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.

Pizza

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Almost everyone loves pizza!  Hot pizza or cold pizza, deep dish or thin crust, lots of cheese or lots of sauce, meat lovers or veggie, white or red.  There are so many variations, pizza can make almost everyone happy. You can divide the dough into small balls and roll out little individual pizzas. Let everyone choose their own toppings; a particularly fun thing to do with kids. Pizza. It’s what’s for dinner.

Pizza night starts with the crust.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups tepid water

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 T olive oil

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp each dried oregano and basil (optional)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

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Place tepid water in a bowl and mix in yeast and salt. Add the olive oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, garlic, and herbs and stir with a wooden spoon. Add remaining flour and knead for five minutes until you have a smooth dough. Grease a bowl and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately an hour.

Divide dough in half or in smaller portions if making small, individual pizzas. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface.

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Preheat the oven to 450.

Once you roll the dough out place on a lightly greased pizza pan. Fold the edges over, lightly rub down with olive oil and pre-bake for approximately ten minutes. This helps to keep the crust from getting soggy.

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Now we are ready to top the pizza. There are many prepared sauces that you might like or you can use fire roasted tomatoes, a little olive oil, and some herbs.

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Blend the tomatoes, 1 T of olive oil and herbs to taste. Spread the sauce on your pre-baked crust.

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Choose your favorite toppings. Tonight I’m using onions, peppers, artichoke hearts, portabella mushrooms, tomatoes and some organic pepperoni.

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Spread the toppings.

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I used romano cheese and fresh mozzarella. Grate the hard cheese over the toppings and distribute slices of mozzarella.

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Bake for approximately 25 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Enjoy this thing of beauty with a cold beer, soda, a nice wine  or a glass of milk.

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Like I mentioned earlier there are countless pizza toppings for every taste. Sausage, bacon, ham, pepperoni. Spinach, fresh basil leaves, arugula. Sweet peppers, banana peppers, peppadews, green olives, kalamata olives, black olives. Mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, roasted garlic, artichokes, asparagus, zucchini. And pineapple…my least favorite topping. Love it in an upside down cake but leave it off my pizza.

Mozzarella is the most common of pizza cheeses but provolone, feta, Parmesan, Romano, asiago, goat cheese, even Gorgonzola are great options. Different cheeses pair well with different veggies and meats. Most grocery deli sections and frozen food aisles have countless types and brands of pizzas.  If you don’t have time to make a pizza from scratch doctor a grocery pizza up with fresh toppings and extra cheese to make it your own.

Note:  The crust recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. If you only plan to make one, freeze half the dough BEFORE you let it rise. Divide the dough and place half in a zip lock freezer bag. When you’re ready to make a second pizza let it thaw/rise and your ready for pizza #2.