produced locally, and that the production, based on the long traditions of milk production from the Røros area, has to take place in the county of Røros. The milk used has to be organic and is produced on dairy farms in the northern Østerdalen and the Røros area.
Tjukkmjølk is considered a summer food and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Many people use it instead of yogurt, milk or heavy cream. Eat it with some fresh berries and granola on top, add it in a smoothie or into a dressing as well as waffle batters and desserts like mousse and panna cotta. By pureeing it in a blender you can make it into a healthy, drinkable yogurt if you add a banana, avocado and perhaps a scoop of protein powder.
Below is a recipe adapted from the website of Rørosmeieriet, the only dairy company in Norway that is 100% organic and also the only ones producing tjukkmjølk today. For those of you who are lucky enough to get a hold of this product, try this one out or substitute with kefir if you cannot find tjukkmjølk.
This wonderful dairy product definitely has the taste of summer, but I would say above all, represents the taste of Norway!
TJUKKMJØLKSPUDDING MED RØRTE BÆR (Tjukkmjølkspudding with marinated berries)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cup tjukkmjølk
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 vanilla bean pod
100 grams 0r about 1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cl or 2 oz Cointreau or other orange liqeur
8 sheets gelatin
200 grams/1 cup cranberries, blueberries or cloudberries
150 g/ 0.75 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 star anise pods
Place the gelatin sheets in a little water. In a sauce pot, add sour cream, heavy cream, lemon and orange juice, vanilla bean pod and sugar. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the gelatin. Whisk in the tjukkmjølk and Cointreau. Pour into a bread pan or other dessert pan and place in fridge for a couple of hours until set.
To make the berries:
Bring sugar, water, cinnamon stick and anise pods to a simmer in a sauce pot, stir and cook until sugar is completely dissolved. Add in the berries and remove from heat, stir to combine.
Serve the pudding with the berries still slightly warm spooned over.
Image from stoltmat.no