The Confusing array of Fermented Milk products:
Can one find dairy products other than milk and yoghurts in Australia? A big ask I think as these products can be confined to certain areas of the world, like Scandinavia, where they have been traditionally eaten.
For example: A -fil is commonly found in parts of Sweden and Norway. It is a little like a yoghurt drink, but less tarty and sour. It is beautiful on Muesli, and cereals, and as a dessert with berries. In Scandinavia, you can even get flavoured varieties, particularly berry flavoured a-Fil.
Not only is this soured milk extremely good for you, because of its calcium content, it is also good for one's digestion, due to the beneficial bacteria it contains.Whilst trying to determine whether these products were available here, I was able to ascertain some interesting information coalesced in the following blog entry.
A food forum claims that if a recipe calls for sour milk, the translation of 'Fil' one could use buttermilk ( which although thought to be particularly fatty, is not). Alternatively, one can sour 3/4 cup ordinary milk with 1 tsp of apple vinegar or white vinegar, or lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes the writer claims.
Wiki provides us with a different explanation:
Filmjölk (also known as fil or the older word surmjölk) is a Nordic dairy product, similar to yoghurt, but using different bacteria which give a different taste and texture.
It can also be described as a mesophilic fermented milk product that 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 consume filmjölk. 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, which gives filmjölk its characteristic taste. Filmjölk is similar to cultured buttermilk, kefir, or yoghurt in consistency, but fermented by different bacteria and thus has a slightly different taste. Compared with yoghurt, filmjölk tastes less sour. In Sweden, it is normally sold in 1-liter packages with live bacteria.
In Nordic countries, filmjölk is commonly eaten during breakfast or as a snack between meals in the same manner as yoghurt, usually from a bowl with a spoon. It can be drunk but is not normally done so since the liquid is fairly thick. Filmjölk is often eaten with breakfast cereal, muesli or crushed crisp bread on top. Since plain filmjölk tastes somewhat sour, many people add sugar, jam, apple sauce, cinnamon, ginger, fruits, and/or berries. In Norwegian it is called surmelk (new Norwegian: surmjølk) (sourmilk) but the official name is kulturmelk (new Norwegian: kulturmjølk).
Manufactured filmjölk is made from pasteurised, homogenised, and standardised cow's milk. Although home made filmjölk has been around for a long time (written records from the 18th century speak of filmjölk-like products, but it has probably been around since the Viking Age or longer), it was first introduced to the Swedish market as a consumer product in 1931 by the Swedish dairy cooperative Arla, who have a large factory in below pictured Danish town of Christiansfeld. From here, they freight these milk products far and wide, even to America.
IN 1984, Arla produced A-Fil, (the product in question), a Filmjölk with Lactobacillus acidophilus, a commonly used probiotic bacteria. Comes unflavoured and flavoured. Strawberry appears to be the most popular flavour.
To make filmjölk, a small amount of bacteria from an active batch of filmjölk is normally transferred to pasteurised milk and then left one to two days to ferment at room temperature or in a cool cellar. The fil culture is needed when using pasteurised milk because the bacteria occurring naturally in milk are killed during the pasteurization process.
A variant of filmjölk called tätmjölk, filtäte, täte or långmjölk is made by rubbing the inside of a container with leaves of certain plants: sundew (Drosera, Swedish: sileshår) or butterwort (Pinguicula, Swedish: tätört). Lukewarm milk is added to the container and left to ferment for one to two days. More tätmjölk can then be made by adding completed tätmjölk to milk. In Flora Lapponica (1737), Carl von Linné described a recipe for tätmjölk and wrote that any species of butterwort could be used to make tätmjölk.Sundew and butterwort are carnivorous plants that have enzymes that degrade proteins, which make the milk thick. How butterwort influences the production of tätmjölk is not completely understood
Then there is Quark, which is rather like Cottage or Ricotta cheese but made from Soured milk. To clear up the distinctions between all these interesting dairy products, I called on Wikipedia and the source product and location appear to be fundamental in the end product produced! Does this mean that sour milk would not be sour milk if made in Australia?
Wikipedia states that Quark is:
Quark is a type of fresh cheese, also known as tvorog (from the Russian творог), topfen (from the Austrian name), biezpiens (from Latvian), and varškė (from Lithuanian). It is made by warming soured milk until the desired degree of denaturation of milk proteins is met, and then strained. Dictionaries usually translate it as curd cheese or cottage cheese, although most commercial varieties of cottage cheese are made with rennet, whereas traditional quark is not. It is soft, white and unaged, similar to some types of fromage frais. It is distinct from ricotta because ricotta (Italian: recooked) is made from scalded whey. Quark usually has much lower fat content (about the same as yoghurt) than cream cheeses and has no salt added.
Quark is a member of the acid set cheese group, meaning it is traditionally made without the aid of rennet. In most German dairies today, it is made with rennet. Lactic acid bacteria are added in the form of mesophilic Lactococcus starter cultures. In Germany, the curd is continuously stirred to prevent it from getting hard, resulting in a thick, creamy texture. It has the firmness of sour cream but is slightly drier, resulting in a somewhat crumbly texture (like Italian ricotta), and contains in its basic form about 0.2 % fat. Quark with higher fat content is made by adding cream, and is often sold flavored with herbs, spices, or fruit. It has a very smooth and creamy texture and is slightly sweet (unlike sour cream).
To make the firmer eastern European version, a small amount of rennet may be added to make the curd firmer. Some or most of the whey is removed to standardize the quark to the desired thickness. Traditionally, this is done by hanging the cheese in loosely woven cotton gauze called cheesecloth and letting the whey drip off, which gives quark its distinctive shape of a wedge with rounded edges. In industrial production, however, cheese is separated from whey in a centrifuge and later formed into blocks. The Polish, Lithuanian and Austrian varieties contain less whey and are therefore drier and more solid than varieties common in other countries.
Quark consists of 60% to 80% water. Dry mass has 1% to 40% fat; most of the rest is protein (80% of which is casein), calcium, and phosphate.
Quark is often used in cakes, cheesecakes, and strudels in continental northern Europe. Topfen strudel, found in Austria, and Munich, tastes quite distinctive in this part of the world, and is extremely rich. I could not even finish one slice of the following Topfen strudel cheesecake (with sultanas) sampled recently in Munich.
There there is Kefir, which is found in Norway. Rather unusual, it can be purchased in a starter pack and you can gestate it making Kefir babies!!!
Wiki again helps us out here:
Kefir (pronounced /kəˈfɪər/ kə-feer ) (alternately kefīrs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milkkefir, búlgaros) is a Probiotic fermented milk drink made with Kefir Grains that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region, who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.
Marco Polo mentions kefir in recounting his travels.
Production of traditional kefir requires a starter community of kefir grains which are added to the liquid one wishes to ferment. Kefir grains cannot be produced from scratch, but the grains grow during fermentation, and additional grains are produced. Kefir grains can be bought from or donated by other growers.
The traditional, or artisanal, method of making kefir is achieved by directly adding kefir grains (2–10%) to milk in a loosely covered acid proof container which is traditionally agitated once or more times a day. It is not filled to capacity, allowing room for some expansion as the kefiran and carbon dioxide gas produced causes the liquid level to rise. If the container is not light proof it should be stored in the dark to prevent degradation of vitamins and inhibition of the culture. After a period of fermentation lasting around 24 hours, ideally at 20–25 °C (68–77 °F), the grains are removed from the liquid by sieving and reserved as the starter for a fresh amount of liquid. The temperature during fermentation is not critical as long as it is not above one that will kill the culture (about 40 °C / 104 °F), or much below 4 °C (39 °F) where the process will cease.
The fermented liquid which contains live microflora from the grain, may now be consumed as a beverage, used in recipes, or kept aside for several days to undergo a slower secondary fermentation which further thickens and sours the liquid. Without refrigeration the shelf life is two to three days. The grains will enlarge in the process of kefir production, and eventually split. Grains can be dried at room temperature or lyophilized (freeze-dried) or frozen.
Kefir can be produced using lyophilized cultures commonly available as a powder from health food shops. A portion of the resulting kefir can be saved to be used a number of times to propagate further fermentations but ultimately does not form grains, and a fresh culture must be obtained.
Kefir grains will successfully ferment the milk from most mammals, and will continue to grow in such milk. Typical milks used include cow, goat, and sheep, each with varying organoleptic and nutritional qualities. Raw milk has been traditionally used.
In addition, kefir grains will ferment milk substitutes such as soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk, as well as other sugary liquids including fruit juice, coconut water, beer wort and ginger beer. However, the kefir grains may cease growing if the medium used does not contain all the growth factors required by the bacteria.
As it contains yeasts, kefir can be used to make a sourdough bread. It is also useful as a buttermilk substitute in baking. Kefir is one of the main ingredients in Lithuanian cold beet soup šaltibarščiai (Polish chłodnik), commonly known as cold borscht.
Which one appeals to you?
Which one can you obtain in your locality?
Which one is best for you?
Something to ponder about.