Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Living in the Refrigerator

Being an expat really focuses and sharpens your opinions on your native land. Some things you thought you would miss, you end up not missing at all, and things that you didn't even know were close to your heart, you ache for. In my case, filmjölk, which is Sweden's preferred sour milk product. Think yoghurt, and you're not far off, but filmjölk is a bit thinner for it's fat contents, has a slightly grainy texture, and a more clean acidity. At any rate, it's one of those things that simply do not exist in Bavarian grocery stores.

Filmjölk is traditionally a breakfast or light lunch food, eaten with cereal, müsli, fruit or broken up pieces of knäckebröd or, when Christmas is near, with gingerbread cookies. I've never been much of a breakfaster, I can't eat at all close to waking up, and it takes me hours before I'm fit for anything resembling a British or American breakfast, with fried foods. Filmjölk, however, is cold, silky, and sour, and is a soothing contrast to the coffee which I compulsively gulp first thing in the morning.

So, what do you do when faced with the lack of such a morning blessing? Well, you wait until your parents come to visit, and ask them to bring a package, of course. But not just any package, you ask for one which advertises the positive effect of its live bacteria culture.

And then you make your own.

Reproducing sour milk products

This recipe, if it can be called that, can be used for any sour milk product which still has it's bacterial culture alive. I really don't know if any of them are pasteurized after souring (as opposed to just being set in pasteurized milk), but I would guess that any type of natural yoghurt or the like has it's bacteria alive. After all, that is a major selling point; that they help create a healthy intestinal flora (fauna?).

The fat contents of the milk you use as a base is going to be the fat content of your final product, so if you're aiming for a 3,5 % yoghurt, go with 3,5 % milk, and so on. If you want a fatter product, mix in a correct amount of cream. You don't really need much of the mother product, for a liter of milk I've tried using about 50 ml, and about 200 ml. Both worked fine, the latter was a bit quicker, thickening well in under 30 hours, while the first needed close to 48 hours.

A note on food safety: I can not guarantee the safety of this method, but nor can anyone guarantee the unsafety, regardless of what they claim. This is how sour milk products were always made back in the days when people lived on farms, and some of them certainly survived. But I do recommend covering with a moist cloth, to lessen the risk of invading cultures from the surroundings. Do note, however, and I've written this below as well: do not ever use airtight seals. The milk bacteria won't perform well under these conditions, but botulin bacteria will.

a bit of your mother product
1 liter of milk base

Pour the milk and the mother product in a bowl, stir, and let sit in room temperature for about 36-48 hours. If you want, cover with a moist cloth, but absolutely not with anything airtight. Stir every now and then, and when the consistency seems right, have a taste. When it tastes and feels right, it's done. You can now refrigerate and eat at will, just remember to save a bit for a new batch.

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