Scandinavian Dairy


Dairy products are the backbone of rural self.-esteem and farming traditions in Scandinavia. The cooperative movement itself is an extremely important part of Scandinavian democracy and self-understanding.

It was originally invented to professionalize and upgrade the milk and milk products in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In fact, it was a very early form of self-organized fair trade. The cooperative movement later became a grand affair, concerning and affecting the way all foodstuffs are traded and handled, but at the beginning it was all about milk. The movement founded 2,000 local diaries in Denmark alone, the idea rapidly spreading to all of Scandinavia.

These dairies developed to an enormous variety of cheeses, in a friendly ongoing competition, often influenced by foreign cheeses, but also building traditional local farm cheeses, and almost every dairy had its own methods, and its own special cheeses.

Twenty to thirty years ago, most dairies were bought by the big ones, and most were immediately closed down. They aimed for uniformity, mass production and equality, and this is what we got, instead of the local, interesting cheeses.

Cows in Sweden
Cows in Sweden

Then again, this left a room in the market for many new, small, very often organic dairies producing beautiful, local, handmade cheeses with much more spirit than the factory-made, humdrum versions.

Nowadays, it is very difficult to buy the real old matured cheeses, and you must work at tracking them down.

But give it a try here:

Denmark          Norway          Sweden 

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).

Røros, Norway
Røros, Norway

The excess of milk in Scandinavia has led to a varied use of milk in cooking; there is almost no dish without milk, butter and lavish amounts of cream. A hundred years ago, and it’s still so in rural areas, the main meal was served at noon, always starting with a ‘milk dish’.

There was an endless repertoire of these, often sweet dishes, soups, porridges and rice puddings, intended to fill up hungry stomachs before the expensive meat was served.

Thick milk from Røros
Thick milk from Røros

Today, a sour milk product is eaten in the morning and as snacks during the day, and almost all children, and far too many adults, drink enormous amounts of fresh milk.

Feature image (on top) Mountain shepardess, painting by Hans Dahl

Scandinavian Dairy, written by Tor Kjolberg