Havarti is a soft, cream-colored cows’ milk cheese made in Denmark, and one of the most popular cheeses imported to the United States.
Steven Jenkins, in his book “Cheese Primer,” refers to Havarti as the “least offensive cheese in the world, so simple that it would be curmudgeonly to say anything even slightly negative about it.”
Jenkins has no problem saying negative things when he feels they are merited, so this is quite a recommendation for the plain, inexpensive, flavorful cheese.
Denmark is known for being a country with a huge factory dairy industry. It has a land mass less than half the size of Indiana, but Denmark contains, according to the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, 61 production dairy plants that process more than one billion gallons of milk a year, much of it made into cheese.
Danish cheeses tend to be not stellar artisan products, but tasty, economical, consistent cheeses that offer good value for the price.
According to Arla Foods, producers of Denmark’s Finest Havarti, the cheese was named after Havarti farm, where cheesemaker Hanne Nielsen invented the cheese in the mid-1900s.
Havarti is one of the few cheeses offered in a light version, so we got a piece of light and one of regular to taste the difference.
The full-fat cheese (10 grams of fat per ounce) was very opaque, creamy white and squishy-soft at room temperature, with Havarti’s signature tang and mouth-coating creaminess.
In our blind tasting, the light version was judged a bit different, and it was easy to guess which was which. The light cheese (7 grams fat per ounce) was a slightly darker color, firmer and more translucent. It had a nice tang and a nuttier flavor than the full fat cheese.
Although they were different, the light cheese was perfectly good and might even work better for some applications. For instance, it would be perfect for a grilled sandwich. A less greasy cheese that would melt, yet keep its shape and not run off the edges, would be a bonus for this.
Havarti is such a mild, yet rich, cheese at an inexpensive price that there’s really nowhere it wouldn’t work. Shredded in salads, stirred into soups, melted or cold on a sandwich, with crackers or bread, it’s one of the most versatile cheeses around.
Havarti also is offered in a spectrum of flavors, including with dill, caraway seeds, hot peppers, chives and horseradish.
Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich with Apple and Havarti
Source: Adapted from “Cooking Light,” 2002
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup trimmed arugula
4 (¹/8-inch-thick) slices red onion
12 ounces thin-sliced deli turkey
2 Pink Lady or Cameo apples, each cored and cut crosswise into 8 (¼-inch-thick) slices
½ cup (2 ounces) grated Havarti or light Havarti cheese
— Coarsely ground black pepper
1 Preheat broiler with oven rack in middle position.
2 Spread each bread slice with 1 teaspoon mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon mustard. Layer each slice with ¼ cup arugula, 1 onion slice, 3 ounces turkey, 4 apple slices and 2 tablespoons cheese.
3 Place sandwiches on a baking sheet; broil 4 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from heat; sprinkle with pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.