# Monday, March 10, 2008
I let my piima culture die over the winter, which made me sad.  I have remedied the situation however, and now have not only a new healthy piima culture but some fil mjolk as well.  I haven't tasted the fil mjolk yet, but it sets up very nicely at room temperature, and has a much sharper "buttermilky" smell than the piima.  Both are room temperature "yogurt" cultures that come originally from Scandinavia.  I also made some skyr last week, which didn't work out particularly well.  I think I left it too long at too high a temperature, so it was very grainy and sour.  It did produce some nice whey though, that will see it's way into lactic acid pickles over the next little while.  I just finished some sauerkraut and some fermented bean paste before the whey was done, and they soured much more slowly than the ones using whey I made last year.  I left some of the whey out to see how sour it will get.  I'm itching to try some of the traditional Icelandic whey pickles, but need good sour whey (syra or mysa in Icelandic I think) to make it work. 

I'm recovereing from a wintertime slump into too much prepared food and cooking a lot.  It's so much fun to try new stuff.  I managed to dehydrate a batch of Ethiopian berbere over the weekend, so it will hopefully keep longer and take up less space that way.  I want to experiment with adding some to green pea flour for "instant" backpacking food.  I think it should work pretty well.  Only one way to find out...

Monday, March 10, 2008 6:14:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some friends hooked us up with some culture for piima last weekend, and I've been having a great time playing with it.  Piima is a culture used in modern Scandinavia to create a buttermilk/yogurt like substance.  The best part is that it works at room temperature, so you don't have to heat the milk, or worry about trying to keep it warm with a yogurt maker, etc. 

You just stir the piima culture into milk or cream and let it stand at room temperature for 24 hours or so.  Cultured in milk, I got something that was maybe a little thicker than cultured buttermilk, but not as firm as yogurt.  I'm in the midst of culturing some cream, which is supposed to come out like thin sour cream, and is also supposed to be good for making cultured butter.  Only time will tell...

There are a number of online sources for piima culture.  Just google for "pima culture" and you'll find several sources. 

One thing to note: once you get it going, it has to be "fed" like kefir grains or sourdough starter.  The piima milk I made earlier in the week was sufficiently tasty (very mild, not sour) that I don't think it'll be a problem at my house. :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 5:39:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm going to be experimenting with dairy products as the Viking Age Scandinavians would have made/used/consumed them over the coming months.  I've been making a soft fresh cheese curdled with vinegar for years, but I think that's probably not the most accurate. 

For the first experiment, I made my first batch of skyr this week.  Skyr was once purportedly made all over the Viking world, but has only survived to the present day in Iceland, where it has remained daily fare.  We don't know how closely modern Icelandic skyr resembles Viking skyr, but it's such a simple process that I don't imagine it's changed all that much. 

To make skyr, you bring non-fat milk up to around 185 deg. and hold it there for 5-10 minutes, then let it cool down to slightly warmer than body temperature, around 108.  Take your culture (I've seen references to using sour cream or buttermilk, or yogurt of various kinds.  The Vikings would have used some skyr from the last batch.  I read a couple of references to the use of s. thermophilus and l. bulgaricus, which happen to both be in "Greek" or "Bulgarian" style yogurt, so that's what I used.  Greek Gods brand to be specific.) and mix it with a little of the warm milk, then add the result to the rest of the milk, along with some rennet.  I used Junket brand from the grocery store, but will soon be trying cheese-making-grade rennet, and I'll report on the differences.  Then let the milk sit for something between 6 and 24 hours.  I've seen various suggestions.  I let mine go about 24 hours. 

The milk-mass should start to pull away from the sides of the container, and you'll see clear-yellowish whey around the sides and over the top of the curd.  That's good.  Scoop out the curd with a ladle or spoon into a sieve or colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth, or better still, a nice clean piece of muslin fabric.  Let it sit until most of the whey has drained out, and it starts to firm up to somewhere between firm yogurt and soft-serve ice cream.

Store it in the fridge when it's done.  The result I got was not very sour, and has a very pleasant texture.  I've used it in crepes, and with granola so far with great success. 

Save the whey, which you can use in soups of porridge.  I have more whey experiments to try too.  The 16th Century Icelanders let the whey ferment until quite sour, and then used it as a refreshing drink, and also as a medium for pickling meat, eggs, and vegetables for long storage. 

Big fun...

Monday, March 12, 2007 6:12:58 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]