Latvian Midsummer Cheese // Jāņu siers
Jāņu siers (caraway seeds cheese) has been traditionally made at the summer solstice to mark the midsummer festival of Jani, celebrated on the night from 23 June to 24 June. According to ancient tradition, the shortest night of the year must be spent by staying awake all night by the glow of the bonfire. The time is spent singing songs and enjoying traditional Līgo foods like cheese with caraway seeds and beer. Women and girls wear a crown of flowers on their heads, while men wear a crown of oak leaves.
Recipe (1 medium size cheese)
* 1l whole milk
* 360 g fresh cheese curds (or good quality bought cottage cheese)
* 2 big egg yolks
* 60 g butter
* 1 tbs caraway seeds
* salt to taste
Line the bottom of a colander with a cheesecloth and place it above a larger bowl if you wish to catch the whey.
Pour milk into a large pot and heat it gently over medium heat. When it reaches 88°C or when small bubbles start showing up on the surface of the milk, add curds and cook, gently stirring, until you notice that whey begins to form around the curds.
Once the curds separate from the whey and you get a clear yellowish liquid, carefully pour everything into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Let it drain for a while, then pick up the corners of the cheesecloth together, twish and squeeze the curds to make sure there’s no whey left.
In the pot, where milk was boiled, melt butter. When it melts, add the curds, lightly beaten egg yolks, caraway seeds, and salt. Mix everything thoroughly and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the crumbly curd starts sticking together and forming a smooth, shiny, elastic ball. The longer you heat, the more solid and dry the cheese will be.
Finally, transfer the cheese to a clean cheesecloth. Wrap it into a ball and let it cool down. You can put some weight on top if you’d like to get a cheese wheel shape.
Let it rest in a refridgerator overnight, it will really firm up.
Store cheese covered in a refrigerator and eat it within 5-7 days.