I have waited a long time but it is finally here! Da-ta-da-dah! Filmjölk! When I first visited Sweden many years ago I was served a bowlful of the soured milk with flingor, corn flakes, flung on top with currents and a sprinkling of sugar. I loved it for breakfast or late evening snack.
Back in the U.S. nothing came close to the buttery, mild, clean flavor of filmjölk. Over the years I have experimented with many different brands of yogurt and kefir. Nothing came close. You would think that in Minnesota of all places, the land of the stereotyped Scandi-hoovian, we would have had access to this traditional food before now.
Just this week I found Siggi’s brand filmjölk at Whole Foods. Siggi’s is a dairy product line started by a homesick Icelandic man who, while living in the U.S., wanted something that tasted more like home. His first product was skyr, an ancient cultured milk product that is marketed in the U.S. as yogurt. (Basically it is fresh cheese because it is thickened with rennet, drained of whey and whisked to a shiny thick yogurt consistency.)
Happily Siggi’s has added a Swedish food to its line. According to researchers at the Nordic Centre of Excellence, the bacterial cultures used by commercial dairies to make filmjölk are actually taken from old Swedish farms. These bacteria are different than those found in yogurt or kefir. Another difference is that homemade filmjölk is fermented at room temperature while yoghurt is fermented at 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
In my grandma’s south Minneapolis home she made yet another variant of thickened milk that my family called tätmjölk. My dad remembers that she would receive a package in the mail from relatives in Sweden that seemd to contain a rag. She would wipe the interior of a clean glass jar with the rag, fill the jar with milk and let it sit in the pantry overnight. By morning they had thickened milk.
Maybe the rag had been soaked in juice from a plant or contained leaves. I have been told by older relatives in Sweden that a marsh plant was used—they didn’t say which. In my reading I find it could have been sileshårssläktet, sundew, or tätört, butterwort. My relative added that such plants are getting harder to find. Isn’t it funny that the immigrant generation, living in a verdant new place, sent away by mail for familiar plants?
Long story short, I enjoyed a bowlful of filmjölk today with flakes, homemade meusli and blueberries. I wish I could have found plain filmjolk but chose Siggi’s vanilla flavor. It is only slightly sweet and rather better than I expected. A lovely way to start the day–with a smile for happy memories of Grandma’s house and Sweden and a belly full of probiotics to boot.