Searching for cheese nirvana in Skellefteå? Look no further

A decade in Norrland, and Paul Connolly still misses London's cheese counters - those towering displays overflowing with pungent, international treats. Here, supermarket cheese selections are more limited. So, on a mundane shopping trip, imagine Paul's delight at the massive cheese counter at a supermarket in Prästbordet. He just had to meet the mastermind behind it, Skellefteå's king of cheese, Patrik Broström.

Patrick Boström. "I love my work. I’ve already told the owners, you will have to carry me out of here. This is where I’ll retire."

Patrick Boström. "I love my work. I’ve already told the owners, you will have to carry me out of here. This is where I’ll retire."

Foto: Donna Richmond

Engelska2024-04-18 13:38

Since moving to Norrland a decade ago, I’ve missed London’s supermarket cheese counters, with their towering cliffs of yummy cheeses from all over Europe.

Most supermarkets here have a fairly limited array of cheese, and few offer the kind of pungent, in-your-face goat’s cheese from small, independent dairies that I’m particularly fond of.

Which is why, on an otherwise boring shopping errand, I was so excited to find the huge cheese counter at ICA Kvantum on the west side of town, and why I insisted on talking to the store’s cheese master, Patrik Broström, a man thoroughly obsessed with all things cheese.

What inspired you to become a cheese specialist?

– The great variations of cheese. The taste of one cheese can change by season: for example the same cheese made with summer milk can taste totally different to the one made with winter milk. Also with different altitudes a cheese’s taste can change. And the way you can make fantastic dinners using good cheese. 

How has the reception been from both the local community and the newcomers?

– We've seen rising interest from the local community recently, which is really fun and that inspires us to get new kinds of cheeses. The newcomers introduce us to other international cheeses, and also other ways of eating cheese. 

Patrick Boström. "Before they taste anything they usually tell me they don’t like goat’s cheese. But before they know it I’ve sold them three chunks of it. They’re amazed. They say, 'But we don’t like goat's cheese!' And I say, 'You do now!'"

What unique Swedish and local cheese variety do you offer? 

– We have Svedjan Ost, a cheesemaker 40 kilometers northwest of town. It’s a lovely place and in the summer they also have a café. For me, Svedjan is number one.

What are your favorite international cheeses? 

– Picking your favourite cheese is like picking your favourite child. It’s impossible. There's so many with all the different cheese families. Hard cheese, soft cheese, goat’s, blue cheese. I love them all. I do like Dutch cheese because of the crisp flavour. I also like Swiss cheese. Picking a favourite is hard because it really depends on the occasion, the season, and also the company you’re in.

How about some unusual international cheeses?

– Oh, we certainly have some of those. We have Fourme d'Ambert, a semi-hard French blue cheese, packaged in a distinct, narrow cylindrical shape, which is made from raw cow's milk. The cheese is made from cows who graze above 1,634 metres in the Alps. They then carry the milk down 200 metres into a cave and put the milk in cylinders to make Fourme d’Ambert.

The deli has a vast selection of local and international cheese.

– We also have a Swiss cheese that's only made from milk produced in the month of May. The cows are released out onto the Alps when the herbs are fresh and the grass is fresh. 

–Then there’s a full moon cheese from Denmark. It's made from milk that's milked only on full moon nights. So that's 12 batches a year.

Like me, you’re a big fan of goat’s cheese, which many people seemed to be scared of.

–They are! But I find ways to change their minds.

Tell me how you carry out missionary work for goat’s cheese

– A perfect day to do this is Friday afternoon. I love the Friday feeling. We have lots of people passing through. I am often hosting people at the deli, letting them try different cheeses, including goat’s. People hear other people saying how delicious the cheese is, and they also come over and try it. And it’s often goat’s cheese I’m offering. Before they taste anything they usually tell me they don’t like goat’s cheese. But I’ve soon sold them three chunks of goat’s cheese. They’re amazed. They say, “But we don’t like goat's cheese!” And I say, “You do now!”

It’s not all just about fancy cheeses, though, is it? You have a good anecdote about that old Swedish favorite, hushållsost.

– If I go to a function and I know there's champagne being served then I will pick a hushållsost, the lowliest cheese in Sweden. At one cheese tasting I knew we’d be drinking champagne, so I took some hushållsost with me, made a label, called it Fromage du Menage, and presented it. Everyone said, “it’s so good!” I then had to say, “Sorry guys, but it’s hushållsost.” The taste went so well with champagne nobody could believe it!

Patrick Boström. "I love my work. I’ve already told the owners, you will have to carry me out of here. This is where I’ll retire."

Do you get newcomer Skellefteå residents asking for cheeses from their home countries that you don't stock? 

– Yes, lots! We have great suppliers that can within two weeks get the specific cheese. 

Have you noticed more interest in cheese as more newcomers have arrived?

–Yes. Maybe not on as steep a curve as the locals’ interest, but nevertheless the interest is increasing. 

And how do you view the increasing influx of non-Swedish newcomers to Skellefteå?

– The newcomers have made our horizons wider - it's so fun to try new ideas with new people. We can't just stay in our box all the time! 

How many non-Swedish staff do you have in the deli? 

– We have two non-Swedes. One from Macedonia, and the other from Thailand. I think I can speak for all of us all when I say that we really do love working together. It makes work more interesting to have different people. 

Would you say you are a cheese nerd?

– My girlfriend, when we met six years ago, couldn’t understand why I always wanted to go into work early. She’d say “You don't start work until seven”. I said, “I know, but I want to be there at six, to have an hour to prepare." 

Maybe I’m not just a cheese nerd, maybe I’m just a nerd. I love my work. I’ve already told the owners, you will have to carry me out of here. 

This is where I’ll retire.

Patrick Boström at his cheese counter.