UPside of Life: Finnish squeaky cheese is a Yooper treat

There's been a recent run of Facebook pages that have titles like You Know You're From Marquette if… or it's twin, which focuses on West Ishpeming, Ishpeming and Negaunee.

The first thing that comes to mind when knowing you're from the Upper Peninsula tends to be food related (this should surprise no one if they know the author), which leads the thought to stray toward things like "you know you're from the Upper Peninsula if you know what a pasty is and how to pronounce it" or "you know you're from the U.P. if you can't live without a Togo's sub."

The first one that popped up, however, was that you know you're from the good ol' Upper Peninsula if you know what the heck Finnish squeaky cheese is.

First and foremost, if you're from the Upper Peninsula, you probably already know that it's called juustoleipa or leipajuusto or juustoa and that it is also known as bread cheese.

And if you're not from the U.P.--well, then you might be lost right now.

You see, Finnish squeaky cheese is found just about everywhere in the Upper Peninsula. And if you don't know where to find it, you can simply just order it and have it shipped to your house.

This cheese is not only tasty, it's amazingly good. It is a fresh cheese that is traditionally made from cow's beestings, which is rich milk that comes from a cow that has recently calved. According to some sources, reindeer and goat milk can also be used, though you're less likely to come across those particular recipes around here.

The version you buy in the store isn't likely to be made traditionally, however, and is made from regular milk. This, according to those in the know, reduces the flavor and removes some of the color.

Don't worry, however, because the commercialized version of juustoa is pretty darn good still.

There's no reason to go into the exact process of making squeaky cheese, but let's just say that after it sets up, it's baked or grilled (which gives it the charred marks it is known to have).

So why is it called squeaky cheese? One bite and you'll find out. The cheese often "squeaks" against the teeth when you bite into it.

There are several ways to eat your juustoa, too. Try it warm or cold and feel free to serve it for breakfast with a side of coffee (the Swedish have a name of kaffeost, which means "coffee cheese" and is created by putting pieces of it in a cup and pouring hot coffee on it).

It can also be used as a desert. Fry it in a pan with butter and then serve it with some jam, like some Upper Peninsula-made thimbleberry jam.

Or, simply cut it up and toss it on some salad. It's a great, mild replacement for feta.

No matter which way you slice it, juustoa is a great piece of the Yooper culinary extravaganza and just a darn good cheese all around.

Sam Eggleston is the managing editor of Upper Peninsula Second Wave. He was born and raised in the U.P. His favorite way to have juustoa is warmed on the stove top with toast and jam. He can be reached via email.
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