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MILK PRODUCTS

Listed below are some basic Finnish dairy products used in the recipes of this site.

Milk jug Without any exaggeration one can say that the basic Finnish dairy products are the best in the world  —  in taste, quality and purity alike. We have a large range of dairy products to choose from, thanks to our rich heritage in producing fresh and cultured milk products, many of them being native to Finland and Scandinavia only.

The Finnish untouched nature, close attention to animals and natural animal feed all influence on the high quality of milk. The use of hormones is not allowed in Finnish milk and cattle production and Finland follows one of the strictest control procedures in the world to detect any possible antibiotic or other harmful residues in milk products.

No additives, like preservatives and colours or emulsifying, gelling, stabilizing and thickening agents (like carrageenan, cellulose gum, polysorbate, etc), are used in regular, basic dairy products like milk, cream and butter (except salt in salted butter, of course).

Unfortunately, the constant urge to lower the fat content of foods has worsened the taste and consistency of many other Finnish dairy products. As fat is reduced in yogurts, cream cheeses and various cooking cream and soured cream products  —  most of which have a very low fat content already to start with  —  additives like emulsifying and thickening agents or hydrogenated vegetable fats are added to them to give them a suitably thick consistency and fuller, more pleasing mouth-feel. Lacking the natural creaminess and full flavour provided by milk fat, these products taste bland, chalky and artificial.

Valio Ltd  —  the leading Finnish dairy company

The pioneer in Finnish dairy production, Valio Ltd, was established in 1905 as a butter export cooperative for Finnish dairies. Acting as the Director of the Finnish Biochemical Research Institute, founded by Valio, Dr. A.I. Virtanen won the year 1945 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his inventions and research in agriculture and nutrient chemistry. His inventions created the basis for the high quality of Finnish milk, butter and cheese.

Since its foundation, Valio Ltd has continued its research in the dairy business to produce versatile dairy products, becoming a world leader in the development of many globally innovative, functional foods. These include various low-lactose or lactose-free milk products, products containing health-promoting probiotic bacterium (Valio Gefilus®), and products helping to control elevated blood pressure (Valio Evolus®) or weight management (Valio ProFeel®), among others.

Tasty milk for lactose intolerants

In 2001, Valio Ltd introduced a new, completely lactose-free milk drink in Finland, in which lactose is removed from milk using an advanced filtering technique patented by Valio. Compared to other, enzymatically hydrolysed milks, Valio's milk contains less than 0,01 % of lactose, has a low energy value, maintains the essential vitamins and minerals, and, most importantly, the fresh taste of genuine milk without any sweetish, watery or artificial-like flavour.

Outside Finland, Valio has licensed its lactose-free technology, and lactose-free milk is already available in Sweden (from 2002), Switzerland (from 2003), Spain (from 2005), Belgium (from 2005), South Korea (from 2005), the Baltic countries (from 2007), Russia (from 2008) and Norway (from 2009).

In 2009, in cooperation with a family-owned Byrne Dairy in New York, USA, Valio's lactose-free milk was introduced to the American market, becoming that country's first completely lactose-free milk actually tasting like real milk. Called Valio Real Goodness™ lactose free milk, this innovative product was available in nearly all the East Coast retail chain stores. However, the milk did not succeed to sell as well as was expected by Valio, so it was withdrawn from the US market two years later.
Valio's Emmental cheese has been sold in the USA since the 1950s, under the brand name Finlandia Cheese.

Read more about Finnish butter and fats here.
Read more about Finnish cheeses here.

See also:

Fermented milk products and their typical starter bacteria
Note: microbe variety may differ in certain products
ProductBacteriaYeastsMoulds
Buttermilk
(cultured)
Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
 —   — 
Crème fraîche Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
 —   — 
Kefir Acetobacter sp.
Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus brevis
Lactobacillus kefir
Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. dextranicum
Brettanomyces sp.
Candida kefir
Candida milleri
Kluyveromyces marxianus
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Torulaspora delbrückii
 — 
Kermaviili Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
 —   — 
Smetana Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
 —   — 
Viili Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
 —  Geotrichum candidum
Yogurt Lactobacillus delbrückii subsp. bulgaricus
Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus
 —   — 


Milk

Milk

Preferably use whole milk in cooking. It contains about 3,5 % milk fat. Whole milk can be replaced with low-fat milk (see below), however, especially in making milk-based porridges, béchamel sauces, etc, whole milk gives much better tasting and creamier result than low-fat milk. It also stands up to heating better than low-fat milks because of its higher fat content.

Low-fat milk contains about 1,5 % milk fat. It can be used in all cooking and baking instead of whole milk when you want to lower the fat content of foods.

Nonfat or skim milk is not recommended to be used in cooking. It burns easily to the bottom when heated. It is best used in hot or cold drinks like coffee, cappuccino, low-fat hot chocolate, milk shakes, etc.

 
Cream

Cream

Heavy or whipping cream has a milk fat content of about 36 to 40 %. It cannot be replaced with light or single cream (see below), at least in recipes where cream needs to be whipped or cooked for a long time.

Finnish light or single cream has a milk fat content of about 10 %. Light cream cannot be whipped. It is best used in drinks like coffee or creamy cocktails. In cooking, it is best to add light cream to foods or sauces towards the end of cooking to prevent curdling.

Note: real heavy cream never contains any additives, like preservatives, colours or emulsifying agents. It should be noted, that most light cream products available today contain hydrogenated vegetable fats, additives like emulsifying and thickening agents and various other artificial ingredients.


Buttermilk and cultured buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk

Buttermilk is the thin, watery liquid resulting when cream is churned into butter. During churning, cream is separated into solid butter and liquid buttermilk. This by-product is consumed as a beverage, although it is nowadays mostly replaced with cultured buttermilk, see below.

Cultured buttermilk or cultured milk, also called soured milk or fermented milk, is a creamy, pourable drink made by fermenting low-fat or skim milk with special buttermilk culture bacteria. These microorganisms convert part of the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. The acid curdles the milk protein, giving the buttermilk a thick consistency and a refreshingly sour, aromatic taste. In Finland, cultured buttermilk is consumed as a drink, usually during meals. It is also used in baking of various breads and cakes. The milk fat content of regular Finnish buttermilks usually ranges between 0 to 2,5 %.

Note: in modern cooking  —  and in the recipes of this site  —  the term "buttermilk" is used to mean the thick, cultured milk rather than the traditional, thin buttermilk.

See a recipe for homemade butter.

Kefir

Kefir

Traditional kefir is a thick, pourable drink made by fermenting milk with a special kefir culture, including eg lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, causing some carbon dioxide and even a low amount of alcohol to develop in the drink. Kefirs manufactured today have a much milder and fresh, slightly sour taste, resembling more of the cultured buttermilks than the original kefir.

Kefir originated in the Russian Caucasus region and is especially popular in Russia, the Baltic countries, Poland, Germany and the Nordic countries. In Finland, the consuming of kefir has declined during the recent decades, with local dairy companies dropping it from their product line and replacing it with various other cultured buttermilk products (see left). Nowadays authentic kefir may be found in ethnic Russian or Estonian stores. Kefir usually contains between 0,1 and 3,8 % milk fat.


Evaporated milk and condensed milk

Condensed milk

Evaporated milk  —  also called unsweetened condensed milk  —  is concentrated milk, made by removing about 60 % of the water in whole, low-fat or skim milk. After evaporating, the milk is homogenised and vitamins and preservatives are added in it. It is then canned and sterilized, making it keep almost indefinitely. Evaporated milk has a thick and sticky, custard-like consistency and a "cooked" taste, slightly sweeter than that of regular milk. Mixed with equal amount of water, it can be used instead of fresh milk in cooking. Evaporated milk made with whole milk contains about 7 to 8 % milk fat.

Condensed milk  —  also called sweetened condensed milk  —  is concentrated milk with added sugar. It contains 40 to 45 % sugar and about 8 % milk fat. Made similarly to evaporated milk (see above), condensed milk is not sterilized, because its high sugar content acts as a preservative. Condensed milk has a thick and sticky, custard-like consistency and it tastes very sweet.

Evaporated or condensed milk can be used in various sauces, fruit salad dressings, puddings, custards, ice creams, pies, candies and beverages. Cocoa or coffee flavoured condensed milk is also used to prepare hot beverages.

Condensed milk and evaporated milk are almost never used in Finnish domestic cooking. Many Finns have never even heard of the products. In former times, one of the closest places to purchase condensed milk for home consumption was the former Soviet Union (my mother used to bring a couple of cans back with her whenever she went there on a business trip). Nowadays, condensed milk is found sold in well-equipped Finnish grocery stores and some ethnic Russian, Estonian or Asian stores.

Condensed milk cans In picture on right: not much in the appearance of this Russian condensed milk can has changed over the years. On the left, there is a condensed milk can pictured in a 1950s Soviet cookbook, and on the right, a can of condensed milk found sold in the early 21st century (manufactured for a German food-wholesale company).

See a recipe for easy lemon pie.


Smetana

Smetana

Smetana  —  сметана  —  is a Russian-origin, thick, yellowish-white and slightly sour-tasting cream which contains about 40 % milk fat. It is made by curdling pasteurised cream. In Russian cooking, it is used virtually in everything from appetizers and main courses to desserts. Smetana is also widely used in Finnish cooking.

Smetana can be replaced with full-fat crème fraîche, although smetana is usually slightly sourer in taste. In Norway, a good substitute for smetana is the local soured cream seterrømme (lit. "mountain farm sour cream") with about 35 % milk fat.

Unlike some lower-fat types of crème fraîche, smetana is ideal to be used in dishes requiring a long cooking time in the oven. It will not curdle when cooked or added to hot dishes. In uncooked dishes, smetana can be replaced with thick crème fraîche or sour cream with a similar fat content.

Formerly in Finland, smetana had to be made at home, until the Finnish dairy company Valio Ltd started to manufacture it in the 1960s. Finnish smetana contains 34 to 42 % milk fat.

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche

Meaning "fresh cream", crème fraîche in France can be either thick (épaisse) or liquid (fleurette, liquide) cream. In many other countries the term is mostly used to mean the thicker version, a slightly sour-tasting cream that has the thickness of sour cream. It is made by curdling pasteurised cream.

Use crème fraîche that contains about 28 % milk fat (or more). If not available, it can be replaced with good-quality sour cream or soft cream cheese in some recipes, or made at home by simply fermenting heavy/whipping cream with buttermilk. Some types of crème fraîche (usually with a low fat content) may curdle if heated or cooked (like sour cream) and cannot be added to hot food until the end of cooking.

Light crème fraîche contains about 12 to 18 % milk fat. If not available, light crème fraîche can be replaced with sour cream. Light crème fraîche curdles if heated or cooked and cannot be added to hot food until the end of cooking.


Yogurt

Thin yogurt
Pourable yogurt
Thick yogurt
Thick yogurt

Yogurt is made by curdling (usually pasteurised and homogenised) milk with special yogurt culture bacteria, giving it a notably tangy, sour flavour. Yogurt is the sourest tasting of the milk products presented on this page.

Natural yogurt is unflavoured, unsweetened yogurt. There are many types of natural yogurt available, from thick to drinkable and low-fat to fatty. Some are enriched with added cream. The milk fat content of regular Finnish yogurts usually ranges between 0 and 3,9 %.

Preferably use thick (and fatty) Greek or Balkan type yogurts in cooking. They are perfect to be used in dishes like tzatziki and other dips and sauces, and the fattier types may be used in heated dishes without the fear of them curdling. Thinner yogurts may be eaten with fruit, muesli or other cereals and desserts, or drunk plain or blended with other ingredients. Always be sure to use naturally fermented, top-quality yogurts, containing no artificial additives, like preservatives or emulsifying agents.

A versatile product, yogurt may be used in cooking and in baking breads, cakes, muffins, etc. Yogurt may be further thickened by pouring it in a paper coffee filter or a sieve lined with cheesecloth, letting the excess whey run out.


Quark

Smooth quark
Soft, smooth quark
Firm quark
Firm, grainy quark

Also called baker's cheese, quark is a kind of unripened, soft cheese which resembles either a very thick sour cream or cream cheese or a fine-textured cottage cheese.

Quark can be used instead of butter in pie crusts and pastry doughs, as a filling in sweet or savoury cakes and pies and in various desserts like cheesecakes, mousses, puddings, pancake batters, etc. It is much used in cooking in Finland, Germany, Russia and other Eastern European countries. Plain or variously flavoured quark products, often sold in pots like yogurt, are popular snacks and desserts in many countries. Quark is the main ingredient in many Russian and Eastern Europen traditional dishes, like syrniki, vatrushki, paskha, etc.

Depending on its type, quark may have a smooth and soft or dry and grainy texture. There are two main types of unflavoured, commercially made quarks sold in Finland:
The first is the regular Finnish quark, called maitorahka (literally "milk quark"), which is made by curdling pasteurised low-fat/nonfat milk with lactic acid bacteria. It has a smooth, soft and slightly watery texture and contains between 0,2 and 0,3 % milk fat. It can be found at the dairy section of every grocery store. Imported German quark of similar consistency may be found sold in some well-equipped Finnish grocery stores.
The other is the Russian-type quark, which has a firm, dry consistency with a varying milk fat content, from about 8 to 30 %. This is the "genuine" type of quark which, although previously available sold in bulk in Finnish deli counters, can nowadays only be found sold packed in Russian or Estonian stores or some well-equipped Finnish grocery stores.
Quark can also be easily made at home. Homemade quark has a texture drier and grainier than the smooth Finnish quark, but softer than the "dry" Russian quark.

Note: the Finnish and Russian quarks differ from each other a great deal. The Russian quark is firmer, drier and grainier, while the Finnish quark is smoother and contains too much liquid to be used in most old, traditional Russian dishes without letting it drain first. The Finnish-type quark is mainly used in the recipes of this site. It can be replaced with Russian-type quark, but you may have to push it through a fine sieve and/or dilute it with milk or cream to make it softer and runnier.

In countries where quark is not generally available, either the dry or soft versions of it may be found sold in Eastern European or German grocery stores or delis, under names like twaróg (Polish), творог (tvorog) (Russian), biezpiens (Latvian), varškė (Lithuanian), kohupiim (Estonian), tvaroh (Czech/Slovak), túró (Hungarian), quark (German), etc. Note that there may be great differences in the flavour of various unflavoured quarks  —  good-quality quark has a fresh and pleasant, only slightly tangy flavour without being noticeably sour, acidic or "chalky" in taste.

When not available, quark can be replaced with homemade, smooth-textured ricotta-type cheese. The French fresh cheese, fromage frais, and the Icelandic skyr (see below left) may also be used as substitutes for low-fat, soft quark in many recipes.

See recipes for homemade quark and ricotta.


Skyr

Skyr

Similar to quark in consistency and flavour, skyr is an old, traditional Icelandic dairy speciality, made by curdling pasteurised skim milk with rennet and various strains of starter culture bacteria. A versatile product, modern commercially produced skyr is sold in pots and comes in many flavour variations in its native Iceland.

In picture above: vanilla-flavoured skyr.

Plain or flavoured skyr is very low in fat and high in protein. It is eaten much like yogurt, as a light snack or dessert, sometimes with added cream and sugar. Skyr can also be used to prepare various desserts and ice creams. In Iceland, there is also drinkable skyr available.

Flavoured skyr products have been available since the year 2010 also here in Finland, and can be found in some well-equipped grocery stores.

Cream cheese

Cream cheese

A popular brand of Finnish cream cheese is the Viola cheese manufactured by Valio Ltd. It is made by enriching quark with cream or butter and has a soft, spreadable consistency.

Regular Finnish cream cheese contains about 30 % milk fat. Although sometimes regular cream cheese may be replaced with low-fat cream cheeses, with their milk fat content ranging between 2 to 13 %, it is strongly recommended to use full-fat cheeses in the recipes of this site, like in cheese cakes, etc.


Cottage cheese

Smooth-textured cottage cheese
Smooth-textured cottage cheese
Rough-textured cottage cheese
Rough-textured cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is made by curdling low-fat/nonfat milk. The resulting curd is cut into small granules. The size of granules varies depending on the product.

Cottage cheese with smaller sized granules may be used in various sweet or savoury fillings, spreads and desserts, and those with large-sized granules may be used in salads, on sandwiches, etc. Finnish cottage cheeses contain about 0,3 to 2 % milk fat.


Viili
Finnish curd milk

Finnish curd milk

A traditional Finnish speciality of Swedish origin, curd milk is a cultured milk product with a thick and viscous, almost slimy, consistency and a mild, fresh flavour. It is made similarly to other fermented milk products, by curdling milk with special starter bacteria. The milk used is unhomogenised, which causes a layer of cream to rise on the surface of viili, upon which a mould called Geotrichum candidum grows a thin, velvety surface. If stirred, viili becomes very ropy and difficult to eat.

Viili is eaten fresh and chilled, usually for breakfast or as a snack. It may be eaten plain or sprinkled with various flavourings, from sugar, cinnamon, honey, powdered ginger or other spices to fresh fruit or berries, jams, nuts, muesli or the traditional talkkuna flour, a mixture of half-cooked, dried and powdered grains (barley, oats, peas and/or beans). Various Finnish viili products contain 0,1 to 3,5 % milk fat.

Another, considerably thicker and more viscous variety of viili is the longmilk. Similar products have also been manufactured in Sweden (långfil), Norway (tettemelk) and Iceland (skyr), with a more or less viscous consistency.

See a recipe for making your own viili.

Kermaviili
Finnish curd cream

Finnish curd cream

A Finnish and Swedish speciality, curd cream is a cultured milk product made by curdling cream with special starter bacteria. Unlike the Finnish viili (see left), kermaviili does not have a viscous consistency, but is lighter and creamier. It is also sourer in taste. When stirred, it becomes rather smooth, resembling low-fat sour cream or thick yogurt in consistency. Similar curd cream is called gräddfil in Sweden.

Kermaviili is perfect to be used as a base for cold sauces, dips and dressings. It can be replaced with sour cream or, more ideally, low-fat sour cream. Kermaviili curdles easily if heated on its own, but it may still be used as a filling in various pies, cakes, etc, that are baked in oven. Kermaviili may be further thickened by pouring it in a paper coffee filter, letting the excess whey run out.

Kermaviili contains 10 % milk fat. There is also low-fat kermaviili available, containing 2 to 3,5 % milk fat.

See a recipe for making your own kermaviili.


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