On the Slate | Juustoleipa

“HOO-stah-lee-pah” or “you-stoy-lay-PA”

A fresh cheese specialty of Finland and Lapland, it is unique as it is made from cow and reindeer* (curious how a reindeer is milked…hmmm).  The cheesemaking process begins with the curds being drained and pressed into a flat, wooden platter with a rim.  This mold is placed in front of a fire until the outer layer is carmelized and toasted.  According to some sources this cheese is important culturally, playing an important role at holiday celebrations and the ever critical marriage tradition.  It goes that mothers of eligible women would offer prospects a cup of coffee with Juustoleipa and if the man was taken by the cheese he also won a wife.  Ah, simpler times!

The Finnish call this buttery cheese, “squeaky cheese”  however the  proper name, means  “cheese bread” given for the toast like appearance of the surface when this curing process is completed.  The overall taste is creamy and smooth with a crusty exterior surface.  As it is a fresh cheese it only ripens for a few days.  Traditionally served at breakfast or as a dessert  with cream and cloudberry jam.  Here in the U.S. I’ve been seeing it featured more and more as the centerpiece for grilled cheese or for in a macaroni and cheese.  It is beast served warm.

Country: Finland

Milk: Cow and Reindeer (!)

Texture: Semi-Hard

*note, this cheese when from Wisconsin, which is equally enjoyable, does not have reindeer milk (as if this wasn’t obvious!)


Grilled Juustoleipa Mac & Cheese Salad 

Baked Juustoleipa Sticks


On the Slate | Sir Francis Drake

Name: Sir Francis Drake

Milk: Triple-cream, pasteurized cow’s milk

Creamery: Cowgirl Creamery

Origin: Northern California

$/lb: $28.00

Today’s slate features a seasonal and somewhat hard to find triple-cream beauty from Cowgirl Creamery, Sir Francis Drake. This cheese a washed-rind is derived from Mt. Tam.

There’s a bit of lore it seems on how this cheese is created. And while all cheese is a happy accident I don’t think this cheese just shows up mistakenly. While I have a few calls to further untangle the mystery, here’s what I’ve come to understand.

While making Mt. Tam, an smooth, elegant triple cream, a culture goes astray. In turn the cheesemaker will then wash the outside in a dessert wine. In researching, friend, cheese lover and former cheese monger over at Grub Report revealed the specifics: its rind is washed in a fortified wine, Beaume de Venise. For the finish, pressed and macerated currants are sprinkled on top. This cheese carries a smooth texture. Also it is not as stinky as a Red Hawk but does have a nice funk. So in short, it’s available only a few times a year, when the culture for Mt. Tam is not cooperating. Get it when you see it.

Oddly, there is not a mention on Cowgirl Creamery’s website and they’ve been making this cheese for about six years it seems. Are we trying to climb to cult status? And to add more allure, it’s only available locally. Also, many cheese mongers around town have told me they keep an active waiting list of folks who want to be notified as soon as it shows up. Now I know why.

Beer Pairing: North Coast Brewing Acme IPA

On the Slate | Cambozola


That’s right Cambozola. It’s German, blue and creamy. The name comes from its historical link to the Allgäu region where in 300 A.C. there was a settlement in Bavaria called Cambodunum where the craft of cheesemaking flourished.

Now before you say, ‘well I don’t care much for blues they are too strong, too stinky’ consider this one, as it is creamy, has barely any blue veining and as any cheesemonger will tell you, it’s a perfect introduction to blue cheeses.

First a little more context from  German Foods, “…75% of Germany’s cheeses are produced in Bavaria, the areas of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt in the northern part of Germany also produce some of Germany’s more famous cheeses.”  The milk from Bavaria is rich, as the cows graze on valley grass. In the 1970s Germans were the first to discover that a white rind brie cheese matured beautifully with the injected  penicilium roqueforti mold.  This produces a smooth, soft-ripened, mild triple cream.

Delicious on it’s own it, go uptown on a roast beef sandwich or on a grilled burger.  Now who was afraid of blue cheese?

And once you graduate from this cheese move on to the  Cambozola Black Label. Holy cow! First you notice that the rind carries a gray mold adding the slighest hint to the the flavor profile. Longer cold-ripening in special cellars the process shifts the overall look (lots more blue veins),  taste and texture elevating its flavor profile with a bit of a nutty, sweet finish along with a more pronounced blueh-ness with a buttery finish.  This variation is aged for 5 1/2 weeks compared to 2 1/2 weeks for the traditional Cambozola.

Region Allgau
Country Germany
Milk Type Pastureized Cow
Wine Pairing Pinot Noir, English Ales

Images: Champignon NA