A Bit of History:
The term "Nokkel" in Norwegian translates into "crossed keys," which is part of the symbol used by the Dutch city of Leiden to denote products produced within, and adjacent to, their city. So to see the traditional cheese, you would notice the crossed-keys emblem; it symbolizes the cheese's association with the Leiden heritage.
Originally it was produced in Holland by the city of Leiden (or Leyden) where the crossed keys represented the emblem found at its city gates.
The cheese was made as a semi-hard cheese, its name translates into “key cheese” (Ost = Norwegian for cheese)
The cheese has been made since the 17th century, and in the late 1860s, Leyden cheese was important enough to be accepted as payment when trade was done between the two countries, and when the trade stopped, the Norwegians began making their own version of this cheese.
Nokkelost the Cheese:
The cheese is of a semi firm texture, and from my research, the original cheese was only spiced with Caraway. In Norway, it has been traditionally served as thin slices cut with a cheese plane and served on the dark bread, famous in the north.
Nokkelost is good cubed in salads, or shredded and baked in scalloped potatoes. It melts well and can be a unique main ingredient for grilled-cheese sandwiches. It partners well with beer and wine, especially when served with dark breads, such as pumpernickel.
The clove addition seems to have been added when they began making the cheese in Norway, but it must not be strong enough to mask the cheese and its caraway character.
As the Norwegian communities began to develop in America, they felt a need for their own cheese and at one point Kraft was making a cheese in America that they originally called "Caraway Cheese" but later changed to "Kuminost Spiced Cheese". The caraway addition is confusing because some references say that it is cumin that is added instead of caraway.
This is confusing but my research has shown me that CARAWAY HERB SEEDS are also called PERSIAN CUMIN; the confusion here is that in India, JEERA is the name for CUMIN whereas SHAHI JEERA is the name for CARAWAY. They both look somewhat similar but they are not.
All very confusing, but I am sticking with caraway as the addition because cumin just seems wrong with its warm flavor, and I can easily see this masking the character of the cheese. The caraway, with its brighter flavor, seems to add that additional zip to add to the character of the cheese.
The clove addition also needs to be subtle, with less used than the caraway for a balanced cheese. Sometimes less is more.
Now for my addition of cardamom. Cardamom ( Kardemumma) is not traditional in this cheese, but huge on many Norwegian tables, especially in breads.
Vikings came upon cardamom about one thousand years ago, in Constantinople, and introduced it into Scandinavia, where it remains popular. Norway is still today one of the biggest consumers of this spice.
But why did I bring it into this cheese?? Many years ago a friend had made a cardamom ice cream for me several times, and I never forgot how well the brightness of this spice went with the dairy aspect. Also, the 'Lassi' accompanying Indian meals is in my taste memory, and I thought this would be my own little addition to this historical cheese from Norway (I cant believe no one else has done this yet and I am sure they have).
When I mentioned the infusion of cardamom into the milk my friend agreed how right it seemed. As already mentioned cardamom is used in many breads in Norway.