Yoghurt, yogurt, yoghourt, or yogourt... is great stuff. There are quite few stories about the origins of yogurt (as I was taught to spell it). One story is that the Bulgars (people who migrated to the Balkans in seventh century AD) created the first yogurt cultures with bacteria in their goat skin bags. Of course, no one really knows where the idea of yogurt came from but there are quite a few theories.
Yogurt is amazing! Who wouldn't want to claim it? First of all, yogurt is easier to digest than milk. Often people who cannot properly digest milk, either because of lactose intolerance or protein allergies, can tolerate yogurt. There are quite a few great articles and studies that talk about why yogurt is easy to digest but to simplify: yogurt contains helpful enzymes that improve lactose absorption. A great source of calcium, yogurt is also proven to keep your colon happy by promoting the growth of helpful bacteria and ridding your system of harmful nitrates. Here are some other great facts about yogurt: reduces the instances of yeast infections in women, lowers cholesterol, a single serving contains 20% of the daily recommended amount of protein, and it helps children to grow. BUT most yogurts on the market are not that great. In fact, only Stonyfield Farm's yogurt and a few others (like Dannon All Natural) are even good for you. Most yogurts are watered down with sugars, corn syrup, coloring agents, and artificial flavors.
Many people think that children won't eat yogurt that doesn't come in a tube or have crazy colors. Wrong! My stepson happily created and devoured entire fruit and yogurt parfaits at age five. Parfaits are a wonderful and quick breakfast or dessert! They are beautiful, kid-friendly, and very healthy. Simply create multiple layers of granola, fresh fruit, and plain yogurt in a glass, then serve. I like to serve them in fluted champagne glasses or even brandy snifters and use iced tea spoons to eat them with. You can also use frozen and fresh fruits with yogurt to create healthy and delicious smoothies:
When looking for live yogurt cultures... look for labels like this:
Getting sick of buying yogurt? Make your own. Here is a great recipe given to me by a terrific lady from Virginia, Cheryl Heatwole. (Thank you, Cheryl!! You are the BEST!)
What you need:
Mix and pour the water and evaporated milk into a kettle over low heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side. Scald until bubbles form around the edge of the kettle and the thermometer reads 180 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in dried milk. Let cool to about 100 degrees and add the starter. Use a whisk to stir the mixture until smooth and silky. Pour into clean glass jars that have lids (I boil the jars first but let them cool before use) Now for the options. I love options.
If you have an electric stove: Preheat the oven to 150 degrees, turn off heat and leave the oven light on. Set covered jars on a cookie sheet in the oven. Close oven door and do not disturb for 3 full hours even though you are just aching to mess with them. Resist!
Don't have an electric oven? Use a crockpot by preheating it on low for about 15-20 minutes (walls should be very warm). Put the covered jars in the crockpot, cover, and turn off the heat. Every 30-40 minutes, turn the heat back on low for about ten minutes.
After 3 hours, tilt the jars ever so slightly to see if they have firmed up. If firm, stick them in the fridge for four hours or so (I like to make yogurt before I go to bed so I can have fresh yogurt for breakfast but do whatever makes you happy.
Serve with any fresh, frozen, or canned fruits.
Quarks and Soft Set Cheese
A quark is a subatomic particle. Yes. But it is also a soft, smooth, spreadable European cheese which is not aged and very much like cream cheese. It is made with pasteurized milk and a starting culture. Quark can be used in place of sour cream on potatoes, cream cheese in cheesecake, as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna, in macaroni n' cheese, and to make delicious appetizers. I much prefer it to cream cheese and like to serve it with hot pepper jelly on whole wheat crackers. Guess what? It can be made in your kitchen with plain yogurt, a colander, and some clean cotton fabric or several coffee filters.
I have made quark using buttermilk and milk, but find that the yogurt is much easier. Here is the deal:
Wash and rinse two 10" X 10" pieces of organic cotton cloth. Place one piece in the bottom of a colander in your sink.
Take a small container of plain live yogurt or however much you desire (for your first batch you may want just a half cup) and scrape it onto the fabric in the colander.
Place the other piece of fabric over the yogurt and weigh down with a saucer & some sort of jar(I usually use a jar of preserves).
Let this rest and drain overnight. It will be ready to serve in the morning. Simply scrape it into a dish, cover, and refrigerate until you need it!
Some nice ideas for quarks:
For individuals with a great deal of time on their hands, the buttermilk recipe I used can be found here: http://rheology.tripod.com/QuarkMakingOfHenning.htm Truthfully, the yogurt quark tastes exactly like the buttermilk quark. No difference except that you don't have to wait around for three days!
All historical information comes from Wikipedia which means that it might be completely inaccurate. But then again, maybe not. Who knows? It sounds cool though, huh?
Note: There are many methods of incubating yogurt – even pricey little yogurt incubators which can be purchased with relative ease – but the ones I have listed are them only ones that I have tested. My advice? Just make sure that your kettles and utensils are clean and save yourself the expense of buying an official yogurt incubator.
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