Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Weird Food Passion

There are two things I bring back from Finland on a regular basis. There's the amazing Fazer chocolates – no surprise there. And there's leipäjuusto.

For the uninitiated, leipäjuusto is cheese, but not as we know it, as Spock might have said. Had he visited Finland. And tried leipäjuusto. And felt the urge to comment on it.

Like many Finnish things, leipäjuusto is a little eccentric.

Firstly, it's a cheese that doesn't taste of cheese. And despite its name ("bread cheese") but it doesn't taste of bread either. It has a very mild milky flavour.

Secondly, it doesn't have the texture of cheese (or bread). It's not hard or soft. It is rubbery. So much so that it squeaks when you chew it.

Thirdly, it's often served heated. And no, it doesn't melt like other cheeses: it stubbornly retains its rubbery texture.

Finally, it's usually eaten as a dessert, often with cloudberry jam.

So let me summarise: leipäjuusto is a mildly milky rubbery squeaky warm desserty supposed cheese.

Doesn't sound like a winner, does it?

In fact, British chef famously spat out the small piece of leipäjuusto he had been given to sample by a Finnish TV host, saying: "Will it bounce off the wall? My God, that is disgusting!"

And yet, I love it. Probably more so than most Finns.

Before you jump to conclusions about my taste buds though, let me make it clear that I have no such passion for other Finnish "delicacies". Not for mämmi, an alleged dessert made of rye and molasses ("looks like baby shit, you eat this?" – Gordon Ramsey). Not for karjalanpiirakka, a vulva-shaped rice pie ("you feed this to horses and donkeys, or you eat this at home?" – Gordon Ramsey). Not for etikkasilli, pickled Baltic herring (Gordon Ramsey was probably too busy gagging to comment).

But with all due respect to Gordon, I think he made the wrong call on leipäjuusto.

There, my foodie secret's out.

 

21 comments:

  1. Nice post, very well written, about a finnish culinary speciality that brings controversy even to its name - some call it leipäjuusto, some juustoleipä, depending on the region.

    Here's Gordon Ramsay tasting these finnish delicacies and commenting in his own style :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S-8gF9GFJo

    I think he made the wrong call about karjalanpiirakka too, it is nowhere near as weird as mämmi or leipäjuusto anyways.

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    1. I do eat karjalanpiirakka. I just feel fairly indifferent about it. Maybe because it tastes a bit like cardboard. ;-)

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    2. A well made karjalanpiirakka is totally unlike the ones you get ready made from the shops and it is actually delicious :-)

      They should have let Mr Ramsay taste a proper karjalanpiirakka, made by a proper Karelian grandmother, not one of those yucky cardboardy ones.

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  2. Mämmi is sooooo disgusting!! My husband liked it because it kind of tastes like beer... And my little finnish cousin (2 or 3 years old) enjoys it as well...

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    1. I don't hate mämmi. It's edible with a large dose of cream, in the same was as Christmas pudding in the UK is.

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  3. From your description, it seems a lot like a Brazilian cheese called "queijo coalho". I wonder if they're similar. Have you ever tried queijo coalho?

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    1. No idea Natália. I have been to Brazil just once, and the culinary delight I was served there was a plateful of chicken hearts...

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  4. Gordon Ramsay is an asshole. Anyone quoting him basically admits to having lost the argument.

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    1. There is no argument here, as it's a matter of taste.

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  5. He he he...my MIL's been trying to make me get used to leipäjuusto, but sorry, it's just not for me. Fell in love with mämmi, though. It's SO SO SO deliciouuuusss (even though my Finn hubby is totally disgusted by it due to the reason you mentioned in the post) he he he...

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  6. In Osthrobotnia parts of Finland, the Leipäjuusto is dipped to coffee. I've heard it's excellent that way, but have not tried it myself. Coffee and cookies or bun I've enjoyed myself, but I wish you could experiment this for me and let me know in another fine blog how it tastes :)

    Thanks again for making me realise how weird we Finns are :)

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    1. I would try, but I don't drink coffee... Glad you enjoy my ramblings.

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  7. I'm really peeved about that people keep quoting Gordon Ramsay on karelian pies. He was given horrible store bought karelian pies and he's right: they're only fit for animals. The real pies are amazing.

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    1. Gordon comes from the land of land of haggis and deep-fried mars-bars! But seriously, I am not taking his quotes at face value.

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  8. I've actually read/heard somewhere that Gordon Ramsay has later stated that he said all those things for a better show, and that he actually liked a great many of the things he tasted.

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    1. The only reason for acting like an asshole is being one.
      If you really are that person, you're an asshole.
      If you're just acting that way, you're being an asshole by acting like that.

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  9. Great post! My Finnish wife hates leipäjuusto, but I (an American) love it. Strangely, I'm the only who eats it our house. I might almost agree with Ramsay about mämmi, but he's way off the mark with karjalanpiirakat -- great stuff. Pickled Baltic herring? No comment.

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  10. Thanks for the inspiration! I'll be following this closely from now on!
    Out of all the delicacies you've mentioned - I only really dislike mämmi (but I ate it -with as much sugar/cream/vanilla sauce as was possible - haha). I quite liked the herring, love riisipiirakat/karjalanpiirakat (mind you my attempt at making them was a bit of a disaster last Christmas), and I also like muikuja - vendace (especially in kalakukko - muikku pie, a speciality from Savo), lörtsy (from Savonlinna), and I absolutely love marjarahka (lit. berry quark - it's like cream cheese with berries, sugar etc. and it's a dessert). However, one thing I just cannot stand (apart from verilettuja - blood pancakes) is maksalaatikko - liver casserole. I don't know about you but the smell alone is revolting!
    Anyway, love the blog - it's good to see another person out there that loves Finland as much as me!

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  11. Excellent post Mr Finnophile. The team subjected me to it last night – my summary.... "but why?"
    Edible but tasteless and nondescript!

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  12. Mmmmm absolutely love finnish food especially leipojuusto and cloudberry jam, also love sautee reindeer with lingonberry, cinnamon buns and there was another sort of bun we bought homemade from a market with butter and caraway - delishhhh! Theyre salmon soup was lovely too - does make a difference where you try these things too tho - got me wanting to go back just thinking about it!

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