Here’s how to cut expenses by making your own no-fat Eastern Mediterranean-style yogurt, the kind commonly found in Greece, Turkey, and the Levant. Only in Europe and the Middle East, usually whole-fat milk is used. You want to make zero fat or low fat yogurt in the Mediterranean style. Today’s Sacramento Bee, May 19, 2010, contains an article by Anna Tong, “For yogurt fans, Greek is the word.” You can buy this type of creamy yogurt at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, or most other supermarkets in the Sacramento area under a variety of brand names.
Or to make a batch larger than you’ll find on the shelves, make your own by heating milk to various stages, then cooling to a certain temperature, and adding the healthy bacteria. You’ll find a recipe below as well as websites for recipes for making your own type of yogurt with this consistency.
It’s the thick, whipped-cream-like but nonfat consistency of Mediterranean-style yogurt that differs from the usual commercial glazed-looking yogurt you find in stores. Overseas, full-fat milk usually is used. In the USA, at least you have a choice of nonfat yogurt. Better yet, make it yourself without the fat.
The newspaper article lauds the health benefits of Greek yogurt (which is native not only to Greece but to the entire Eastern Mediterranean area–Turkey, the Levant, Serbia, Bulgaria, and the Black Sea and Caspian Sea area as well–Georgia, Armenia, and Iran.
Since a modified Mediterranean diet is recommended as being healthy, the Sacramento Bee article notes that Greek-style yogurt is supposed to be the healthiest. You can buy Greek-style yogurt in Sacramento, for example, at the Whole Foods market on Arden Way near Eastern Avenue in Sacramento and in most local supermarkets.
Interestingly, you have to ask why the containers of the various brands are often labeled Greek-style yogurt, and whether the Bulgarian-style yogurt also found at Whole Foods sells as well as the Greek-style label. Is it because one country is familiar to Americans more than the other as far as foods?
You have several Greek restaurants in Sacramento, but how many Bulgarian or Turkish restaurants? And how many people know Lebanese-style yogurt is similar to Greek style unless your family members come from that area of the world?
But if you look at the healthiest yogurts in Sacramento stores, that is, the yogurts that don’t add a lot of sugary flavorings or artificial sweeteners, that means the unsweetened yogurts, it’s less expensive to make your own yogurt in larger quantities than you can find in the grocery store coolers. What I didn’t see in the Sacramento Bee article was a recipe for making your own yogurt. What’s labeled as Greek-style yogurt is different from commercial yogurt you find without an ethnic label because it’s strained many times.
The more the yogurt is strained, the more it looks like whipped creme or what in Europe is called crème fraîche. Only in France, crème fraîche contains 28% butterfat. You want to make your own nonfat unsweetened yogurt that tastes like whipped creme.
Greek-style yogurt has around half the sugar and salt of the usual commercial yogurts you find on supermarket shelves. The sodium and sugar is supposed to be strained out. According to the Sacramento Bee article, one container off the shelf of Greek-style yogurt contains around 15 grams of protein. That’s about 50% more than regular yogurt has.
For those who like Greek-style yogurt, the secret is that not only is it healthy, but it’s eaten by peoples in various countries, not only in Greece. But labeling yogurt as Greek means high sales figures. For one Greek-style yogurt firm (Chobani) the sales figures grew 280 percent last year, according to the Sacramento Bee article.
What was missing from the article is the recipe for making your own yogurt at home. Fage originally introduced introduced Greek yogurt to Americans. Fage is a Greek company, which began exporting Greek yogurt to Americans in 1998. Back then it was called Total Yogurt.
Fage is responsible for the name, Greek Yogurt. It’s not specifically a Greek invention, though. It’s eaten all over the Mediterranean. The idea probably is Neolithic and started with goat herding in the Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years ago, then spread all around the Eastern Mediterranean when the Black Sea was a freshwater lake, about 7,600 years ago. Let’s get started making this type of yogurt that’s strained several times. For further information on Greek yogurt recipes, see the website, How to make nonfat yogurt recipes. Also check out the website, How to Make Greek Yogurt. Here’s one recipe for nonfat healthy-style yogurt.
You can start off with nonfat milk. Some people make yogurt out of soy or almond milk, using similar bacterial cultures to turn the liquid into a semi-solid. Let’s say you want to start with nonfat milk. In Europe and the Middle East, sometimes sheep’s milk or goat’s milk is used. Take your choice, goat’s, cow’s, or sheep’s milk, and nonfat milk, 2% fat cows milk, low fat goat’s milk, or any other type of milk.
How much yogurt do you want to make? If it’s two cups, then you’ll need four cups of milk. Let’s begin with nonfat milk. You’ll need double the amount of milk as you will get in the final yogurt product. A quart of milk will yield two cups of yogurt. With this recipe use animal milk.
That’s because soy milk yogurt requires another technique where the soy milk yogurt gets put in the oven if you don’t have a yogurt making machine. Also a tablespoon of soy protein powder, or agar powder, or diluted corn starch is used to thicken runny soy yogurt. If you want to make soy milk, check out the specific recipe on the website, “How to Make Soy Yogurt.”
Now, to make yogurt from cow’s or goat’s milk, first you start with a fresh carton of either live active cultures bought in a health food store for making yogurt, or use one fresh container of unsweetened regular nonfat yogurt you buy in the store. Don’t buy plain yogurt. That often contains sugar. Make sure it says unsweetened.
You’ll need a pot large enough to hold your nonfat milk and containers with lids for the yogurt that you’ll store in your refrigerator when all the steps are completed. To make Turkish or Greek-style yogurt, which is thicker because it’s strained, you’ll need a cheesecloth to strain the yogurt. Take out a bowl or colander, a wisk, a spoon, tongs, and a food thermometer.
What Type of Bacteria is in Yogurt?
When you make your own yogurt, the main step is to add a specific ‘healthy’ bacteria to the milk. Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, are the primary types of bacteria, though sometimes other ‘healthy’ bacteria are added also.
You don’t want to contaminate your yogurt with unhealthy bacteria. That’s why it’s best to boil water in your pot and spill it out to get rid of unhealthy bacteria in the pot that you don’t want. So before you put any milk in the pot, boil it, and boil any spoons or tongs that you’ll use. And boil the cheesecloth you’ll use for straining. Wash your hands, and boil anything else that will touch the yogurt.
When everything looks as sterile as you can get it at home, heat the milk to 120 degrees to 185 degrees F. Keep the milk for a half hour at that temperature range. The reason for the heating is to make a firmer and less grainy yogurt. You want a smooth yogurt. So 185 degrees will produce a good, smooth and firm enough yogurt. Now let the milk cool to 110F. You can cool the milk also by putting the pot in a pan of cold water.
Make sure your food thermometer isn’t full of bacteria when you dip it in the milk. Yogurt bacteria likes to grow when it’s liquid environment is 110F. Now you open your container of nonfat unsweetened yogurt and stir a tablespoon of it into your milk. Here’s where you have a choice. You can add the entire container of nonfat yogurt, assuming it’s a small container. Or if it’s a large container, a tablespoon also will work.
Don’t whisk in air. You want the bacteria to reproduce quickly. Here’s the trick–to maintain the 110 degree F temperature for up to four hours. Three to four hours is fine. To do this set your oven on 110 degrees F. Put the yogurt in there. If the temperature drops below 100 degrees F., the bacteria may stop reproducing. But if you heat the yogurt higher than 110 degrees F, you’ll kill the bacteria, and you won’t have yogurt.
If you heat the milk too much, don’t throw it away, let it cool down and start over from the beginning. The bacteria will live and reproduce at a very small range of warmth. So find a way to keep the milk with the bacteria in it at 110 degrees F for three or four hours. The best place to do that is your oven if you don’t have a machine that makes yogurt.
The bacteria likes the dark. When three hours have passed, check your yogurt. It will look thicker than the nonfat milk, but a lot thinner than what you see in stores. If it still looks to thin and runny, leave it in the oven and look at it a half hour later. It should be thick or slimy. Don’t leave it alone longer than 4 hours because by that time the unhealthy bacteria will start to ruin it.
It’s time to strain the yogurt when it thickens somewhat. Put your colander over a large bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth that has been boiled and more or less sterilized from whatever bacteria was on it before.
To strain the yogurt, you pour it a cup at a time into the cheesecloth. Liquid drips through into your bowl. What you want to see is slightly cloudy liquid that turns transparent. Sometimes the liquid isn’t opaque at all, but you know the yogurt is ready because it looks like slightly thickened milk.
If the liquid continues to be milky for longer than 30 seconds, your yogurt needs some more time. Put it back in the heat for another half hour, then repeat the test. Strain the yogurt several times.
Allow the yogurt to drain until the liquid drained off is a little more than 1/2 the volume of the original milk. If you started with a gallon, the yellowish liquid should be a little more than half a gallon. What’s important is that even after you strain the yogurt several times through a cheesecloth, if it still isn’t reproducing and thickening, you need to put it back in the oven at 110 degrees F and check it every half hour. The idea of making this type of yogurt is that it is strained multiple times.
Use common sense. If after four hours, nothing happens, don’t leave the yogurt at room temperature as it will spoil. Start from the beginning and repeat all the steps. The process can take around four hours if the yogurt is put in your oven at 110 degrees F. If you need to leave the yogurt in the cheesecloth to drain for more than a half hour, put it in the refrigerator.
When the yogurt has drained into a bowl and is beginning to thicken, refrigerate it, and use it within a week or less. Even though your yogurt is non-fat, how many times have you had to strain it before the consistency started to look and taste like crème fraîche?