Jāņi cheese is a Latvian sour milk cheese, traditionally eaten on Jāņi – the Midsummer celebration. Today it is available and well demanded all year through. Its basics are raw quark and fresh milk, but other products like eggs and butter can be added to taste. Traditionally, caraway seeds are added as spice but today cheese makers compete in creativity to make new varieties and tastes based on the original Jāņi cheese.
With its round form, the cheese symbolises the sun and is related to summer solstice rituals. The cheese is often served as a snack to go with light or dark beer.
The Jānu siers (Jāņi cheese) has the longest tradition as it is, together with beer, the main festive treat of the Midsummer celebration, which also received EU Traditional Speciality Guaranteed – TSG logo.
The European Union currently registers 52 products in the category “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed,” including three in Latvia. These are carrot buns known as sklandrauši, a specific type of rye bread and Summer Solstice cheese. The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed project was set up to protect traditional manufacturing methods and recipes, offering manufacturers of traditional products to sell the products and to inform products about elements in the traditional recipes and products that offer added values. Products are added to the list if the name of the product describes it, if the manufacturing process is traditional, and if the product is manufactured with traditionally used ingredients. A product must have been used traditionally for at least 30 years before it is considered for registration under the scheme.
Today in Latvia there are five dairy companies producing the traditional “Jāņu siers” cheese that is registered as TSG.
The recipe of „Jāņu cheese”
“Jāņu siers” is fresh sour-milk cheese produced from milk that is curdled by lactic acid bacteria or curds. The milk is heated together with crumbled curds to separate whey. The butter or cream, eggs, salt and caraway seeds are added. The whey is drained off. The mixture is heated stirring intensively until it becomes a homogeneous mass. To produce a small wheel of cheese it takes curds 1kg, rich milk 0.5l, water 0.5l, 3 eggs, butter 100g, a handful of caraway seeds and coarse salt.