Monday, February 11, 2008
Homegrown. Literally, but with the help of some nearly 100 year old Finnish milk culture. Viili is like yogurt in that the culture has friendly bacteria doing some work in converting the milk, but viili also has a mold and yeasts working in tandem with the bacteria to make this unique product.
I received my starter culture in the mail from Gem Cultures last week, and was eager to try what sounded like a simple procedure. And in fact, it was quite simple! After freshening it up and letting it renew itself when I received it, I was quite ready this weekend to test this interesting culture in the real world of my kitchen. All I had to do was swipe a couple teaspoons of this around in a clean bowl, around the bottom and up the edges, and pour in - directly from the refrigerator - one cup of fresh whole milk. Then all that was necessary was to cover it loosely to keep any stray matter out, put it in a place where it would be undisturbed, and let it sit for about 24-30 hours until it had thickened, then refrigerate. Yes, it was that simple. At 65-75F the culture will be ready in that time frame, and it can tolerate up to 80F but will have to be watched carefully at that temperature as it may be ready in as little as 12 hours.
In my kitchen, it was ready in less than 24 hours -- I put it out about 3 p.m., and it was ready at 8 a.m. the next morning. The consistency is like a soft jelly, and it likes to hold together and makes rope-like strings from your spoon when you are ladling it out. I put a couple tablespoons away in a small jar for my next batch, and then mixed in a tablespoon of strawberry jam to sweeten and flavor it (see the leading photo). In Finland, viili is eaten at breakfast and afternoon break time with pastries and coffee.
Dad and I tried it for breakfast, over some fresh fruit I picked up at a fruit stand on the road from Delano, CA last week, some very ripe and juicy pineapple and those incredibly sweet Ecuadorian mini-bananas. I also made an extra bowl (assuming it would be good!) to bring over for dinner at my friends' home Sunday night. That version consisted of viili with rose petal jam which was spooned over fresh strawberries and blackberries. Do I hear a chorus of YUM?!