Scandinavian Sour Milk Products


Scandinavia is home to a number of exquisite and unique milk products, aside from all the ones available in the rest of the world.

Sour milk, like yogurt, was originally produced to make fresh milk keep, but also for its health-giving and culinary properties.

The fermenting process makes milk much easier to digest. Most Scandinavians are able to digest milk, when over the age of breast-feeding, as opposed to many other human beings who, apart from nomads, are usually not able to digest milk, and will get sick from eating large amounts of milk products.

The ability to digest milk is taken too far in Scandinavia, where almost every adult drinks lots of milk every day. It stems from a popular misconception that milk is the only source of calcium and that it is just basically good for you.

The truth is more complex, and milk drinking is certainly a way to get fat. Obesity is now a huge problem in Scandinavia.

Let’s have a look at the three most common sour milk products:

Laangfil from Sweden
Laangfil from Sweden

This is a type of fermented cow’s milk, which is only available in Sweden. It ferments at low temperatures over a long period, and was traditionally a way of making milk keep (and still is), to make while you are out in the wilderness tending your herd, timbering or hiking or just to take along.

Originally from Norway, skyr was taken by the Vikings to Iceland, where it is tremendously popular as an everyday health food. Skyr is a dense, drained milk product, essentially a fresh, unfermented cheese, much like fresh ricotta.

Cheesy Skyr with blueberries
Cheesy Skyr with blueberries

The story of butter and the resulting buttermilk is closely entwined with the Scandinavian pig export business. Genuine buttermilk is the whey that’s left after you have churned the butter, and the real stuff is delicious.

Buttermilk dessert
Buttermilk dessert

Buttermilk and sweet grass cream whith rhubarb jelly

2 sweet grass leaves or 4 rose geranium leaves
250 ml water

For the cream:
100g sugar
300ml full-fat cream
200 ml buttermilk
4 leaves of gelatin

For the jelly:
5 leaves of gelatin
500ml rhubarb cordial or leftover syrup from rhubarb compote or soup
A handful if edible flowers

Serves 6

Boil the sweet grass in the water for 10 minutes, the leave to cool. Discard the grass.

Bring the sugar and cream to the boil, then take off the heat. Stir in the grass water and buttermilk.

Soften the four leaves of gelatin in a little cold water for a few minutes until it feels like a jellyfish. Squeeze off any excess water and place in a small pan along with a little of the cream. Put over a very low heat until the gelatin is completely melted, then stir in some more of the cream, making sure there are no lumps, and finally the rest of the cream.

Divide between six tall glasses or bowls, allowing room for the jelly on top. Leave in a cool place to set.

Meanwhile, soften the gelatin for the rhubarb jelly as before, and then dissolve in the rhubarb cordial. When the buttermilk cream has set, pour or spoon over the rhubarb jelly, and leave it to set completely. Do not put it in the fridge, as this will spoil the taste. Decorate with edible flowers.


Variations: berries instead of rhubarb

Scandinavian Sour Milk Products, written by Tor Kjolberg