Lithuanian apple cheese, 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 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 apple cheeses vary in sweetness, density, and darkness of color, with some being translucent and others taking on a dark brown shade.
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’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.