Make your own fermented viili | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Make your own fermented viili | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Last weekend, I entered the world of fermented food. Amanda Feifer O’Brien, the fermentation evangelist I interviewed back in January, got me started at her Basics of Fermentation class.

After giving the class some basics about the importance of bacteria in our bodies and how we’re messing up our body’s ecosystems by eradicating bacteria through the overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial cleaning products, Amanda got down to business.

I’ve already made my first two batches of viili, and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about this Finnish dairy product, which is similar to yogurt. I can’t believe how easy it is to make. It takes one minute each morning to take a bit of the prepared viilli and use it as a culture for the next day’s batch.


  • 1 cup of pasteurized milk. (I tried both 1% and whole milk. The whole milk created a much more pleasant product. The photo at the top is my viili made with whole milk.)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of prepared viili


  • Take the prepared viili and spread it all around the bottom and half way up the sides of the bowl you’ll be making it in.
  • Fill the bowl with milk up to the line on the side where the spread viili is. Depending on the size of your bowl, it could be one cup of milk. It also could be more or less.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean towel and leave it out at room temperature (65 – 75 degrees) for about 24 hours.
  • It will be set like jelly when it’s done.
  • Before you eat it, pull out a tablespoon or so to reculture the next bowl. You could, of course, reculture several bowls, depending on how many you’ll need for the next day.
  • If you can’t eat your viili the next day, it will keep in the refrigerator up to 10 days, and you can use it to reculture other bowls during that time.

I have to admit, I was very skeptical about the safety of a milk product that had set out on my kitchen counter for an entire day. I asked Amanda to explain why it is that viili doesn’t go bad at room temperature. This is what she told me.

The culture preserves the milk. The milk feeds the bacteria which thrive and, through their digestion, create a more acidic environment that preserves the milk while creating an inhospitable environment for less friendly bacteria. I know that this goes against traditional American notions, but I swear, it works and works well.

Sandor Katz mentioned something interesting in the “Art of Fermentation.” People have milked animals for a long time. Refrigeration hasn’t existed for a long time. So basically fermented milk is the rule, historically speaking, and fresh milk consumption is a blip on the radar screen.
Also, viili is the exact same process as making yogurt, only you don’t need a higher temperature to do it. The higher temperature in yogurt-making creates the perfect environment for those particular bacteria to thrive and multiply and do the work of preservation. The viili bacteria don’t need a high temperature to thrive, which is why it’s easier to make.

Her explanation, combined with the fact that I ate the viili I made at home and didn’t get sick, is enough to convince me that this is safe.

If you’re interested in making your own viili, fresh cultures can be ordered from GEM Cultures for $14.

How to select the best organic foods by she


Woman with Green Shopping Bags


Plain and simple — vegetables are best when they are in season and locally and organically grown. Pesticides may make vegetables look perfect and keep bugs away, but it’s safer to eat produce with a few tiny holes in them than their chemically treated counterparts. Be wary of non-organic corn and potatoes, as they may have been genetically modified.


Fruit can be another challenge when choosing organic produce. Organic items tend to cost more, so if you need to cut corners, buy regular varieties of fruit that you peel — such as bananas, oranges and grapefruit. Strawberries are some of the fruits most heavily treated with chemicals, so definitely buy organic.


Grains such as wheat, rye, oats and barley are the seeds of grasses. If these grasses are grown in rich organic soil, the health benefits are passed along to their seeds. Quinoa, which has a naturally high resistance to pests, is a great substitute for rice.


Sprouting seeds and legumes actually dramatically ups their vitamin content. If grown in high-quality soil free of chemicals and pesticides, seeds and legumes will already be rich in minerals. Whole lentils and chickpeas are great ones to sprout. Other great organic choices are cannellini and kidney beans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.


Nuts are excellent sources of monounsaturated “good” fats. These “good” fats lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Organic almonds are a great source of calcium, fiber and iron.


Organic farmers feel strongly about the humane treatment of the animals that they raise. Organic grass-fed beef contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a great health benefit. By law, organic farmers cannot feed cows animal offal, which is how mad cow disease is spread, and organic farm animals cannot be irradiated or fed genetically modified organisms. For meat and farm-raised animals, the label “certified organic” means that in addition to humane treatment, they have never been given antibiotics or hormones and have not been treated with pesticides.


Fresh organic herbs are delightfully fragrant and add amazing flavor to all kinds of foods. Though essential oils in herbs fend off insects naturally, the non-organic kind may still be sprayed with fungicides to repel mold and mildew. If you’re looking to start your own garden, one of the best places to begin is with an herb garden!


Once again, organic farmers have standards of how they raise their farm animals from which they harvest milk and eggs. When you buy organic, you can rest assured that the animals have been humanely treated. In addition to the organic label on milk, look for grass-fed labels as well. Hens that produce organic eggs are only fed organic feed in addition to a healthy diet and a humane, free-range lifestyle.