Trader Joe’s Brings Upper Peninsula Cheesy Delicacy of Juustoa to Stores Nationwide
Ask just about any Yooper about food and you'll hear about the pasty. Some will be UP-sophisticated enough to bring cudighi into the conversation. But only the truest Yooper, likely one with a Finnish background, will tell you about juustoa, the squeaky cheese baked to a golden brown. It's like a pizza but only the cheese.
Trader Joe's has released a limited edition product that replicates the Finnish delight. Called Garlic Bread Cheese, the juustoa at the store is rubbed down with garlic powder then baked. The crust the cheese forms is reminiscent of bread.
Here's how TJ's describes the cheese
Given our fondness for food mashups, you might assume that Trader Joe’s Garlic Bread Cheese is a garlic bread cheese — as in, a cheese flavored like the popular side dish for pizzas and pastas. But the truth is, it’s actually a garlic bread cheese, inspired by the Finnish delicacy that just happens, by idiomatic coincidence, to pair wonderfully with garlic. It’s crafted for us by master cheesemakers in Wisconsin, who take blocks of rich, thick, cow’s milk cheese, cover them in garlic powder, then bake them to a beautifully golden-brown hue.
Here's what to look for in a store.
Juustoleipä, Leipäjuusto or Squeaky Cheese
The baked cheese dish is known by a few names. The residents of the Upper Peninsula go with juustoa which appears to be shorted from the Finnish juustoleipä or leipäjuusto. The dish is known by both. Forgoing the psudo-Finnish, some just call it squeaky cheese.
A celebration of the dish has been held on the PureUP Facebook group.
Finn cheese, I make it lots....I make a 12 inch wheel an it's about an inch n a half thick....I leave more juice in mine, I dont like it real dry it chokes me!!
I may not be Finnish but I do know how crazy the Finns go over this stuff! Personally I don’t think it has a lot of taste. My teen years my neighbors made it for a living.
Have some sitting in the fridge right now with keweenaw jam and honey
Ironically, those who live in the Upper Peninsula wouldn't have an easy time trying the variety sold at Trader Joe's are in metro areas like Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Want to see how juustoa is made in the traditional way? This video starts with nothing but raw milk in a roasting pan. Watch how the magic comes together.
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There are few places in the Midwest that can compare to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The places on this list will tell you they're among the best in the region. But if they're not above the Mackinac Bridge, do they even count?