What is Viili?

Villi can be served with powdered ginger.

Viili, also called curd, is a traditional cultured milk from Finland, although it originates in Sweden. Similar to yogurt, it is created through the activity of lactic acid bacteria, fungi and yeast in milk. The dish is characterized by the viilian heteropolysaccharide, a carbohydrate gel, which is produced by the lactic acid bacteria strain Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris.

Whole milk used to make traditional viili.

In Finland, viili is usually eaten for breakfast or an afternoon snack. It is served chilled and usually sweetened with fruit, jam, sugar or honey. It is thick and gelatinous in texture, and its flavor is slightly acidic. If stirred, it becomes rope-like and is difficult to eat. It can also be served with a variety of other toppings such as muesli, cinnamon, walnuts and powdered ginger. A traditional Finnish topping is talkkuna flour, a mixture of semi-cooked, dried and sometimes roasted grains, made into flour.

You can make your own viili at home with a starter kit or with fresh viili. Once you’ve made a batch with a starter kit, you’ll have your own fresh viili to use in future batches. The company GEM Cultures sells Finnish viili culture in the United States. Its culture requires the user to place the culture in a clean bowl, add pasteurized milk, and let it sit for about 24 hours at room temperature, until it solidifies. It forms a thin, velvety layer on top, caused by the fungus Geotrichum candidum. To maintain an active culture, you must make a new batch at least every ten days.

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It is important to make viili using only pasteurized milk, as the bacteria in raw milk can dangerously interact with the bacteria and fungi in the viili culture. However, you can use any type of pasteurized milk you like. Using non-homogenized milk will cause a layer of cream to form on top of the product. While whole milk is the more traditional base for viili, you can also make a low-fat or fat-free version, or even a dairy-free soy version. Soy milk is not ideal for use with a starter kit, so if you’re looking to make soy viili regularly, it’s best to keep a dairy starter on hand.

Other Scandinavian cultures have traditional culture dairy products very similar to viili, such as Swedish langfil and filmjolk, Norwegian tettemelk, and Icelandic skyr. A variation of viili is kermaviili, which is cream curd with initiating bacteria. Kermaviili is smoother, creamier and sour. It is similar to low-fat sour cream and can be used in sauces, dressings, and sauces.

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