How to spot authentic Midsummer cheese

As traditional Midsummer cheeseJāņu siers - has been granted an entry in the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed register of the European Commission, it's important to buyers looking for this traditional food to know they're getting the real deal.

Jāņu siers is fresh sour-milk cheese produced from milk and curds using a traditional method of preparation unchanged for centuries. The cheese eaten during the summer solstice celebrations, a Latvian festival called Jāņi. 

At the moment only five companies are using the traditional recipe to produce Midsummer cheese.

Latvian Radio visited one of these companies, the Straupe dairy farm, to learn more about the secrets of making the sour-milk cheese, usually sold tied in a round shape not unlike that of the hockey puck, also important to Latvia.

"The first and main rule is that you have to have good quality milk. Midsummer cheese begins with the milk," said Lilita Tiesnese, head of the Straupe dairy farm.

"Almost everything is done manually. Only the most difficult parts are mechanized [..]," she said.

In order to get your hands on traditional Midsummer cheese, look for round goodies sporting a EU "Traditional Speciality Guaranteed" badge.

Only "Valmieras piens", "Rankas piens", "Lazdonas piensaimnieks", "Straupe", and "Dundaga" can sell products labelled Jāņu siers

Vanda Davidanova, head of the Cheese Club association that pushed for adding the cheese to the specialty register, said that other manufacturers can label their cheese however they like, with one exception.

"But they can't label it Jāņu siers. You can have cumin cheese, Līgo cheese, cheese with cumin, bonfire cheese, and so on, but not Jāņu siers," she said.

Sklandrausis, a Latvian vegetable tart, as well as Latvian rye-bread are also on the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed register, as are lamprey eels from Carnikava and most recently glorious Latvian gray peas

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