Swedish Filmjölk is made from a special culture that makes a unique drinkable yogurt. This traditional cultured dairy is similar to kefir in some ways, but it’s smooth and pleasant. What we usually think of as “yogurt” is Thermophilic, and requires incubation to culture properly, with Filmjölk the culture is Mesophilic.
Filmjölk is a traditional dairy ferment that creates a thickened but drinkable “yogurt” type drink. It’s been around since the Viking age, and it’s common in Nordic markets today, sold either unflavored or flavored with berries, vanilla, or honey.
Filmjölk (Swedish: [ˈfîːlmjœlk]), also known as fil, is a traditional fermented milk product from Sweden, and a common dairy product within the Nordic countries. It is made by fermenting cow’s milk with a variety of bacteria from the species Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. The bacteria metabolize lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk, into lactic acid which means people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate it better than other dairy products. The acid gives filmjölk a sour taste and causes proteins in the milk, mainly casein, to coagulate, thus thickening the final product. The bacteria also produce a limited amount of diacetyl, a compound with a buttery flavor, which gives filmjölk its characteristic taste.”
There you have it. It’s a slightly thickened probiotic milk, where the lactose content has been substantially reduced, and a slightly acidic, buttery flavor is developed. It’s eaten in Norway, where it’s called surmjølk or kulturmjølk, as well as Latvia where it’s called rūgušpiens or rūgtpiens.
HOW TO MAKE FILMJÖLK (DRINKABLE YOGURT)
Start with about a quart of either raw or pasteurized milk. Most people choose pasteurized because it allows you to control the culture more carefully. The native flora, namely other mesophilic culture bacteria, have already been killed in the pasteurization process.
ix roughly 1/4 to 1/2 cup of prepared Filmjölk into a quart of milk, stirring to completely incorporate the culture. (Alternately, simply add the freeze dried culture to the milk instead.)
llow the culture to sit covered at room temperature for 1-2 days until it’s thickened to your liking. If you’re in a hot climate, choose a cooler part of the house, as this would have been made in the cool cellar in the summer months. You’re looking for temperatures around 65 to 75 degrees F.
HOW TO USE FILMJÖLK
Once cultured, you can drink the Filmjölk immediately if you like, or store it in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Add flavorings if you’d like, such as crushed fruit or honey, to taste.
I’ve also read that it’s popular to pour it in a bowl and eat it with museli, basically making a cereal/milk type breakfast (with thicker tangier milk).
I think it’s really spectaular as is, with nothing added, but I also love the taste of plain natural yogurt. My kids like it with just a hint of sweet, so I add a teaspoon or two of our homemade maple syrup to their cups.
Filmjölk can also be used in baking, in place of recipes that call for buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt.
Where on earth are you going to find Filmjölk outside of the Nordics?
Well, believe it or not, it’s likely already for sale in the supermarket.
Siggis, which makes a popular brand of Icelandic Yogurt, also makes a drinkable yogurt. If you look closely at the label, it says “Swedish Style Filmjölk.”
While yogurt is usually just one or two cultures, their Filmjölk includes the following active cultures:
- L. lactis subsp. lactis
- L. lactis subsp. cremoris
- L. lactis subsp. lactis biovar diacetylactis
- Leuconostoc spp.
- S. thermophilus
- L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus