Lithuanian apple cheese (obuolių sūris), despite its name, isn’t cheese at all. However, this dense, slightly sweet food has a similar consistency and shape to cheese (particularly traditional Lithuanian farmer’s cheese, which is given an oblong shape) and involves the use of cheesecloth.
Apple cheese is a favorite Lithuanian food. So what is it made from? What does it taste like? How to do eat it? How do you make it? And where can you buy it?
Apple Cheese Origins
According to sources, apple cheese dates back at least to the 17th century. However, just because that was the first time it was mentioned in print doesn’t mean people weren’t making this dish long before.
Due to the amount of sugar or honey required for the recipe, apple cheese was a dish for the rich. That means landowners and the nobility. You can imagine servants in medieval kitchens mixing, boiling, hanging, and pressing the ingredients to make this sweet treat for the ruling families.
What Is Lithuanian Apple Cheese Made From?
Apple cheese is made from cooked apples, preferably sour ones, sugar, and sometimes spices of choice such as cinnamon, orange peel, ginger, and cloves.
More adventurous cooks have also chosen to incorporate other fruits and nuts into the recipe or even chili pepper, to give it a little kick! Like many old recipes, apple cheese takes a significant amount of time to prepare—hours or days, depending on the recipe!
The apples and spices are cooked down so that much of the liquid in the fruit evaporates, and then the concoction is poured into cheesecloth so that even more of the liquid can escape during the next steps. Some recipes call for the cheese to be shaped and then hung to dry; others suggest putting it into a warm oven so that it hardens.
Each family’s recipe is slightly different, and homemade Lithuanian apple cheeses vary in sweetness, density, and darkness of color, with some being translucent and others taking on a dark brown shade.
What Does It Taste Like?
Apple cheese tastes a bit like fruit snacks, though because it’s made completely of fruit, can be a bit grittier and less springy than gummy candy, even containing some visible pieces of apple. It may also be less or more sweet, depending upon the apples and spices used as well as the recipe.
How Do you Eat It?
It’s perfect eaten slowly with a cup of hot tea (let the apple cheese melt on your tongue) or as a sweet component of a cheese board (preferably made from Lithuanian cheeses!).
Apple cheese has a long history in Lithuania and the surrounding region and continues to be made by grandmas and the new generation of Lithuanians interested in their heritage. It’s sometimes brought as a gift to a host or as a contribution to parties and is seen as something special and particularly Lithuanian that can be shared proudly with both locals and foreigners.
Related: Make Lithuanian Potato Kugelis
Can You Make Apple Cheese?
The recipe for apple cheese is simple enough and the ingredients easily obtainable, but it does take time to make. And because making it isn’t a hard science, once you’ve mastered the basics, you can adjust the recipe to your own space, time constraints, ingredients, and tastes.
Where Can You Buy It?
Apple cheese is available in supermarkets and from organic food shops, which means that even if you’re passing through Lithuania, you can purchase it to try.
For example, the Livin shops carry apple cheese formed in the traditional way and wrapped in plastic wrap ready to eat, gift, or take a souvenir, and you may be able to find it at the larger chain supermarkets.
Some vendors at the seasonal markets also carry apple cheese, so look for it at Kaziuko Muge, during Capital Days, or at the Vilnius Christmas markets. Some versions of apple cheese, like the ones shown in the photo, are flavored with other ingredients, such as sea buckthorn or chokeberry, and given a stamp indicating that it’s a food significant to Lithuanian heritage!
This Lithuanian food makes a good souvenir because it doesn’t take up much room and will withstand being packed in checked luggage. Most people–despite being perhaps initially hesitant to try it–will like how it tastes, too. If you’re giving it as a gift pair it with some Lithuanian-made tea to be enjoyed together.