Dairy and Non-Dairy Yogurt and Kefir

July 10, 2011 at 5:34 am 1 comment

In continuing our  series on fermentation and cultured foods, one  of the most interesting are the cultured drinks and yogurts found in other cuisines including those of Russia, Japan, central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and even South America. Most of these drinks are made of fermented unpasteurized milks of various animals. Cow’s milk is the most prevalent of fermented drinks although goat, sheep and even mare’s milk are used.

In Turkey and Southern Europe for example cold yogurt is mixed with water and a bit of salt. This is served with pastries, grilled meat dishes and pilafs. Some parts of the Black Sea area and the Mediterranean coast yogurts are made with goat’s milk or ewe’s milk. Some yogurt drinks in this region are often quite frothy, and sometimes have mild alcohol content. Other drinks are flavored with mint, cinnamon or a bit of cumin or turmeric.

In India, yogurt is used in cooking as a marinade, at meals as a cooling cucumber and yogurt sauce called ‘raita’ and as a drink called ‘lassi.’ This drink is much like a smoothie and is quite refreshing. Made of yogurt and blended with water and spices it is served very cold. Varieties are the salted lassi and the sweet lassi. Mangos are sometimes blended with yogurt (mango lassi) and other varieties use such spices as saffron is used (saffron lassi).

Kefir is a fermented milk drink thinner than yogurt that has origins in the region of Northern Russia. Nomadic shepherds discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage.

Kefir is made from grains that resemble cauliflower. Like the scoby used in making kombucha, kefir grains are a living symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts in a mold of proteins, sugars and lipids. They can easily be found prepackaged in the freeze dried form as well.

Yogurt and kefir has gained popularity in the United States with many commercial companies using lab created strains of bacteria. These commercial yogurts are typically pasteurized with large amounts of extra sugars and varieties of flavors added including chocolate. The author has found these products to be useful in a pinch; however making one’s own yogurt, kefir and other drinks is easy, satisfying to the palate and healthier. As a family, making yogurt or kefir can be really fun too! Yogurt used in  smoothies can be a meal in a glass.The kids can make there own recipe by adding there favorite fresh fruits, nuts and spices.  Versatile yet tasty, yogurt can be used in baking as well as sauces, and soups. A variety of milks can be used to make yogurt including coconut, soy and nut milks . If you want to find out more about making fermented yogurt and drinks in your very own kitchen, join the author at the Co-op July 5 @ 7 pm. Call 412 242 3598 #5 and reserve your seat today. Come and taste the goodness!

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Entry filed under: and kefir, Culinary Medicine, Fermented Foods, yogurt. Tags: , .

Fermentation and Kombucha

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