Yogurt is made through the bacterial fermentation of milk, cow’s milk is most commonly used. The yogurt cultures are the actual bacteria used to produce the food, and through the lactose fermentation, which produces lactic acid helps to give it its texture and tangy flavor. In some areas of the world, other mammalic milk is used, such as that which comes from camels, sheep, goats, among other animals. Learn all about yogurt nutrition and how to make yogurt to benefit from this simple yet vital food.
How to Make Yogurt
Typically, yogurt recipes in the Western World require milk to be heated to approximately 80 degrees Celsius, or 176 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by cooling the milk to 45 °C, or 112°F. This heating process kills certain unwanted bacteria. Once the milk is cooled (checked by a food thermometer), bacterial culture is added to it. The bacterial culture can be ready made yogurt. Fermentation occurs when it is maintained for a period of 4 – 7 hours, sometimes more, depending on the results aimed to achieve. With time and experience anyone can learn how to make yogurt easily and without stress.
The History of Yogurt
Although yogurt was initially introduced to Americans by around 1910, it was enjoyed by the majority of the populations in Eastern and Central Asia, Europe, India, the Balkans, among others, for centuries, popularized by the belief that it extended human life span. Yogurt’s popularity exploded by the mid 1900s when it was described as a health food.
Yogurt is the ideal snack food, when prepared properly. It is rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, as well as in protein, and is far healthier than milk. Additionally, many who are lactose-intolerant may actually tolerate yogurt because of the fermentation of lactose to lactic acid, and also because of the lactose conversion to sugars glucose.
Vitamin B6 and B12
Yogurt may be produced with non-fat milk, 2% or whole milk, depending on the individual’s taste and preference. Whatever the preference, yogurt has proven to be a healthy food choice for people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. For children, it provides them with a balanced source of yogurt protein, fats and carbohydrates, as well as minerals that are essential to growth and development. For the elderly who commonly demonstrate declined levels of bifidus bacteria, it can protect them from the development of cancer-causing bacteria which can stem from the growth of bacteria that produces harmful toxins. In any case, yogurt, with live bacterial cultures, or probiotic yogurt, helps the digestive system, encouraging a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
In its true form, yogurt is unsweetened, and thus has a sour taste. To achieve the best that yogurt has to offer, it is best to enjoy it as such. It’s also better when one learns how to make yogurt at home, avoiding additives and preservatives. Unfortunately, its sour taste doesn’t appeal to the vast majority of the Western World, and primarily those in North America, and as such, has been sweetened by food manufacturers, either naturally, or artificially. Sweetened yogurt is achieved either by adding sweetened fruit or fruit jam, sometimes blended into the fruit yogurt or with the fruit lining the bottom of the container, or with ample amounts of sugar added.
Low-calorie yogurt is often sweetened with artificial sweeteners, which can leave on to wonder whether they are truly acquiring the nutritional benefits of the food, since it is being compromised to some degree. Also, commercial yogurt brands often contain other ingredients, like starch, gelatin, or pectin to achieve the desired thickness and texture associated with yogurt, but far less costly to the manufacturer. Often, yogurt manufacturers will use fruit jam, rather than fruit, to ensure a longer shelf life.
Strained Yogurt – Greek Yogurt
Traditionally, with the help of muslin, yogurt can be strained to achieve a thicker and creamier consistency which is now synonymous with Greek yogurt. Today, many use coffee filters to strain yogurt in their own refrigerators. In doing so, much of the whey is removed, and the result, in addition to being creamy yogurt, also has a tangier taste.
Preparing yogurt at home is easy and economical. An initial investment toward a yogurt maker may be required, although not absolutely necessary–it just simplifies the entire process.
Whatever the case, a starter culture will be required to be added into the milk, which is then incubated at a certain temperature until firm. It firms as lactic acid is produced. Non-fat dry milk can be added to the mixture to produce the thicker texture; scalded milk to near boiling is another method. In the latter, the whey proteins becomes denatured, leaving a thicker, more perfect homemade yogurt. Always use pasteurized milk when making yogurt to ensure a safer product, without fear of food poisoning to benefit from yogurt nutrition. Kefir grains and other starter kits are available for producing the best yogurt possible, especially for beginners.
For those who prefer yogurt with alternative milk, like almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk, perhaps because of lactose intolerance issues, these alternatives exist in commercially produced yogurts found in grocery stores. However, such consumers can also enjoy making their own non-dairy yogurt themselves, using a yogurt maker. Having said that, it’s important to understand that plants don’t produce lactose, so genuine yogurt with bacterial cultures used in traditional yogurt is impossible to achieve. In these cases, bacterial strains can be added to plant-based milks to produce lactic acid. Click here for non-dairy yogurt recipes.
In addition to yogurt being a healthy snack, either flavored or plain, it can also be enjoyed in a variety of ways, as in beverages, an ingredient in foods, a side dish, as a dessert, and even frozen as a healthy alternative to ice cream.