The apple “cheese” is a sweet that is prepared with the Antonovka variety of apples: an old, particular variety, sweet and acidic, and rich in pectin. The apples are washed and peeled, and seeds and damaged parts are removed. Sugar is added, and they are cooked over a low flame for about 48 hours in order to evaporate the maximum quantity of water. At the end of the cooking, spices are added, including ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Additionally, a small quantity of cooked and shredded orange peel is added. The mixture, once ready, is put into a wedge-shaped cloth bag, and then placed under a weight for 24 hours. After this, the bags are hung or laid flat to dry and age for 30-45 days.
Apple “cheese” is a product that recalls the cooking of the Szlachta, the noble class in Lithuania some centuries ago. This recipe was taken from the book by Ganna Tsiundzjavistkaja “The Lithuanian Hostess” from 1848. From 1569 to 1795, Belarus, Lithuania and Poland were one united nation called the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation. So, with the term “Lithuania,” it is intended to mean a good part of the territory of modern day Belarus: in particular the central, western and northern parts. For this reason, the first Belorussian cookbook was called “The Lithuanian Cook” or “The Lithuanian Hostess,” even if it was written after 1795.
Apple “cheese” is an original dessert that currently is made by the confectioners of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Its preparation and taste are very similar to a preserve. It is called “cheese” probably because it is hung to dry in a cotton sack that is also used to make cheese, for its shape, and for its consistency. The apple “cheese” is made when the fruits are ripe, but is ready to be consumed only for the Christmas holidays. For this reason, the “cheese” became a traditional Christmastime sweet. While once widely known in Belarus, today it is made in much smaller quantities and has become practically forgotten, likely due to its time consuming and complicated preparation.