Juustoleipä or leipäjuusto is also known as “bread cheese.” This cheese originated in the area of Ostrobothnia in Northern Finland at least 200 years ago. It is a fresh cheese that traditionally is made from the rich milk of a cow that has recently calved. Nowadays, however, reindeer or even goat milk is more commonly used. Commercially available versions are typically made from regular milk and because of this they lack some of the color and flavor of the traditional product. To make the cheese, the milk is curdled and set into a round cylindrical form with a thickness of 2 – 3 cm. After this, the cheese is baked, grilled or flambéed to give it its distinctive brown or charred marks. In Ostrobothnia, leipäjuusto was called juustoleipä; today, however, this varies, as the name has spread so that today and both names are used, with leipäjuusto being more common. Other dialects have various names such as narskujuusto, a name that refers to the way that fresh leipäjuusto ‘squeaks’ against the teeth when bitten. Traditionally, leipäjuusto was dried and could then be stored for up to several years. For eating, the dry, almost rock-hard cheese was heated on a fire which softened it and produced an especially appetizing aroma. Even today, the cheese may be dried by keeping it in a well-ventilated place for a few days. It has a mild flavor. Leipäjuusto can be eaten warm or cold, and is served as a side dish with coffee or with cloudberries. Today, however, industrial or mass produced versions of this cheese have come to replace the traditional leipäjuusto, which is only made according to tradition in a few small farmsteads around the country.
Image: Archivio Slow Food