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Yoghurt, spelled and pronounced in different ways, such as, yogurt, yoghurd, yogourt or yaourt, is a fermented milk product derived from the Lactobacillus yoghurt cultures. These yogurt culture bacteria ferment lactose to produce lactic acid, which textures the milk and gives it a characteristic tang, and it becomes yogurt.

History of Fermented Yoghurt

Yoghurt cultures as old as 2000 BCE have been recovered, which bear witness to the fact that this food has a long history. The earliest of all these cultures is believed to have been a wild bacteria resident of the goatskin bags. During the early 1800s, yogurt was employed as a mere cleaning agent for bathing sheep and goats, while women preferred washing their own hair and bodies using this milk product.

Records of yogurt usage has been found in the 500 BCE Indo-Iranian culture as well, where the combination of this product along with honey has been dubbed as the “divine food of Gods.” In the Persian tradition, it is believed that Abraham’s longevity and prolificness was the result of his yoghurt consumption. The European yogurt encounter dates back to the French clinical history while the Russians, Balkans, West Asians and Indians are believed to have tasted yoghurt in their diet only in the 1900s.

Also, yogurt has been the staple food in the Middle Eastern countries for more than 1000 years now, although, it was only towards the end of the 19th century that the food migrated into the culinary scene of United States. However, yoghurt shot to the limelight when Gayelord Hauser, a popular Health guru, elaborated on its health benefits in his self-authored 1950 book - "Look Younger, Live Longer." This skyrocketed the sales of yogurt to 500% production by 1968. However, unable to find any miracle health benefits of this food except its regular nutritional values, the FDA in 1962, banned the yogurt manufacturers from making specific health claims about it.

Culinary uses of Yogurt

There are various ways in which yogurt can be used in recipes. Since Yogurt is acidic in nature, it is used to marinate meat which tenderizes the meat. Yogurt can be used in baking soda to produce a leavening effect. It also acts like a thickening agent while preparing certain sauces. The Greek yogurt can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise, salad cream, and salad dressing.

Cuisines using Yogurt

Yogurt recipes are known as appetizers and desserts. Yogurt is widely used around the world in various foods as a major ingredient. In Bulgaria, Turkey and Albania, a popular summertime cold soup is prepared using yogurt named as- Tarator and Cacık. A popular Greek yogurt recipe includes Tzatziki, which is thick yogurt based sauce. Kibbi bi Laban and Khyar w Laban are renowned Lebanese dishes that uses Yogurt. In the Indian subcontinent, Yogurt is used to make desserts like Srikhand.

Preferable Cooking methods for Yogurt

One of the most important things to remember while preparing Yogurt based recipes is to avoid using aluminum vessels for preparing the dish. This is to avoid the reaction of the acids present in yogurt. Stirring or beating the yogurt fast breaks it down, not letting it to blend with the other ingredients. To avoid the yogurt from being separated in a hot liquid, it is advisable to keep the yogurt in room temperature. Using Yogurt instead of sour cream saves nearly 48 grams of fat per cup.

Nutritive Value of Yogurt

Yogurt contains high levels of calcium, protein, riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and B12 which are very good for health. A study report also suggested that consuming low fat yogurt can cut weigh to a good extend, because of the calcium contents in it. Studies have also proved that the active bacterial forms in Yogurt help to cure ailment like Diarrhea. It is also noticed that applying yogurt on the face can reduce acne, tans and pimples to a considerable amount. It is also a good way of strengthening your bones because of the high calcium contents in it.

Buying and Storing Yogurt

It is always advisable to buy plain yogurt which has more nutritive value. There are two types of Yogurts which are mostly available – Regular and Low fat. Low fat is known to be good for people who have cholesterol related issues. It is always better to avoid the yogurt that states ‘heat treated after culturing’ on the pack label. Always store the Yogurt in the refrigerator to take the advantage of consume the live and active bacterial cultural. It’s advisable to use the pack within the sell by date. Frozen yogurts are not advised by most of the medical practitioners, since does not hold any health benefits like the normal yogurts.

Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of Fermented Yoghurt

Till date, cow’s milk remains the most popular choice for making this dairy product, although, milk from camels, goats, yaks, water buffaloes and sheep is also sometimes employed in the creation of fermented yoghurt. Conceptually, milk from any mammal is good enough to ferment milk into yogurt. These days however, soya milk being a popular choice amongst the vegans and amongst those allergic to dairy, has become a preferred choice for making yogurt, commercialized as Soya yoghurt (or soy yogurt).

Here are some popular ways of making yoghurt –

A.) Homemade Method:

Homemade yoghurt is generally made by heating milk to 180 °F and then, cooling it to around 110 °F. Live active yoghurt cultures i.e. a little quantity of yoghurt is mixed with the scalded milk which is left for incubating in a container. Longer the incubation, the tarter and thicker the fermented yogurt.

B.) Appliance and Techniques Method

Culinary author, Phyllis Hobson, suggests the use of the following appliances and/or techniques for making yogourt –

Thermos bottle – Plain yogurt can be added to the milk heated in a towel-wrapped thermos bottle (to 100 degrees F, lidded and incubated overnight.

Oven – Yoghurt-mixed milk in a casserole dish can be placed overnight in a warm-but-turned-off oven.

Heating pad – Yoghurt can be fermented within 6 hours when placed inside any towel-wrapped and lidded cardboard box, on top of a medium heated electric heating pad placed on the box floor.

Sun – The yoghurt mixed milk can be poured in a glass lidded casserole or bowl and allowed sit for around 5 hours under the sun, on a moderately sunny day.

Wood-stove – The warm yogourt – milk mixture can be incubated overnight in a bowl covered with towel, placed behind a wood range stove.

Crockpot – To make fermented yoghurt using crockpot, the yogurt mixture in the containers can be covered and placed inside a pre-heated and turned-off crockpot. The crockpot can then be heated for 10 to 15 minutes at regular intervals of 45 minutes or so, until the milk curdles to form yogourt.

Popular Yoghurt Recipes

Flavored Yoghurt Recipe -

The basic recipe of flavored yogurt calls for scalding the milk and then, stirring it with maple syrup, molasses, malt, honey, chocolate syrup, sugar and a flavored extract which could range from vanilla, almond and peppermint to strawberry, lemon, pineapple, mango and instant coffee, to name but only a few.

Another version of spicy yogurt can be made with ground condiments and spices such as mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or any preferred combination. These spices can be mixed in the boiling milk and cooled down a bit to be incubated further.

Flavored yoghurts can also be made with fruit preserves, dried, fresh or canned fruits, jams and even flavored peanut butters, in the same process as mentioned above.

Yoghurt Cheese Recipe -

Yogurt cheese can be plain or flavored yogurt and resembles either the firm cottage cheese or a cream cheese spread. For making this dish, the yoghurt is strained and refrigerated overnight to drain every bit of moisture and mixed with sugar and/or flavor extract.

Fermented Yoghurt in World Cuisine

· Dadih/Dadiah is the traditional buffalo milk yoghurt in West Sumatran cuisine, fermented inside bamboo tubes.

· In Nepal, the food is called Dahi and is savored both as a dessert and an appetizer, especially during family occasions and religious ceremonies. The most famous Dahi is from Bhaktapur in Nepal, called Juju Dhau.

· In Tibet, yogourt is made from yak milk.

· The distinctly sour tasting Mâst Chekide combining a herb puree, is the popular variety of Kefir yogurt in North Iranian cuisine, where it is mainly eaten as a side dish.

· In the Caucasian and Russian cuisines, Georgian yogurt i.e. the Matsoni is most famous. The same yogourt is also popular in the Japanese cuisine by the name of Caspian Sea Yogurt.

· In some Islamic regions of European countries, yoghurt based cold soups like Cacik and Tarator are very popular.

· A yoghurt seasoned with cilantro, cayenne, cumin, mint and other spices and herbs and including vegetables like onions, boiled potatoes, tomatoes, onions and/or cucumber, is famously called Raita in India.

Health and Nutrition Facts of Fermented Yoghurt

Yoghurt is nutritionally enriched with calcium, protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and riboflavin and is known to be nutritious than milk. Low-fat yoghurt even promotes weight loss.

Miscellaneous Facts about Fermented Yoghurt

Etymology -

The term “yoghurt” has stemmed for the Turkish word “yogurur” translating into “long life.” The Turkish term is also traced to the obsolete “yoğmak” verb form, which translates into “to thicken”/ “to curdle” / “to coagulate.”

Spelling -

The food is spelled yoghurt is Australia, New Zealand. In UK though, both yogurt and yoghurt are used for naming the food, with the former spelling being more common on the product labels. In the US however, yogurt is the common spelling with yoghurt being rarely used. On the other hand, in Canada, the English speakers prefer sticking to the “yogurt” spelling while some brands often spell the food as “yogourt.”

Ingredient -

Although yoghurt can be eaten as a standalone food or modified into different dishes, it can also be used as an ingredient in several other dishes and drinks such as curries, salads, smoothies and yoghurt ice creams to name a few. It also finds a humble use as a meat tenderizer and taste enhancer in marinades.

Fermented Yoghurt: Trivia

· The first flavored yoghurt was made with strawberry preserve and was introduced in 1947 by the Dannon Company.

· A plain yohgurt cheese is often said to be the superior version of frozen yogurt.

· Yoghurt became the central theme of a 2010 short Hollywood comedy film by the same name where a girl is hit by yogurt from a moving vehicle and is spotted by a guy who makes an interesting proposal to her.

· The famous Egyptian Queen Cleopatra bathed in yogurt to enhance her beauty.

Further Reading