Sunday, September 1, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Finnish Squeaky Cheese

     Today we head back to Scandinavia, specifically Finland.  Readers may recall that I did a post last summer about a Finnish beer variant (sahti, which unfortunately I wasn't a fan of) as well as one about the Norwegian Gjetost, a truly unique type of cheese.  I found Finnish Squeaky Cheese in Iowa, by way of Wisconsin, two states with significant populations of folks with Scandinavian heritage.
     The topic of today's post goes by many names.  It's called "Juusto," "Leipajuusto" (they're not on my keyboard, but there should be umlauts over the "a"), "Juustoleipa," "Ostbrod," "baked cheese," and "bread cheese."  I opted for titling this post Finnish Squeaky Cheese because I thought this was by far the most entertaining name.
     Juusto is traditionally made from a different type of cow's milk, colostrum.  Colostrum (also called "first milk" and, oddly, "beestings") is the milk produced by a cow that's just calved.  It has a lower fat content and higher protein content than later, regular milk, and most notably contains crucial antibodies that a calf needs for its burgeoning immune system.  Juusto is also made from reindeer and goat milk.  Some people believe that the antibodies in colostrum may be beneficial for athletic training.  Also, research is being done with colostrum as a possible weapon against antibiotic resistant pathogens.
     As one of its names suggests, after being made Juusto is then baked or grilled, which gives the cheese its distinctive brownish charred markings.  It's eaten in a variety of ways--in salads, plain, and sometimes in a cup with coffee poured over it.  But the most common way seems to be heated up, then combined with cloudberry jam or jelly.  I'd never heard of cloudberries, and I've never seen them for sale, but a website suggested blackberries or raspberries as an acceptable substitute.  As per directions I heated mine for twenty seconds in a microwave, which was long enough to make the cheese warm and soft, but not enough to actually melt it.  I then had some slices plain, and some with blackberries on top.  It should come as no surprise to readers who have heard me go on and on about how much I adore cheese to learn that I really liked it.  It has a mild flavor, and the baking gives it a nice, firm-ish rind.  Juusto was fine plain, but eating it with the tart blackberries was a nice combination, too.  Really, my only (minor) complaint is that the cheese doesn't squeak on its own--you do have to bite into it to get that effect.  So congrats is due to the Finns for coming up with an innovative take on what to me is the very best food in existence.

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