Juusto - Unusual Ingredient of the Week

And because I love unusual foods so much, here is an erstwhile series devoted to just that: unusual foods. Let me elaborate. Unusual doesn’t necessarily mean Fugu or horseshoe crab but items that are alien to me, a sheltered Brit girl who comes from a tiny village in Essex that thinks that figs are exotic (well, actually they are in their own seductive way).

Today, Juusto, a type of cheese from Finland, which is unusual, not because it tastes and smells like rotting fruit or is aged for seven years in a crypt, but because it is literally a bread cheese. What this means is that Juusto is not a cheese you put between two slices of bread but that you use as the bread. And the filling.
We bought a pack when we visited Wisconsin, the Dairy State. Wisconsin has a great selection of locally made cheeses that replicate continental cheeses (there’s not much point in importing cheese into a dairy state, after all), but this is the most unusual looking of all cheeses (excluding perhaps the ones that are aged in straw or ash). Once removed from it’s shrinkwrap, Juusto resembles a large slap of fried Halloumi but it also resembles a piece of toast. The reason for this is that the cheese is already toasted.
According to the website (at Pasture Pride Cheese, WI), Juusto has been produced in Finland, Sweden and Lapland for over 2 centuries. It is baked, which gives it its distinctive toasted appearance, which is how it greets us on the shelves. Taste wise, again it is similar to Halloumi but without the saltiness. It is squeaky against the teeth but not in an unpleasant way. Recipes on the official website suggest serving it savoury or sweet. They also produce a Jalapeno variety. It doesn’t melt, so you can microwave it, as we did, and serve it drizzled with butter and honey or jam. As my husband said “Cheese spread with Butter. Could there be anything more calorifically good?”
I also love that fact that it is an artisanal, local cheese, produced literally just up the road from where my husband’s parents live, and that Pasture Pride Cheese are also producing other cheesy delicacies such as Muenster, Colby, Pepper Jack and a variety of Cheddars.
Fans of strong tasting French cheeses might find it a bit bland but I loved it, and not just for the novelty value. It actually felt like a snack I would prepare on a dangerously regular basis if only we could purchase it here!

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