Catalyst Cooks

Make. Food. Happen!

Viili and Yogurt Making Follow Up… September 24, 2010

You read about my adventures getting a Viili starter earlier this month… so how did that turn out, anyway?

Well, as I am prone to do, I thought I would outsmart the way everyone has always made Viili and instead follow the method I’ve been using to make regular yogurt.  (Meaning, I’d boil the milk to 185, chill it to 110, introduce the Viili starter, and put it on the counter wrapped in a heating pad for 7 hours). 

I wouldn’t say that experiment was a complete failure, but it didn’t result in the texture our expert tester- Neighbor Dave- remembered from the days of his youth.  He suggested I follow the instruction I had received from sweet Miss Connie in Ontonagon:

“Add milk to the starter and let it sit on the counter overnight.”

So I did that, with a new batch of milk and using my failed batch as the starter.

Dave tasted again and asked why I didn’t let it sit on the counter all night.  I DID! I said exasperated.  (why would he question if I followed directions or not?  Maybe because I don’t, normally.)

I left it out again a second night.  The photo above is how it looks today.

Dave hasn’t yet tried it, but I’m not sure it’s quite there yet.  Some sites say that you have to go through at least three cycles to get to the right consistency, so maybe the next time is the charm. 

I have to say, it is sour (like the Finns disparagingly said on the Jan Tucker show- while they questioned whether or not Finns ever have any fun because look at what they choose to eat?  At least they aren’t Norwegian and subject themselves to lutefisk)… but it’s not bad.  It’s kind of like the creme fraiche my friend Beth brought over for me to sample the other day.  Just not as smooth.

So, still need to work on the texture which means working on the technique.

And, about that regular yogurt I’ve been making… I did get a heating pad that does not have an automatic shutoff (thanks sister Molly!) and it produces great yogurt with a perfect texture, in my book.   I promised Molly I’d get her a new heating pad, which I still owe her, since I have put hers in hiding and will not be giving it back.

I did choose a different yogurt starter Father, Greek Gods Organic Yogurt.  It had all the bacterial cultures I wanted, and none I didn’t.  Who doesn’t want a Greek God as their father?

I also found some fantastic milk to be the mother of my yogurt.  After doing some research online, I decided to get Cedar Summit Farm milk which comes in a glass bottle and is from New Prague, Minnesota.  (I even saw it at the Keweenaw Coop in Hancock, MI so it must be good stuff!) 

Cedar Summit Farm’s milk is pasteurized…  meaning it’s heated to a certain temperature, held there for a certain amount of time, and then immediately cooled…. which kills off bacteria (and, interestingly enough, is what I do again when I start making the yogurt.  I think to make the milk receptive to hosting the yogurt bacteria, I kill off the bacteria in the milk to give the yogurt a “clean slate” to start from.)

But it’s not homogenized… which is a mechanical process to more equally distribute the fat in milk by using pressure.  As a result, Cedar Summit Farm milk has a cream layer on the top since the fat sticks together and rises to the top.  You can either shake it back into the milk, or skim it off the top (resulting in a lower fat product).  — an interesting note is that some researchers believe that homogenized milk may be a contributing factor to heart disease- they hypothesize that the homogenization process of applying pressure to the fat cells in milk to more equally distribute them may make the small enough for the body to put those fat cells into circulation, whereas when milk is NOT homogenized, the fat cells are larger and the body may digest (and dispose) of them more easily.  I am paraphrasing here, to learn more (if you want to know a lot of detail) visit this article.

Any-hoo, I like Cedar Summit Farms because they have an ideal mix of cow breeds for nice, thick milk, and they eat a pasture diet (and while our weather is not bad, they are out to pasture).  It’s really nice milk and someday I may even try to use the cream layer at the top of the bottle to make butter.

At the end of the day, I have really enjoyed learning to make yogurt… it was my own culinary lesson in the importance of:

  • the PROCESS (which seems to be more important than the tools- i.e. I did it without buying a fancy yogurt-maker)
  • the PARENTS (better quality products lead to a better outcome)
  • and probably PATIENCE (I didn’t do it right the first, second, or even third time… PRACTICE is important!)

If you want a yogurt breakfast, just call me… I’ve always got some good stuff on hand now!!!


8 Responses to “Viili and Yogurt Making Follow Up…”

  1. Molly Says:

    Now I see how mom always gets sucked in to giving you stuff. You “borrow” it and then hide it.

  2. Regan Says:

    Amazing how similar the yogurt-making process is to the child-rearing process. I think your three principles apply to both: the process is more important than the tools, better quality parents lead to a better outcome, and patience is certainly a virtue!

    P.S. A spelling lesson: Keweenaw

  3. Beth Says:

    You officially have me hooked on your blog, Jen. Yours is the first I’ll follow:-) Thanks for doing the legwork on the yogurt. I didn’t want to buy more “toys.”

    • Jen Antila Says:

      Beth- thank you thank you!
      In re: “toys”- I agree. My little kitchen does not have enough room for any more stuff, but I think most people have what it takes to make yogurt (maybe the candy thermometer is the exception but it’s so small it’s easy to hide in a utensil drawer.)
      Happy yogurt making!

  4. Matt Says:

    I’m trying to make viili too 😀 (and also matsoni)

    I’ve been making kefir for months (I’m very attached to my kefir grains), and having experience with that, I’m suspecting, like you did, that the viili and matsoni cultures just need to go through a few (or more) cycles with fresh milk before they really get established.

    I also was making sourdough pancakes for a while, and I’d equate viili and matsoni (all the mesophilic milk cultures, essentially) with sourdough starter more than anything else: Pour some off, then feed it again, and repeat and repeat and repeat until the culture strengthens.

    I can only hope that in a month or so these cultures will be running at full-strength. Judging by how long it took me to get a really strong sourdough starter going, I think that might even be a reasonable estimate. I will be angry if that isn’t the case though ;D


    I’m in a weird financial situation and basically I need food as cheap as I can get it, but I also care about quality, so I hope to at least partially overcome the pasteurized/homogenized milk problem by culturing store-bought milk with these cultures. They’re my little angels XD (yes, I am probably a very lonely person, but if that’s true I haven’t been realizing it lately because of how much fun I’m having trying out all these different foods and researching different cultures and traditions and foreign recipes).

    And hey, even if the milk is unhealthy, it’s still food on the table, and do-it-yourself cultures also make it taste way better, in any case. And it’s also a plus when the occasional guest asks “what the hell are you eating?” XD

    • Jen Antila Says:

      Hey Matt,
      Sounds like you are a very thoughtful eater and I appreciate your insights!

      I’ve found in general that my food bills have gone down since I left the corporate world (
      My food bills are a bit higher (CSA subscription, farmer’s markets, higher quality ingredients) but my entertainment/restaurant bills are much lower.

      I do think about tradeoffs like that every time I decide what type of meat, dairy, and produce products I will buy that day (vs what types of dry goods I’ll buy.) Fresh or frozen/canned? Organic or not? Local meats/grass fed/or cheap? Shop at the big box, or the local store, or the farmers market?

      Baby steps….

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