- How did you become a cheesemaker? Was it out of a passion for cheese, a family heritage?
I was born the third from five children in a traditional swiss cheese producer family. Three of us studied cheesemaking and our sister is a dairy laboratory technician. Only one of our family is like a "black sheep"... he became a police officer.
- Why the preference of cow's milk in the making of cheese? Is it the mild taste that conquered the Finnish palate?
Cow milk is easy to get. Sheep and goat milk isn't that much on the market. When we founded Herkkujuustola Oy in 2002 we started with goat milk. But we lost the milk after a few years to another dairy. So we continue with cow milk. Last year we got our first-time Finnish sheep milk and in June of this year, we will get more of them.
- Nordic cheeses are very similar considering their types, the cow milk preference, and flavor profiles. Do you think this is a general preference or is it historical, as recipes are ancient and might carry this intrinsic value of tradition?
Nordic cheeses are similar because in the north farmers produce only "dairy" milk. Cows are not often out and they get the most part of the year "säilöntärehu". Which makes very boring milk. Otherwise in Switzerland, farmers can choose what kind of milk they produce "cheese-milk" Milk only for cheese production or industrial milk. Cheese milk has better taste, more flavor, cows are a lot outside and they get only fresh grass and during winter dry hey. In the year 1856 the first swiss cheese master Rudolf Klossner, arrived in Finland to produce Emmentaler cheese. After the second world war, Finland started to be one of the European biggest Emmentaler export countries to the USA. Finns develop Emmentaler production in industrial production. For them, it was easy to do because they didn't have historic and traditional obligations.
- Leipäjuusto seems to be the most iconic of the Finnish cheeses, as it pairs well with very traditional foods, like cloudberry jam, coffee, and even sahti. Do you have a personal preference for this type of cheese? Is it an affectionate memory?
I think it's very important that Finnish people use leipäjuusto. It's in the roots of this country. You can always change tastes and ways to do it, but you should keep your roots... I am not a great fan of leipäjuusto. I eat it warmed up with some jam.
- Some Finnish producers also have other types of cheese, like brie or mozzarella, but are those foreign types also popular? How do you see the use of these cheeses in Finland?
I am a producer for Mozzarella, Camembert, etc. Of course Finnish people like those products. Important is the "Hyvä suomesta" (made in Finland). For the development of the country and the local kitchen, you need new products. Mozzarella you can spice up with herbs from this country. Camembert you can fill up with local mushrooms, or washed cheese you can use perhaps sahti, etc. So many international brands do it, so it's easy to do similar with a nordic taste or nordic touch.
- How do you see the cheese market in Finland, knowing of big brands covering most of the retail shelves? How the work of a small producer can keep the quality alive?
The big volumes are done by industrial stuff. For us small producers, hand made producers we have to find our own customers. We have to produce products which are more interesting like similar industrial products. Our products need a story, even producers need a story. Good story, excellent product, and a fair price, it should be possible to get feet on the market and some retail shelves. The long distances in this country are hard to get good prices in distribution. Because of the small volumes.