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Filmjölk (yogurt)

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    Posted: 01 February 2018 at 10:29
Filmjölk

I've always had an interest in making yogurt and cheese but so far have been unable to make any progress towards those goals. So when HistoricFoodie asked if anyone was interested in A Different Kind of Yogurt that requires no special equipment and can be made on the countertop, of course I showed interest. I ended up splitting an order with him and received two starter cultures: Filmjölk and Viili.

Both are strains of Finnish style yogurts that can be cultured at room temps of 70-77 degrees (F). This is right up my alley since I have no real equipment to hold the temps required to make 'American' style yogurt. The paperwork describes them as:
* Viili: A Finnish yogurt variety, Viili is very mild and creamy, with a fairly thick consistency. It's a versatile favorite that's perfect on its own or in any yogurt recipe.
* Filmjölk: Another Finnish variety, Filmjölk has a tangy flavor reminiscent of cheese and a custard-like texture. It's great with fresh fruit or over pie. Kids love it!

The cultures come in a sealed foil pack, similar to single use bread yeast. While there is no label on the packets to indicate which strain is which, they do have numbers which correspond to the descriptions in the instructions so you have to cross reference which is which.


For my first attempt I went with the filmjölk variety. The instructions for activating the starter couldn't be simpler. Put one to two cups of cold milk in a clean container, stir in the culture and let it sit in a warm place for 12 hours. Since I had whole milk on hand that's what I went with, and poured a scant two cups into a quart mason jar, closed it off with a clean paper towel and a canning ring. The big question was where to put it that stays between 70 and 77. Eventually I settled on placing it on the hopper of my pellet stove. It stays pretty warm there except for at night when everything is turned off.


Nothing to do now but sit back and wait. The instructions say to check it after 12 hours to see if it has set and if not keep checking every couple hours, up to 48. Well at the 12 hour mark mine still had a consistency of milk, so I let it go. By bed time it still had not setup, so it stayed out overnight. In the morning, same thing, so I was starting to get a little worried. I had not checked the milk I'd used to make sure it was not ultra-pasteurized and wondered if that was why it was not working. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been heated to a very high temperature for just a couple seconds, but has basically been cooked which makes it no good for yogurt or cheese-making. The milk jug had already been thrown away so I couldn't check it at all. I decided to just let it ride and see what happens. While at work I did some more checking on the companies' website where they said the first couple batches may not set firmly, so I was a little relieved but still had some doubts in my mind. By the time I came home it still had the consistency of milk and looked like nothing had changed. A quick sniff didn't give any real results. I did not smell like sour milk and in fact didn't really smell like anything at all. 

I was still a little worried at this point, but again decided to let it ride to see what happened. The instructions say at the end of 48 hours, regardless if it has set or not, move the yogurt into a sealed container in the fridge. Well it had only been a little over 24 hours, so despite the worry I figured I still had time to let it go some more. At bed time, still no change in consistency. And again when waking up, nothing. At this point I was getting a bit more concerned, especially since I had to leave for work and by the time I got back it would be past the 48 hour mark. Feeling rather dejected I left the yogurt out and headed to work, expecting to come home and find the same results. Or worse, a jar of spoiled milk.

Low and behold, upon returning from work, the yogurt had set! Mind you, not extremely firm but enough that if you tipped the jar it would pull away from the sides. Sorry about the crappy pic, but it's pretty hard to try to capture that in a picture.

So now the instructions say to put it in the fridge in a covered container for at least 6 hours. The wait was killing me, I really wanted to see what this tasted like. Unfortunately 6 hours put it past my bed time, so I had to wait until morning to taste it.

Morning finally came and it was time for the first taste. The texture was still rather loose. Custard would be a good description but a very soft one. It basically falls apart into liquid with a few chunks as soon as you touch it at this point. The flavor however is excellent. I don't get any cheese flavor that they mention in the description, but more of a light 'fresh' taste is the best I can describe it. There's a hint of vanilla to it also. It is not sour at all. Aside from the texture it's very good stuff. With a couple drops of vanilla to enhance the existing vanilla flavor and a bit of honey this could easily turn into one of my favorite breakfast items.

I have the second batch going now, and will continue making batches to see if I can get the texture to firm up a little more. Making future batches is basically the same procedure as above, only instead of the yogurt culture you add 1 tablespoon of the existing yogurt for each cup of milk. It is recommended to make a new batch at least every 7 days to keep the cultures active.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 February 2018 at 10:40
This is awesome, Mike - I've been waiting to see your write-up, and enjoyed reading it.

I'm wondering if succeeding batches will develop as far as textures and flavours go? Be sure to let us know. Also wondering if the temperatures had anything to do with the length of time that it took to set up. I'm not sure if I will be able to find a place that is consistently within that range; they might be a little lower, but hopefully that will be fine.

I got in touch with Brook and claimed the Piimä culture (also Finnish, from what I can tell), and will be giving it a try, soon.

Excellent work - thanks for sharing!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 February 2018 at 11:11
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

This is awesome, Mike - I've been waiting to see your write-up, and enjoyed reading it.

I'm wondering if succeeding batches will develop as far as textures and flavours go? Be sure to let us know.

Will do! I think I might start adding some heavy cream to the milk (essentially making half and half) to the next couple batches to see if that helps it firm up.


Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

Also wondering if the temperatures had anything to do with the length of time that it took to set up. I'm not sure if I will be able to find a place that is consistently within that range; they might be a little lower, but hopefully that will be fine.


That was my concern as well. My house stays around 70 degrees during the day, falling to mid-60s at night. So where to put it was a huge concern for me. I thought about putting it on top of my gas water heater, but that was actually a little too warm. I was hoping that since the pellet stove is the main source of heat during the day the brick around it would absorb some heat and keep it a little warmer at night. It seemed to work ok, though I have a feeling you're on track with the lower temps making it take longer.  The one thing I didn't think about was putting it in the oven with the light turned on. I would have to check what temps that holds but I bet it would be right about the right range. I might try that with my next batch if I can keep the oven from being used for 48 hours.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 February 2018 at 08:42
Mike, I'm running into the same problems with the Matsoni.

It's right at 24 hours, and no real change. If I tip the jar there's a slight map, like old-fashioned buttermilk would leave. But no real setting up, yet.

Could be a temperature thing; our overnights are a hair under 70F, which is the low end of the fermenting scale for these yogurts. I just moved it to a shelf over the furnace, which stays more consistently warm; more like the mid-70s.

I'm wondering if using pasteurized milk has something to do with this?

Ah, well. I've got another 24 hours before I have to start worrying.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gunhaus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 February 2018 at 10:24
I have never done these heirloom cultures ,so I do not know exactly what the texture/consistency is supposed to be. But we make yogurt with regular old pasteurized milk from the store and have had no troubles with setting for the most part. I don't have any of the newer gadgets for making it - we simply heat the milk to 200 in a coated cast iron dutch oven, and when cooled enough we inoculate with any plain yogurt containing live cultures. We try to keep it going, but admittedly we get behind and forget for a while and have to start over. (My neighbor and his wife have been using the same culture for 40 years non-stop! That's dedication) We just leave it in the oven (Off) during the "curing" phase. I heat the oven set at 180 while i am getting everything started, and turn it off about the time I get the milk heated to 200. By the time the milk is down to 110-115 or so, the little bit of residual heat in the oven and the cast iron seems to do the trick. It takes 4-6 hours usually to set up. MOST of the time it sets up into a nice creamy texture. If we get a batch that seems a little thin, we just use a strainer and a couple layers of cheese cloth and let it drain over night. That firms it up a fair amount as a rule. But usually just overnight in the fridge is enough to finish it the way we like it. It might work here if these styles are softer than you like. 

I appreciate the write  up, I have been really interested in trying these cultures too. Can't wait to hear your final impressions! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 08:44
Texture and consistency is different, depending on the culture. The real difference is that they ferment at "room" temperature---providing your room is on the warm side. Recommended range is 70-77F, as opposed to 110 for regular types.

Updating my experience. When I got home today, at 47 hours, the milk was just starting to form strands of custard. I gave it a good stir, and let it sit.

Right on 48 hours, tilting the jar revealed a thick, custard-like mass, pulling away from the sidewalls. This is exactly what was described in the literature.

However, it's still about half milk, so I'm going to let it go another hour or so before popping it in the fridge.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 10:08
This is some very interesting reading. I am looking forward to getting my Scandinavian strain and giving it a go. It is described as having a thinner consistency, which will be good for some uses that I have in mind. Brook and Mike - by the sounds of it, 48 hours seems to be the magic number?

Sooner or later, I will also do some "Greek" yogurt with the warmer temperatures; I did a write-up on it here:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/making-your-own-yoghurt_topic4587.html

But I have not yet tried it. John, I appreciate your notes and real-world experience on this. I have an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, and it sounds like it will work very well for that use.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 11:25
I have noticed with mine that as it sits in the fridge it tends to separate into a sort of curds and whey. I've been pouring off the whey every other day or so, and the curds seem to be getting thicker as expected. They're currently at the consistency of a cream-based soup or chowder, with a few firm curds still floating around in it. The flavor is also changing, starting to pick up a little of the cheese that the description talked about. I just started my third batch, so we'll see what come of that one. I'm hoping to get this 'mother' batch going strong then branch out into other milks, like goat, depending on what I can find locally. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 11:33
Originally posted by Mike Mike wrote:

...as it sits in the fridge it tends to separate into a sort of curds and whey. I've been pouring off the whey every other day or so....


That brings up another question (possibly better suited to the beginning of a new thread): are there some uses for this whey?

I'm sure that it can be used in baking (bread etc.), as I have read of doing that; I also read that it can be great as fertilizer for the garden or tossed in with the compost, if you do that. Have not tried this; but honestly, if we are going to be doing more of this, it makes sense to put the whey to use. As far as I know, a person can simply drink it, too.

As I said above, it might be appropriate to start a new thread on this topic, so that it gets more views (and input)....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 11:39
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

... are there some uses for this whey?


I've wondered that myself, as I stand there pouring it down the sink. I imagine there must be some good use for it, but I haven't had time to research anything yet.

edit: quick 'net search turned up this. Putting it here for further reading as I only had time to skim it just now

https://www.farmcurious.com/blogs/farmcurious/17599408-cheesemaking-what-to-do-with-all-that-whey
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 11:42
this part of the above link will interest you Ron...

Quote Lacto-Fermentation - If you're a junkie for fermented goods like I am, you might appreciate the ability to speed up the process that whey gives you.  Instead of adding salt to produce you intend to ferment, you just add the whey - fermentation will occur much more quickly than you're accustomed to so keep an eye on it.  You can add salt to taste if you like.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 12:19
There's some good reading there, Mike - thanks for posting!

I've read before somewhere about using whey as a starter culture for lacto-fermentation. I didn't know anything about the process then; but looking back now, it makes perfect sense.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 13:37
I'm noticing that separation too, Mike.

My first batch has been in the fridge 4 hours, not, and most of the curds have come together in a pudding-like mass. The whey is a sort of cloudy/clear liquid.

I had intended to just stir it all back together. Is there a reason you're discarding it instead of mixing it? My concern is that if you remove too much of the whey you'd wind up with yogurt cheese. The classic way of making that is to drain the whey off so the yogurt just gets thicker.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 14:19
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

I'm noticing that separation too, Mike.

My first batch has been in the fridge 4 hours, not, and most of the curds have come together in a pudding-like mass. The whey is a sort of cloudy/clear liquid.

I had intended to just stir it all back together. Is there a reason you're discarding it instead of mixing it? My concern is that if you remove too much of the whey you'd wind up with yogurt cheese. The classic way of making that is to drain the whey off so the yogurt just gets thicker.


currently it's simply an attempt to thicken up the yogurt. Where it's at now is pretty good for me, though still a lot looser than 'regular' yogurt, so I probably won't pour any more off and will stir it back in from here out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 February 2018 at 17:24
Sounds about right.

I wrote the company, a little bit ago, asking if the separation was normal. Based on my history with them, will likely hear back as early as tomorrow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 February 2018 at 02:11
Heard back from the company. Here's what they say:

"Yes, it is normal to see the separation occur, but there may be a way to prevent this - I would try culturing a shorter time, because your yogurt will indeed continue to culture until it finally reaches the same temperature as your fridge. So it could appear to be done on the counter, but maybe it was already approaching "overdone" while on the counter, and then it finished separating while in the fridge."

This pretty much sums up what both of us experienced, so is probably right on the money.

I'm starting a new batch, which will be kept in a warmer locale. Hopefully that will solve the problem.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 February 2018 at 09:02
Thanks Brook, I have batch number 3 going right now and will be at the 24 hour mark in two hours. I think when I get home I'll transfer it to the fridge regardless of how it's set and see what that does.

I'll be interested to see your results with a warmer location. I think I might have figured out a warmer spot for mine, but I need to check the temp there tonight when I get home.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 February 2018 at 09:30
Excellent reading, guys - thanks for posting. I'll keep this in mind when mine arrives.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 February 2018 at 11:33
update on batch 3: when I arrived home there was still no change in texture, though a slight ring had started to form around the glass, I'm assuming due to evaporation. I put it in the fridge anyway.  By bedtime still no change to it. I forgot to check it this morning so we'll see what it looks like when I get home. It hit 48 hours just half an hour ago. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 February 2018 at 11:42
My number 2 batch wasn't any different. At the end of about 22 hours thee was a layer of foamy cream on top. I stirred it in, and put the jar in the fridge.

Samee-same. There is a thick layer of yogurt floating on a sea of whey.

So, whatever the problem is, it wasn't solved by heat nor shorter fermenting time.

Alas.

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