Cheese at The UConn Dairy Bar, Mansfield
Since Connecticut’s cheese makers haven’t banded together yet to create the Connecticut Cheese Trail (a la the CT Wine Trail), I’m striking out on my own. And my first strike was at my alma mater: UConn. And the moderately famous Dairy Bar to be exact.
The Dairy Bar has been known for its incredible ice cream for decades. The cheese-making operation, however, just started in December 2007, so it’s younger than this website.
Cheese is made every other week, alternating with ice cream, and sold in the dairy bar. They use the milk from the dairy herd, pick it up from the Kellogg Dairy Center, and pasteurize it themselves. They began with un-aged cheese curd but quickly branched out to cheddars. The cheddars required aging (and now the customers were restless for more), so they found a cheese they could make that didn’t require any aging: Juustoleipa!
And unlike cheddar, Juustoleipa took me on a cheese tour of the Internet. Note: I didn’t do this until AFTER eating the cheese.
Pronounced HOO-stah-lee-pah or you-stoy-lay-PA, its name means “bread cheese” in Finnish. Juustoleipa has been produced for more than 200 years in northern Finland and Sweden, originally from reindeer milk! This cheese is unusual in that it is baked during the cheesemaking process. The heat from baking caramelizes the sugars on the outside of the cheese to form a tasty crust similar to brown bread. Juustoleipa is an important cheese in its homeland; crucial to holiday celebrations and even marriage traditions. Mothers of eligible women used to offer suitors a cup of coffee with the cheese and, if the man liked the cheese, he married the girl!
This cheese doesn’t melt, but can be warmed (put in the microwave for 10 or 20 seconds until it glistens). It has a sweet flavor, especially toward its brown crust where it has been caramelized. We recommend it served as a dessert with honey or lingonberry jam. For an unusual treat, try it dipped in hot coffee!
Oh those crazy Finns. But why an unknown Finnish cheese in Storrs, Connecticut?
“We have a large population of people from Finland living in Canterbury, and I’ve talked to friends who are quite excited about it,” the head of the creamery says. “It’s often eaten for breakfast with coffee, topped with syrup or jelly. It’s served warm and looks like toast.”
Okay, okay, I get it. Eat it warm with something sweet. (That quote was from this UConn Advance article.) Finnish people in Canterbury? You betcha. In fact, I’ve visited the Finnish-American Heritage Museum out there.
Let’s learn how they make it from cheese.com:
This cheese is considered as the specialty of Finland and Lapland. It is a round cheese of various sizes made from cow’s or reindeer’s milk. The production of this cheese is following: The curds are drained and pressed into a flat, wooden platter with a rim. Then it is placed in front of the fire until the outer layer is “toasted”. Then the cheese looks like bread and that’s why it got its name which means “cheese bread”. It is creamy and smooth under a crusty surface. The period of ripening is only a few days. Juustoleipa is usually served as a dessert with cream and cloudberry jam.
Cloudberry Jam? That sounds like a horrible Phish cover band or something those “Dragon Tales” dragons eat. So okay, it’s called “Bread Cheese” because it looks like a piece of bread, not because you should eat it with bread.
Like I said… I didn’t know that before Hoang and I ate it. The cheese is very cheap. I picked some up (with jalepenos in it) one afternoon after Damian and I explored the UConn Animal Barns. We were actually going to get some ice cream, but the line was 20 deep – on a random Friday in July. In STORRS. That’s how good their ice cream is.
So, with Damian getting fussy, I just purchased the cheese and hit the road.
I figured that the “bread cheese” would be good on bread so I heated it up on a piece of bread in the toaster oven. Hoang and I enjoyed a couple pieces as a stand alone snack and I really liked it. Very mild, and slightly creamy. One issue is that it squeaks between your teeth when you eat it (It is also known as “squeaky cheese”) which I think drove Hoang slightly mad. It’s simply impossible to avoid the squeak.
The cheese on toast was actually pretty good, but sort of an odd snack and certainly not the proper way to enjoy juustoleipa. As if to rub it in my face one more time, here’s what UConn’s own site has to say about it:
Its name means “bread cheese” in Finnish because it looks like a slice of bread, not because you should eat it with bread! It is best when served warm and it holds its shape very well. This variety if cheese is excellent if drizzled with maple syrup, served with jam or salsa, and even dipped in your morning coffee!
Okay, the point has been made. Many times. Though I won’t be dipping it in coffee anytime soon, but I would like to try it with something sweet. I really liked the Juustoleipa – almost as much as I like saying it. Juustoleipa Juustoleipa Juustoleipa Juustoleipa Juustoleipa Juustoleipa…
UConn Dairy Bar
CTMQ’s Connecticut Cheese Trail
SageAlum saysJuly 27, 2009 at 8:15 am
I’m always on the lookout for a new cheese – how would this be with a nice glass of Reisling?
Andy Y saysJuly 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm
As you’ve now strayed off just museums and trails and are trying to document every damn thing in CT, let me recommend some bread to go with the cheese. Friends & Company Restaurant( on the Guilford/Madison border, Route 1) bakes the best bread around, every day.
Just pop in the front door, leave four bucks in the jar and grab a loaf of their herb bread. This stuff is spectacular. Every once in a while we’ll do a “bread run” and drive the 25 minutes just to get some. Skip the molasses bread, get the herb, you won’t regret it…
jude saysNovember 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm
First, I’m grateful for your site reorganization. Now I can safely avoid any more reading material on eighteenth-century gynecological tools (I did read about that stuff on YOUR site, didn’t I? Hmm …) and focus on the good Connecticut stuff, which, I’m happy to see, still exists.
I bought this cheese a year or two ago and just ate it plain, straight from the package, after giving it time to breathe in my luggage on a couple of long-delayed flights. It was a little dry (after 12 unrefrigerated hours–pasteurization isn’t ALL it’s cracked up to be, I guess), so I can’t imagine bread of any kind would be a good accompaniment (though yay to Andy Y’s bread recommendation!). But cloudberry jam (which is the best Finnish invention ever apart from the sauna) would be perfect. And seriously, you wouldn’t eat something, anything, even remotely related to Phish? Isn’t it the point of Phish to ingest something … odd? (Off topic, off topic!)
I knew this cheese was Finnish but didn’t know it’s traditionally made from reindeer milk. I’m pretty sure UConn doesn’t have a reindeer barn, so here’s my question: Can you make Juustoleipa (leave it to the Finns to pronounce an already difficult word in two different ways)with cow’s milk, which is kind of like making chevre with a non-goat animal? Or does the name simply refer to how it’s baked?
More Connecticut farm-type stuff, please!
Linda (Gudding) Hoffner saysJanuary 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Is this cheese the real reindeer cheese? My grandpa always got it sent to him from Sweden,and my father hasn’t had this cheese since he past 12 years ago. My brother and I would like to get our father some for his 84th b/day in March. If this is not the real thing do you know where I may get some. Thank you for your time.
Steve saysJanuary 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm
No. As the above post says,”They use the milk from the dairy herd, pick it up from the Kellogg Dairy Center, and pasteurize it themselves.” No reindeer in sight.
Dave saysJuly 15, 2010 at 10:47 am
What Jude said about cloudberry jam is spot on. Cloudberries look like yellow raspberries. You can get the jam at Ikea, if you ever get that way. I’ve never tried juustoleipa, but it sounds interesting. I’m trying to taste everything the CT cheesmakers produce, and it’s tough job, but someone has to do it.
Maureen saysSeptember 3, 2010 at 11:58 am
We have been to Finland 6 times as a result of our having Carelian Bear Dogs and wanting to see more of them and this cheese is on many of the breakfast buffet tables. We always called it “Squeaky Cheese” as it has a really interesting way of squeaking on the teeth when chewing it. It is really delightful even when eaten plain so I can imagine it would be wonderful with cloudberry jam.
I am very excited to know that this cheese is being made right here in CT and am also interested in going to the museum in Canterbury. We have not a drop of Finn blood in us but are enthralled with the country and its people….and when most of your visits are in December in the cold and dark, that’s saying something!:-)