Cheese of the Month: Juustoleipa

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Juustoleipa is just plain fun. Whether you’re trying to pronounce it (hoo-stah-lee-pa, for the record) or figure out how the heck to eat it, Wisconsin juustoleipa is the perfect go-to cheese for summer.

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There’s no other cheese like juustoleipa (also called bread cheese). At first glance, its rectangular shape and slightly charred outside may have you thinking it looks more like a piece of French toast than cheese. But wait until you grill it! Because it has a low acid content, juustoleipa doesn’t melt. Rather, it softens into a pleasantly buttery slice of warm gooey goodness. The heat caramelizes the sugars on the outside of the cheese to form a tasty crust similar to brown bread.

The cheese has been produced for more than 200 years in northern Finland and Sweden. Juustoleipa is so addictively good, it was a deciding factor in marriage proposals! Back in Scandinavia, mothers of eligible women used to offer potential suitors a cup of coffee with it and if the man liked the cheese, he married the girl. We mean, can you blame him?

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Just like our beloved fresh cheese curds, Wisconsin juustoleipa squeaks on the teeth when you eat it. It’s mild and sweet, and comes in a variety of flavors like pizza, jalapeño, bacon and garlic. It can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen for months.

The Midwest has a strong Scandinavian heritage, and bread cheese is one of the traditions we’ve proudly carried forward. In 2002, scientists at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research sought to recreate the original Finnish recipe. The goal was to preserve this traditional cheese by developing new manufacturing methods that would allow small Wisconsin cheese factories and farmstead operations to produce it. Flash forward 15 years and now, Wisconsin boasts the only Master Cheesemaker in America certified in juustoleipa. That would be Scott Erickson at Bass Lake Cheese Factory in Somerset.

Here’s a full list of Wisconsin cheese companies that make juustoleipa:

Now…let’s get juusto-ing!

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This cheese can be warmed on a griddle and served on its own for an appetizer or snack. For a quick weeknight dinner, we like grilling juustoleipa for a few minutes on each side until it has softened and warmed through. Serve with grilled summer vegetables (bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini) and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Or, cut the warmed cheese into ½-inch cubes and sprinkle atop mixed greens, strawberries, walnuts and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Trying juustoleipa for the first time? Here’s a few warm weather recipes for cooking with this one-of-a-kind Wisconsin cheese:

Grilled Juustoleipa and Vegetable Antipasto Salad

Balsamic Bread Cheese Kabobs

Juustoleipa Tacos with Chorizo

 

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