Yesterday, we discussed the cultured milks of Scandinavia and the role they play in the culinary traditions of the region. Viili, filmjölk and piimä all share a similarity and, in many ways, are best described as yogurt though they each offer their own, unique, characteristics. Piimä is faintly cheese-like in flavor and drunk as a beverage while viili is gelatinous and mild with an unusual ropey character,while filmjölk is tart and versatile. Culturing dairy decreases lactose or milk sugar while also increasing B vitamins – including folate, that vital nutrient critical to the proper growth and development of unborn babies.
What makes these three cultured dairy products so peculiar and unique, at least to most people residing outside of northern Europe and Scandinavia, is that they are mesophilic in nature; that is, unlike yogurt, they thrive when cultured at room temperature. This unique characteristic makes them remarkably easy and efficient to use in your kitchen. The only trick is finding a source, since none of the three cultured dairy foods is regularly available in the dairy case of your local grocery store.
How to Make Viili, Filmjölk and Piimä with Fresh Milk
Many cultured dairy enthusiasts wish to prepare viili, filmjölk and piimä from fresh raw milk, but doing so is tricky as, overtime, the natural beneficial bacteria present in fresh milk will overtake the strains introduced by the starter. For this reason, unless you keep a pure seed starter. You accomplish this by scalding a pint of fresh milk, thus destroying heat-sensitive beneficial bacteria strains naturally present in the milk. Cool this milk to room temperature and introduce your viili, filmjölk and piimä starter culture and allow it to ferment at room temperature for about one day. This yogurt is your pure seed starter; take two tablespoons or up to one-quarter cup of this starter and add it to one quart fresh milk – allowing the milk to ferment at room temperature for roughly one day or until the cultured milk separates cleanly from the side of a mason jar when tilted. Use only the pure seed starter in culturing your fresh milk yogurt, and take great care to save at least two tablespoons of pure seed starter to begin your next batch lest you allow the strains of bacteria in your fresh milk to overtake the starter. The pure seed starter must be recultured at least weekly.
Room temperature yogurts like viili, filmjölk and piimä produce more consistent results when used with fresh milk than classic thermophilic yogurts which require a constant warm temperature to properly ferment and turn runny when used with fresh milk. If you do not wish to use fresh milk to prepare these yogurts, you may use pasteurized milk (not ultra-high temperature) if you scald it first and cool it to room temperature.
This week, we’ve paired up with Cultures for Health – an online source for all things fermented – in a fun giveaway that builds upon our recent lesson in the cultured milks of Scandinavia. Cultures for Health will be giving away one of these starters to three Nourished Kitchen readers. Three readers will win either a viili, filmjölk or piimä starter culture that they can use, reculture, enjoy and share in their own kitchens.