Recipe – Filmjölk

This week I am continuing in the probiotic vein. As I mentioned in my post on the Kefir and Cardamom Breakfast Loaf, there is a secret world of fermented dairy products out there which, unless you have lived in Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, you probably have yet to become acquainted with. Kefir is becoming more and more common in the fridges of North America and many find enjoyment in the slightly sour flavour and thick texture of the beverage. It is gaining renown as a probiotic drink that contains strains of bacteria that are termed “healthy” because they are naturally present in our intestinal flora. You will either be amazed or repulsed to learn that you have perhaps a hundred trillion organisms happily holed up in your gut, coexisting with us and benefitting human health in ways that include pathogen resistance and improved metabolism of certain carbohydrates.

Filmjölk is another fermented dairy product that is virtually unknown in North America, but extremely popular in Scandinavia. It is formed through fermentation of milk by the mesophilic bacteria Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Unlike the thermophilic bacteria that act at around 45ºC to produce the yoghurt that is common on the shelves in Canada and the US, the mesophilic bacteria grow at around room temperature. This makes it extremely simple for any interested home cooking enthusiast to prepare them in their own kitchen. All it takes is 12-24 hours, a bit of filmjölk starter culture, and some store-bought milk. The bacteria quickly sour the milk, converting sweet lactose into tart lactic acid. The increased acidity of the mixture causes proteins in the milk to unravel, yielding a viscous beverage that can be drank as is or strained to give an even thicker version. No matter which you prefer, you will be happy to know that the lactic acid produced as the milk is soured actually preserves the drink, creating an environment that only the helpful filmjölk bacteria can survive in. This gives a shelf life of up to two weeks in the fridge – plenty of time to enjoy it before you need to make another batch.

Filmjölk has a fairly mild, yet sour taste. You can use it in baking, or as a base for dips. In Sweden is often just poured overtop of muesli to give a rather plain, yet exceedingly healthy breakfast. If you are a real minimalist then you can do as our daughter Nina and drink it from a cup mixed with some honey.

Filmjölk starter culture in glass pitcher


50 mL liquid filmjölk culture or 1 swab of dry culture
500 mL milk

Perhaps the easiest recipe I will ever post. New filmjölk is made by incubating a small amount of existing culture in fresh milk. Since this is probably your first attempt at making it, you are going to need a source. I purchased mine from Culture Mother, but if you don’t live in Canada you are going to need to find another supplier. I received a cotton swab with dry culture on it that I dutifully placed in milk and left on the counter for 24 hours. Starting from a dry culture takes about twice as long as from wet, so once you have a mature and healthy culture going then you probably only need 12 hours to produce your filmjölk. This also means that you will have fresher, tastier filmjölk for your second and later batches, since the time the milk will be sitting at room temperature is decreased.

Try the Kefir and Cardamom bread using filmjölk instead, or wait for some of my upcoming filmjölk recipes. I like to strain through cheesecloth to get a thicker variety that I mix with a bit of grated cinnamon and some maple syrup. Add cereal for a quick and delicious breakfast, or eat as is.

Do you have your own recipe suggestions?

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