Swedish Language Blog

Västerbottensost Pie: Kräftskiva’s BFF Posted by on Aug 27, 2021 in Culture, Food, Holidays and Celebrations, Living in Sweden, Travel & Geography, Uncategorized

Photo by Mark Stebnicki from Pexels.

My first ever kräftskiva was at the end of August. I fumbled through learning to eat the small, briney, dilly kräftor watching my Swedish family crack and slurp. Although crayfish are the reason for the party, the side dishes are often the stars. My kräftskiva debut was also my first time eating Västerbottensostpaj, a beloved, cheesy egg tart, and staple at the Swedish holiday table. This week, we’ll enjoy some history behind Västerbottensostpaj and why its key ingredient is so special, it’s even banned in the U.S.

What is Västerbottensost?

Västerbottensost is a cheese that is made, you guessed it, in the northern Swedish landskap (province) of Västerbotten. Like many great inventions, this beloved delicacy was created by accident. The story goes that in 1872, mejerskan (dairy maid) Ulrika Eleonora Lindström was stirring yst (curd) to make cheese when she was distracted by her lover, a mjölkdräng (dairy hand) on the same farm. Av en slump (by chance), the neglected curd turned out deliciously well and Västerbottensost was created!

John Duxbury, the Editor and Founder of Swedishfood.com writes that Västerbottensost:

– is a hard cow’s milk cheese,
– has a fairly high fat content (31%),
– has a fairly strong flavour,
– tastes something like a cross between Cheddar and Parmesan and is slightly salty,
– is a light yellow colour,
– has tiny holes and a firm granular texture.

Västerbottensost is always aged for at least 14 months and so, unlike Cheddar, mild versions are not available.

Another myth about Västerbottensost is that its special flavor comes from a cosmic place. A comet that struck the earth long ago created kalkrik (calcium-rich) soil in the Burträsk, Västerbotten area. When the cows eat grass produced from this element-rich sediment, those nutrients remain in the milk that is used to produce this cheese. Some credit the region’s geology as the key ingredient to the unique flavor that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Västerbottensostpaj, a Swedish Culinary Classic

…say that fives times fast! Paj is a Swedish word that works for both savory and sweet pies. In this case, Västerbottensostpaj, also affectionately referred to as PB-paj for short, is more like a quiche or tart. This classic svensk maträtt (Swedish dish) is served warm or cold, and often accompanied by what I’m now going to call “the Swedish garnish trilogy”; a dollop of crème fraiche, finely-diced rödlök (red onion), and a pile of vibrant red löjrom (roe, or Kalix caviar).

Västerbottensost is no longer available in the U.S. due to its sodium nitrate content no meeting FDA standards. American folk turn to other delicious cheeses to match the tangy quality only found in VB. My friend Patrice, whom you’ve met via my Waffle Day with Nordic Food Geek Patrice Johnson post, suggests subbing aged cheddar, Parmesan, and Gruyère. See Patrice’s own recipe for Västerbottensostpaj here.

If you’re in Europe, while this delicacy isn’t banned, you may still have a hard time finding it. Swedishfood.com mentions that the U.K. food chain Waitrose has begun to manufactured own version.

Swedish Västerbottensost Pie Recipe

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some prized Västerbottensost, here’s a recipe på svenska from Swedish grocery giant Coop. It’s their grundrecept (basic recipe), but you’ll find many variations with kantareller (chanterelles), dill, ham, and so on. I have not translated the recipe below but it’s pretty straightforward. My advice for cooking with a Swedish recipe is this: speak to your ingredients as you go – literally! “Hej grädden! Tjena degen!” Call out the Swedish ingredient names and repeat each step with the Swedish verbs as you do each instructed step. Adding a physical process to your Swedish will help you retain more. Here’s your chance to try this method with PB-paj

Ingredienser (8)

Pajdeg – Pie Dough

  • 3 dl vetemjöl
  • 125 g smör
  • 0.5 tsk salt
  • 3 msk kallt vatten

Fyllning – Filling

  • 3 ägg
  • 3 dl grädde
  • 2 krm grovmald svartpeppar
  • 6 dl riven Västerbottensost

Gör så här – How to assemble

  • Nyp ihop mjöl, smör och salt till en smulig massa.
  • Tillsätt vatten och arbeta snabbt ihop till en deg.
  • Tryck ut degen i en pajform. Nagga med en gaffel och ställ kallt ca 10 min.
  • Förgrädda ev 10 min.
  • Vispa ihop ägg, grädde och peppar.
  • Lägg osten i pajskalet och häll äggstanningen över.

Grädda mitt i ugnen tills äggstanningen stelnat och fått fin färg, ca 30 min.

Raise your hand if you love Västerbottensostpaj! Have you ever made it before? What’s your favorite topping or variation of the standard recipe? Tell me below in the comments!

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.