Good thing that, being in the seventh month of pregnancy and having higher daily calcium needs, I have an excuse to consume lots and lots of dairy. Because now that I’m making viili and kefir on top of my usual yogurt routine, there’s no shortage of jars of white milky things around here!
Good thing too that our milk comes from a local dairy, Happy Cow Creamery, that is committed to pasture grazing and chemical-free production. Eating a locavore diet where we live right now has turned out to be surprisingly challenging — considering that we live in a sunny climate with lots of agriculture — but at least when it comes to my dairy culturing experiments, I can feel good about where the ingredients come from.
I’ve always been a yogurt nut, and have been making my own off and on for about three years. It helps me to save money and avoid unnecessary sugars and preservatives, but the primary reason why I keep making my yogurt at home is that I simply haven’t found any store-bought kind that matches home-made in terms of flavor and texture. If you’re new to yogurt-making, there are more than ample resources online to show you how. (See, for example, here, here, and here. By the way, I don’t usually sterilize the jars, I just make sure they’re really clean. And for incubation, I use the cooler method — an old plastic cooler filled with very warm water to keep the yogurt at the right temperature. Works like magic.)
Kefir, on the other hand, is a new acquaintance for me: I just made my first batch this week. I followed Sandor Katz’s advice and got a powdered kefir starter from Cultures of Health for my initial batch, instead of real kefir grains, because I wanted to first make sure I’d like the end product before committing to a regular cycle of straining, storing and reusing the grains. But I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It actually reminds me of another Scandinavian yogurt culture I grew up drinking, piimä: thick, mild and yogurt-like, but liquidy enough to make you want to drink it from a glass rather than scoop it up from a bowl. And, as I’ve now learned, it’s ridiculously easy to make. So it may very well become a regular presence in my kitchen’s rotating rhythms.