Juustoa (Finnish Squeaky Cheese)

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I have always loved juustoa. It’s a very mild, fresh cheese that “squeaks” when you bite into a piece, especially when it is still warm. It’s a cheese that you rarely see in a deli or cheese counter unless you live in the UP (of Michigan). I can’t buy it where I currently live so I decided I would make my own. I got on line and found some recipes and video instructions. The recipes varied slightly but overall were very similar. I have absolutely no cheese making experience but I always say, if you can read and follow instructions you can make anything. Well I’m not sure I still believe that. If you’re at all familiar with juustoa you will recognize the picture at the beginning of this post as bearing some resemblance.

Ingredients:

2 gallons skim or raw milk (the recipe I chose to follow stressed that whole pasteurized milk would not work)

1 pint heavy cream

3 T sugar

1 tsp salt

2 T cornstarch

1/2 vegetable rennet tablet or 1/2 tsp liquid rennet

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I found rennet at my local food coop and organic skim milk from a local dairy. There is animal rennet and vegetable rennet. Rennet causes the proteins in milk to form a curd. You might not want to know what either type of rennet is derived from so I won’t go into that. It’s just important to know that it’s an ingredient essential in the cheese making process. I got out my big stainless kettle and heated the milk and cream over medium heat to exactly 90 degrees.

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I removed the kettle from the heat and added the sugar, salt, cornstarch and rennet. The recipe said the milk should gel in 20-40 minutes.  The readiness test is to insert the handle of a wooden spoon in the center and it should leave a hole. Its at this point the process failed. No “hole” after 20 minutes, 40 minutes or even 90 minutes.

I googled, “what if the rennet doesn’t set up”.  It suggested I add half again the amount of rennet the recipe called for so I added another 1/4 tsp of rennet and waited some more. Now it’s been a few hours. I’ve rearranged the furniture in my house, done a couple loads of laundry. Still my milky concoction has not gelled.

I’ve invested too much money and time and I’m determined to make something of this mess. I got out a large mesh strainer and poured the pot of clotted milk into the strainer. I’m reminded of little miss muffet sitting on a tuffet eating her curds and whey. I cannot fathom eating the curds and whey. This was a real challenge to my weak stomach. I got rid of as much of the whey as possible and poured the curds into a round 9″ glass pan. I preheated the oven to 400 and put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. After about 10 minutes I checked and removed my cheese from the oven and siphoned whey with my turkey baster. A whole cup. I put it back in the oven, reset the timer for another 10 minutes. I removed another half cup of whey. But I’m finally getting a solid mass that is holding together pretty well.

Now I turned the broiler on and put the cheese under the broiler until it was browned. I took it out and waited until it had cooled down enough to flip and put side two under the broiler to brown. As soon as it had cooled enough I cut a piece off.

It tastes just like I remember. And it squeaked!!!

I’m going to do a little more research and try again. Even though my recipe said to use skim or raw milk other recipes did not specify skim milk. Organic vegetable rennet apparently has a 4 month shelf life.  Since there was no date on my bottle perhaps my rennet was outdated and losing its potency. It was a little disappointing to have things go awry but I’m glad I was able to salvage enough to make a little juustoa.  Sorry there aren’t more pictures but most of the process was not at all photogenic.

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Juustoa. Perfect sprinkled with a little salt and enjoyed with a strong cup of coffee.

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4 thoughts on “Juustoa (Finnish Squeaky Cheese)

  1. Pasteurized milk works but not ultra-pasteurized which eliminates most major commercial brands. Use animal rennet rather than vegetable rennet – the latter is used primarily for nondairy milks.

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