Did you know? In northern Scandinavia, cups of coffee get enhanced with cheese!
Hot coffee is something you’ll find a lot of in Sweden. The country has one of the highest rates of coffee consumption in the world, and the practice of fika – enjoying cozy coffee breaks, usually with a pastry – is a beloved ritual of everyday life. But kaffeost is unlike any other coffee break.
The dried cheese, called juustoleipä (sometimes leipäjuusto or just juusto), absorbs the steaming brew, softening without melting, like a tasty cheese sponge.
To some palates it may be an unlikely pairing, but among the Sami people of Lapland and other regions around northern Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia, sharing a mug of kaffeost is an usual welcoming ritual! In the northern part of Sweden and in the Sami culture, drinking coffee together is probably the most common and important way of sharing a moment. You are not properly welcomed in the house without drinking coffee. And if you refuse, that could be considered impolite and rude.
Juustoleipä translates to “cheese bread,” which not only refers to its dry and sturdy texture, but also its culinary use as a sort of bread for jam, syrup, and, of course, coffee.
To make the cheese the milk (once reindeer milk, now often goat or cow milk) gets curdled, baked, and dried into thin rounds.
This process not only allows for the cheese to be preserved for up to a year, but with it, it’s possible create special preparations when it is ready to be consumed, one of which is kaffeost.
A traditional cup of kaffeost begins with a cube of cheese placed at the bottom of a wooden mug carved out of a birch burl (a bulbous tree growth). After pouring the boiling coffee inside, drinkers can spoon the softened chunks out as they sip, or enjoy the little cheesy dregs left at the bottom of the mug. Regardless of how you can enjoy it, don’t let it sit too long, because cold brew and curds is, of course, a different (and not too pleasant) experience! Curious? In this interesting site, you can find a detailed recipe!