Cheeses of Skyrim: The Reach, The Pale

Author (in-game): B

I continue my travel journal through the holds of Skyrim with this look at the cheeses of the Reach and the Pale. Again, for the sake of brevity, I sought to capture only the most noteworthy cheese from each hold I visited.


Doe’s Ire
Karthald and the Reach’s rocky passes and sheer cliffs make goats the only practical animal for herders to keep. As such, the area’s principal cheese is made with goat’s milk and flavored with berries from the seemingly ubiquitous juniper bushes that grow across the region. Most curious about this cheese is not its flavor—which I find cloyingly salty—but, rather, its strange role in the politics of the area. The Reach often gives rise to rebellious and ambitious rulers. They live under the armed watch of soldiers from Solitude or Evermore, who often do what they must to suppress the lust for conquest that seems to beat in the heart of every Reachfolk.

In tramping down these ambitions, many of the Reach’s traditions become surpressed—save for the making and eating of doe’s ire cheese, so named because a goat doe’s milk is curdled in the stomach of its own offspring to produce the cheese. The cheese is eaten on feast days dear to the Reach, in stark disobedience of those that would suppress the Reachfolk’s spirit. Some say the cheese’s salty profile comes from the tears of the doe, whose milk is soured in its offspring’s carcass. Patriots of the Reach say the cheese is salty to remind those who eat it of the sorrows that befell the Reach, punishment for unfulfilled destiny.

Bjenost is most curious among Skyrim’s offerings, being more of a “cheese of cheeses” than a cheese in and of itself. It is eaten almost exclusively by the people of the Pale, who do so to mark the end of winter and the return of spring.

As with many cheeses, bjenost almost certainly originated among the poor of the hold, though now high and low tables alike enjoy this delicacy. Made in the style of many of the hold’s sausages, stuffed into the intestines of a slaughtered pig. As the thaw approaches, they take the rinds and crumbs of cheeses that were consumed over the course of the long, dark winter, soak them in a tun of ale (a brown slurry of yeast and malt, the kind of drink that can be a meal in and of itself), then stuff it all inside the intestines. The bjenost is then hung to dry, to be taken down only at the High Spring Fest. It is sliced into golden disks, said to resemble the sun in springtime and enjoyed by all.

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