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Leipäjuusto (bread cheese) or juustoleipä, which is also known in the United States as Finnish squeaky cheese, is a fresh cheese traditionally made from cow's beestings, rich milk from a cow that has recently calved. Reindeer or even goat milk can also be used. Commercially available versions are typically made from regular milk, and they lack some of the colour and flavour because of this. The cheese originally comes from Southern Ostrobothnia, Northern Finland and Kainuu.
The milk is curdled and set to form a round disk from two to three centimeters thick. After this, leipäjuusto is baked, grilled or flambéed to give it its distinctive brown or charred marks. In Ostrobothnia and Kainuu, leipäjuusto is called juustoleipä (lit. "cheese bread"). However, this varies as people have moved around, and both names are used while leipäjuusto is the more commonly known name for this cheese. Other dialects have various names (such as narskujuusto) that refer 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 flavour.
Methods of serving
Leipäjuusto can be eaten warm or cold, and is served in a number of ways:
- The traditional way to serve it as slices, as a side dish with coffee.
- A few pieces are placed in a cup, with hot coffee poured on. The Swedish name kaffeost ("coffee cheese") refers to this.
- Served as diamond-shaped pieces, roughly 5 to 7 cm long and a little less wide, with cloudberry jelly or fresh cloudberries.
- Slices of the cheese are cut into a cup or plate, with some cream poured on the pieces so that they soak a little, some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled over it, and grilled in the oven for a moment. Served with cloudberry jelly.
- In modern Lappish cuisine, diced leipäjuusto is often used as a mild replacement for feta in various salads.
- As a dessert, leipäjuusto can be served like Camembert, fried on a pan with butter until it softens, and served with jam, traditionally cloudberry.