Monday, August 21, 2017

Skyr Is Not Alone

Raspberries, Yogurt, Nature, Frisch  The other day, I wrote about Skyr, an Icelandic dairy product that is actually a soft cheese but seems me a thick yogurt because you use a spoon to eat it.  I really enjoyed it when I was over there.

Each country in Scandinavia has its own dairy product and they are different.  I hope to try them all the next time I go to Europe because I love trying new food.

First is Viili from Finland.  It is considered an heirloom yogurt but instead of being solid, it is described as ropy and slimy.  As with other heirloom yogurts, a small portion is used to start the next batch.  There are actually two types of Viili, the short version which is more like a traditional yogurt while the longer version can produce rope like tendrils up to a foot in length.  I've heard it has a slightly sour taste but is sweeter than regular yogurt.

Next is Piima which is actually a drink rather than a solid.  It is a thin fermented drink with a faint cheese like flavor.  It is often used as a substitute for buttermilk.  It can be fermented at room temperature without a starter using bacteria in the air.  You can also put a bit of live yogurt in a glass of milk, stir, and leave it for a bit.  The culture can also be added to cream to create a Piima cream.

Then there is Filmjolk, a cultured diary product half way between Piima and Viili with a bright tangy flavor.  I am wondering if I had this on my breakfast cereal in Finland for breakfast. There was always a bowl of something tangy and white at the breakfast buffet. It gets its taste from two different bacteria.  In addition, it works on any type of milk.

All of the above yogurts can be made at room temperature.  You do not have to heat the milk to a certain temperature for the culture to work which makes it faster and easier.  It has been suggested one keep a bit back just in case it doesn't work.

A few of these also work with soy milk in addition to dairy milk.  If you are interested in buying starters for any of these yogurts check here or here.  I have not used either source but the second was recommended on the web page written by someone into fermentation.  In addition, Amazon carries a one pack with four heirloom starters of which three are listed here. 

Let me know what you think. Have a great Monday.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pictures and Video of Tundra Fest

I recorded 20  seconds of the first dance of Tundra Fest last night.  I am not sure what it is about because no one has explained it to me but I enjoy dancing it.  As you can see, the men are in the front kneeling, the women standing behind them and in the very back, seated on a bench are the drummers.

 This photo was taken while everyone waited for the start of the festival.  The doors opened at 6:30 so everyone could get there. Dancing was supposed to begin at 7 but it took a bit longer.

Traditionally the hosting village goes first the first night, in the middle the second night and last the third night.

The really tall poster just next to the room divider is a tribute to an elder who passed away this past spring.  He was in his late 90's or early 100's.  No one is sure.  We do know, things changed tremendously since he was born.
People are still setting up and waiting for dancing to begin.  If you look carefully at the right side of the picture, you will see blue mats laid out across the floor with masculine dance fans.

That is where the men kneel.  Behind the mats is a speaker for the microphone so everyone can hear all announcements.  In the back right corner is a snack shop with candy, soda, some food, and jello.  Jello with cool whip is a village favorite.

When Tundra Fest is not being held here, it doubles as a church, bingo hall, and everything else as needed.
 In this picture you can see the men gathering to drum for the first group.  Many of these men also come to the school to drum for the native dance class so students know the dances.

The village feels it is extremely important to keep the culture alive by teaching cultural ways to students.  The high school has an actual dance class for students.

The drum is a round wooden frame with a man-made material stretched over it.  This material has replaced the animal skins they used in the past.

This is a still shot of the first dance.  The women are wearing kuspuks which is the standard native top.  Some have skirts so they are worn more like dresses over long pants while those without a skirt function as a shirt.  Both men and women wear the kuspuk.  The spelling of the word varies according to the group.

You can also tell what region a person is from based on how the kuspuk is put together and decorated.  Women may or may not wear a headdress.  Sometimes the headdress is a family heirloom worn by generation after generation.

The last photo is taken of the crowd between the first and second dance groups.  It was pretty well attended but there are usually more people the second night.

This building started much smaller but a few years ago, they built an extension so it could be used instead of the the building next to it.  The original building developed black mold all through it so they chose to discontinue using it.

The festival will continue for two more days with games for kids and adults.  Yesterday, there was a cake walk for the village. 
I hope you enjoy this peak into a fall celebration held in Alaska.  Let me know what you think.  Have a great weekend. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tundra Fest

Beaded, Moccasins, Regalia, Native  Tonight marks the beginning of a wonderful dance festival, held here in the village every fall.  Several villages come for three days of games and dance.

Native dance in Alaska varies some from village to village but it uses only a drum and the human voice.  Some songs have been around a while while others are quite new.

Unfortunately, music and dance was banned because it was not seen as properly religious.  In many communities, the songs and dances went underground while in others they disappeared.

Most dancers in this area use hand fans as part of the cultural dance.  I will have pictures tomorrow of the fans.  The women use fans made of woven grass and fur while the men have ones made of wood and feathers.  If a person does not have fans, they usually wear gloves.  In most of the communities I've lived in, the men kneel in the front while the women stand in one or more rows behind them.

On the island of Diomede, women sit in a row of chairs as they dance, rather than standing but the position of the musicians varies even more.  In my area, the musicians sit facing the dancers with their backs to the audience.  In other places such as Diomede, musicians are behind the dancers.

Most songs have a story such as going out to pick berries, make agutaq (local ice cream) and eat it.  Other songs might celebrate basketball, karate, hunting, fishing, chewing bubble gum or taking care of a baby.  I  know a guy who when he dances the taking care of the baby song, he is so energetic he would give the baby whiplash in real life.

One song, I thought was about taking care of a baby but it turned out to be about cutting and carrying meat.  I just follow others when dancing and I do not worry about the meaning.  Most songs have a certain pattern they follow, much like any song with the chorus and various verses except the verses are often repeated within the overall pattern.

I hope to record a little bit of video tonight of the dancing and share it with everyone tomorrow.  I hope you have a good evening and see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Raspberries, Yogurt, Nature, Frisch  When I was in Iceland, I discovered something called Skyr.  I'm not sure if its actually a soft cheese or a thick yogurt.  What I do know is that it is thick and really good.

According to what I've read it is a cheese but it looks like yogurt.  I think one reason some say its similar to yogurt is that you can use a bit of the previous batch to make a new batch before being strained just like yogurt cheese.

According to an article in the Iceland Magazine, Skyr has been around since the 9th century.  In the past its been eaten as breakfast after being sweetened with cream and brown sugar but now its used in items such as Creme Brulee.

I've seen an assortment of recipes from using rennet to make it solid to using a bit of the previous batch to setting a bowl of milk out in the air and letting wild bacteria settle in to start it.  The original Skyr does not taste like the modern version.  It should be tangy not super sweet.

If you are interested in making it and you already have Skyr with live probiotics, you need to heat a liter of skim milk in a non stick pan to about 200 degrees F and keep it there for about 10 minutes.  The 10 minutes is extremely important and be sure to stir it so the liquid does not burn or scorch.  Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the pan from heat and cool to 102 degrees F.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon of Skyr into the liquid.

Cover with a towel for 12 to 15 hours until until it thickens like Greek Yogurt and the whey separates  from the curds.  At this point, you can stir the two together to make it a thinner texture or drain it for something thicker.

If you do not have any Skyr, you could heat the milk just like above, let it cool completely before placing outside until the wild bacteria inoculated it and it thickened.  Once you've gotten your first batch, you have enough to start additional batches.  The Skyr from wild bacteria has a tarter flavor.

I plan to try making some later this week from scratch.  I'll let you know how it works out.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back Home

Holiday House, Summer House, Home  I arrived home Sunday evening after traveling for 20 hours on planes and more hours waiting between flights.  I was so tired both Sunday night and last night I was in bed way early due to the 11 hour time difference.

It was interesting because in Finland, I was selected for a more in-depth screening.  I was short on time but I was assured the plane would not leave without me.

I tried a new mobile passport app and it was great.  A lady I know, recommended it for traveling because it cut down on the time through customs.  I downloaded it, filled it out, and as soon as I landed in Washington D.C., I used the internet to send the information out and shortly there after, I had a QR code which allowed me to cut through and saved quite a bit of time.

I ended up having to check in a couple times due to the time between flights or a last flight in the leg was past the 24 hour period.  I discovered smoking rooms inside airports, one with a door, one without.  My body still hasn't figured out what time zone its in.

Yesterday, I had to go to work and spent the whole day catching up and my internet should be up at home in the next few days so until then, I have to write these at work in between things.  By the time I got home last night, I was so tired, I couldn't do anything.  I barely made it to 8:45 before crashing.  I slept all the way to 6:45 without waking.

Its good to finally be home again so I can sleep in my own bed, have my own schedule, and do what I want.  I enjoyed my visits to other places this summer but after a while, it gets a bit tiring.  I hit a point where my body didn't know what time zone it was in and my sleep schedule got so messed up, I couldn't sleep when I should.

Tomorrow, I want to share a food I had in Iceland that I fell in love with.  It can be made at home and there is some discussion on what it is.

I hope you all had a great day, see you tomorrow.