As far back as I remember, homemade yogurt was always found in my mother’s kitchen. I recollect the strange ritual of bundling the yogurt mix in a towel and placing it in a warm place such as the stove or the the fireplace. This ritual, as I later found out, was the critical stage of the manufacture of yogurt.
Yogurt is known by different names in different parts of the world. For example, the word for it is derived from the Turkish yogurt. In Arabic-speaking countries, it is called Laban, in Iran, Mast. In India it is commonly known as Dahi. The Greeks refer to it as Yaourti and oxygala, the Bulgarians and Yugoslavs as Kiselo, Mleko. Armenians refer to it as Madzoon or Matsun; and Arerbaidzhanis and Georgians, Matsoni. In Sardinia it is known as gioddu, in Sicily, Mezzoradu. The French call it Yaourt, and the Dutch, Yoghei.
What is yogurt made from?
Yogurt is made from milk of various animals. In the United States, yogurt is made almost exclusively from cow’s milk. When making homemade yogurt only two ingredients are used: milk and a culture, or starter.
The milk of sheep, goats, and even soybean milk can also be used as a yogurt medium. A tip is to find the freshest milk you can find. If raw milk is used, it must be first pasteurized to kill any bacteria that might prevent the culture process from taking place.
The starter or culture introduced into the milk can be either from a small amount of homemade or commercial yogurt or a dried culture. If the former is used it should be live (not pasteurized), fresh, and unflavored.
The taste of the yogurt will depend on the choice of starter, as well as the type of milk selected. An older, more acidic culture will produce a sour-tasting yogurt, while a fresher, sweeter one will effect a milder outcome. One quart of milk will make one quart of yogurt. The flavor and consistency of the yogurt will differ with the type of milk used. Whole milk will produce a smooth custardlike, and pleasantly tart yogurt, while skim milk will yield a thinner result. For a richer, thicker, and sweeter yogurt, use half-and-half cream to milk. The addition of non-fat dry milk powders (1/3 cup per quart milk) to whole or skim milk will also provide a thicker and more nutritious yogurt.
Yogurt is simple to make
Take 1 quart of milk just to the boil to kill any bacteria it might contain. Stir frequently to prevent any skin from forming. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 115 degF which is the ideal temperature for the yogurt bacilli to multiply. Make sure that what you use to test the temperature is meticulously clean and free of bacteria.
Place 2 tablespoons fresh live yogurt, at room temperature, or 1 package dried culture in a small clean bowl. If using fresh yogurt, beat it with a fork until almost liquid. Add a few tablespoons of the lukewarm milk, one at a time, beating vigorously until well blended. Add the remainder of the lukewarm milk.
For a firmer bodied yogurt, some people add a little gelatin to the milk. This should be prepared separately and added to the mixture when it is at 112 degF.
The incubation of the mixture is the critical part of the process. Remember that bacteria are inactive below 90degF and are killed above 120degF. You must therefore find a suitable spot warm enough for the bacteria to thrive and thicken the milk. A temperature of 112degF is ideal.
Cover your mixture tightly and let the inoculated milk sit undisturbed for 4-6 hours in a warm place at 110-115degF (an oven with an automatic pilot is ideal). When the mixture has a creamy custard-like texture with a slightly tart flavor, it is ready. Refrigerate at once for at least 24 hours.
You may notice a watery substance (whey) on the top of the yogurt after it has been refrigerated. This is natural and should be poured off or saved for cooking (instead of water) since it is high in vitamin B12 and minerals.
Yogurt “madzoon” dishes. Simple and tasty recipes.
Jajik is common place in many Armenian homes.
- unflavored yogurt – 2 cups
- medium garlic glove – 1 item
- salt – 1/4 teaspoon
- finely chopped fresh mint or crushed dried mint – 2 tablespoon
- medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced – 2 items
Pour the yogurt into a mixing bowl. Mash the garlic with the salt to a smooth paste. Mix with a few tablespoons of the yogurt, then add the mixture to the remaining yogurt in the bowl. Add the mint. Blend well. Add cucumbers and toss lightly and thoroughly. Add salt and pepper. Add a little iced water to obtain a more fluid texture.
Armenian yogurt and noodle soup
Ingredients (serves 4)
- unflavored yogurt – 3 cups
- egg, beaten – 1 item
- chicken or beef broth or water – 3 cups
- ¼ -inch wide egg noodles, broken into small pieces – 1 cup
- Salt to taste – 1 item
- butter – 3 tablespoons
- medium onion, finely chopped; and 1 tablespoon crushed dried mint – 1 item
In a saucepan or pot beat together the yogurt and egg. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly in one direction. (The egg will prevent the yogurt from curdling.) Stir in the broth and the noodles. Season with salt. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the noodles are tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the mint. Remove from the heat and add the contents of the skillet to the soup. Stir and serve.
Armenian noodle and spinach bake
Here is an Armenian version of a dish that is encountered throughout much of the Middle East, Balkans, and Russia. Serve it either as a luncheon main course or as a side dish to poultry or meat.
Ingredients (serves 6)
- spinach – 1 pound
- olive oil or butter – 1/4 cup
- medium onion, finely chopped – 1 item
- finely chopped fresh dill – 2 tablespoons
- Salt and ground white pepper to taste – 1 item
- medium egg noodles – 8 OZ
- butter – 4 tablespoons
- all-purpose flour – 2 tablespoons
- milk – 1 cup
- unflavored yogurt, at room temperature – 1 cup
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese – 8 OZ
Wash the spinach thoroughly under cold running water, discarding the tough stems and bruised leaves. Do not dry. Chop the spinach and set aside. In a heavy skillet heat the oil or butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft but not browned, stirring frequently. Add the spinach and dill, cover, and simmer about 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Cook the noodles as directed on the package. Drain thoroughly. Return to the pan and toss gently but thoroughly with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Set aside.
In a small saucepan melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually stir the milk, then the yogurt. Cook gently until the sauce is smooth, thickened, and heated through. Stir in ¾ cup of the cheese. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
In a buttered casserole arrange alternate layers of noodles, spinach, and cream sauce, beginning and ending with noodles. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned. It is now ready to be served.
Iced yogurt drink (Tahn)
This traditional drink, called Tahn by the Armenians and Abdug by the Persians, is consumed extensively all over the Middle East and Caucasus. Here is how it is prepared:
Ingredients (serves 2)
- unflavored yogurt – 1 cup
- ice cold water – 3/4 cup
- Salt to taste – 1 item
- Fresh mint leaves – 1 item
Place the yogurt, water, and salt in the container of an electric blender. Cover and whirl until frothy. Alternately, combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk or rotary beater until thoroughly blended and smooth. Serve chilled over ice cubes, garnished with the mint leaves, if desired. Then serve.