Cheeses of Skyrim: Whiterun, Winterhold, Eastmarch

Author (in-game): B

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


Ald Umber
One of the most decadent cheeses of Skyrim hails from the kingdom’s breadbasket, the fertile and expansive Whiterun Hold. Though I have to admit, for all of the luxuriousness that one feels when eating ald umber, it is neither the most complex nor challenging cheese I’ve encountered on my tour of the holds.

Many assume by the name alone that ald umber is an extremely aged cheese, in the tradition of eidar. That cannot be farther from the truth. Rather, the name is a sign of how long this cheese has been a part of Whiterun’s culinary landscape. I hazard to even call it a cheese, frankly, for its method of production is unlike any other cheese I know. They collect whey from curd-pressings, and rather than discard it, they combine it with cream. This mixture is boiled in a wide, shallow pot over the course of many hours. The liquid becomes solid over time, and in doing so, it adopts a pale brown color and caramel-like aroma, hence the name “umber.”

The people of Winterhold, at least those who don’t practice magic within the hold’s illustrious college, are a simple folk that eke out a living by working the Sea of Ghosts. There is little pasture for grazing, and the bitter winds coming off the sea are oft as not to see a herd of cattle stricken with ague. Both cow and goat’s milk are in short supply. What little is at hand is made into a fresh, soft farmer’s cheese. But despite the humble circumstances, the people of Winterhold make one of the most delicious cheese dishes I’ve ever experienced.

The elderly and the children of the hold, too young to brave the waters of the Sea of Ghosts, spend the day collecting seaweed, which they dry for several weeks. The simple farmer’s cheese is smoked over a pile of burning seaweed, imbuing it with an aroma of the sea. It is then—and this is the most marvelous part—baked, being wrapped in a pastry that is composed of flour and horker suet. This permits the brave fisherfolk to eat while working the sea, where often they can only spare one hand at a time.

When freshly baked, the molten innards of these dumplings steam and crackle, while the crust remains flaky and light, as though one were biting into the flesh of an ethereal creature. They are best enjoyed after walking several hours on Winterhold’s frozen shore, chased by the onset of dusk.

Mammoth Cheese
The good people of Eastmarch, who proved such kind hosts to me on my travels, will likely never forgive me for glossing over their contributions to the art of cheese making. But given the number of Giant camps within the hold’s borders, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to wax on the singular dish mentioned in every bedside fable about Skyrim—mammoth cheese, the single commodity produced by Giants.

It is cheese of a primitive sort. They fill the stomach of a young mammoth to near-bursting with the milk of a Giant’s mammoth herd. The milk curdles and the resulting curds are placed into hide sacks and wrung to release moisture. What remains is a paste-like mammoth cheese—unappetizing to any connoisseur and not worth the risk to acquire.

What is worth remarking on, however, is the strange behavior of Giants that graze their herds near the sulfurous pools in the countryside. They take their sacks of curds and boil them in the mineral-rich waters, giving the cheese a pleasing and complex bouquet, that I can only liken to ash used in glassmaking, called potash. Once this is done, the mammoth cheese becomes something worthy of the finest tables in all the land.

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