Sour and cultured dairy products have long been a tradition in the Nordic countries. Having cows was a necessity for many in rural Norway with them providing milk, meat and manure. It was usually women who worked with the cows and making dairy products to sell. Milk was collected by the commercial dairies through the week, but in the early days not on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday so it was common to use milk recipes on Mondays.
Surmelk has always been a great way to prolong the life of milk by fermenting it with microorganisms. Not only did it keep milk gong for longer when refrigeration was unheard of, but it also gave great health benefits. Those health benefits are widely applauded these days and make the Nordic diet such a healthy and sought after one.
Kulturmelk (as sour milk is now referred to) and kefir are two fermented milk products that are available in almost every supermarket in Norway and are used in so many dishes from svele (a type of pancake) to this light and airy mousse that I am about to share with you.
What I love the most about this dessert is that it contains just a handful of ingredients. And why would you need more?! 5 great quality ingredients that allow you to taste each and make the most of fresh, quality produce that also gives a little nod to health.
Surmelkfromasj is a very old traditional Norwegian recipe that you will find in various forms in most Nordic cookery books. It's often made with pureed strawberries and includes eggs, but this recipe takes us back to something older, simpler and less well known.
NOTE: If you have trouble finding a fermented milk product like kefir. sour milk, or cultured milk, feel free to use buttermilk (cultured buttermilk is basically the same as surmelk).
Surmelkfromasj (Serves 4-5 people)
350ml / 12 fl oz cultured milk or kefir
100g / 3.5 oz sugar
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
6 sheets gelatine (11.5cm x 7cm) or 3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
150ml / 5 fl oz double or heavy cream
To decorate (optional):
Thinly sliced lemon
Sweetened whipped cream
A few spoonfuls of lemon curd
A few edible flowers
Using a hand whisk or balloon whisk mix together the kefir or cultured milk and sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved stir in the grated lemon rind.
Put the sheets of gelatine to soak in a cup of cold water. Leave for 5 minutes. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can. If you are using powdered gelatine you can skip this process.
In a small pan heat the lemon juice until just boiling and add the gelatine. Allow it to melt for a minute or two before stirring well to dissolve. Stir this into the cultured milk whisking all the time. Set the bowl aside for about 2 minutes until is begins to set. In a bowl whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and fold this into the slightly set culturemilk mixture. Pour the mousse into a mould of your choice (about 1 litre or 2 pint size) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
To turn the mousse out, place the mould into a bowl or sink of hot water for a few seconds just to release the mousse from around the edges (sometimes it helps to release the vacuum around the edges of the mouse using your fingertips). Hold a serving plate on top and turn it the right way up. The mousse should gently tip out and when you lift off the mould you will be left with a perfectly set surmelkfromasj.
Decorate with thin slices of lemon, a little sweetened whipped cream or some edible flowers. Perfect with a drizzle of lemon curd on each slice.
Vær så god!
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