Every time we go to the grocery store, we find people buying dozens of prepackaged containers of “zero-fat” Greek yogurt costing an arm, a leg and two ears. Everyone now seems to have one in their lunch bag.
Fatfree Greek yogurt is akin to being “a little pregnant”. It’s just not possible. If it’s fatfree, it could be yogurt, but not “Greek yogurt”. The latter – in intent and the process designed to actualise it – is gloriously unctuous. It is also much higher in protein per serving. Most store-bought fat-free brands (like the ones rhyming with “cannon” and “goslate”) are full of starchy thickeners and sugar. Some of them thicken it with powdered milk, which has oxidised cholesterol. Elevated levels of oxidised cholesterol (oxysterols) have been linked to cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis.
Here’s how we make old-fashioned Greek yogurt. The process to make Labneh (yogurt cheese) is identical, it just takes a bit longer.
We make ours with raw goat milk, ‘cos that’s what we buy. Traditionally it’s made with sheep’s or cow’s milk. Pasteurised milk is fine too, but please avoid ultrapasteurised.
There are diehard proponents of raw dairy and those who believe that boiling milk is sheer carnage. It destroys, the story goes, all the wondrous bacteria, enzymes and compounds that make milk beneficial and aid its digestion. We buy our milk raw ‘cos that’s the only grass-fed local goat’s milk we get. We are not averse to the idea of opening the fridge and drinking a glass of raw milk that has been preserved at 38F a minute after it left the goat’s udder all the way until it entered our refrigerator. The risks of campylobacter and e-coli still exist, but they are small.
Keeping raw milk at slightly above room temperature for 12 hours to become yogurt is a whole different kettle of fish.
Traditionally, yogurt is made by heating milk past the point of pasteurization. The reason for this is twofold: so that the proteins are partially denatured, making it easier for the yogurt-making bacteria to colonize, and so that the possibility of any lingering pathogenic bacteria are destroyed.
The reason for this step is important — in making yogurt, the next step is to incubate the bacteria in the milk for a relatively long period of time — typically 12 hours.
… by using unpasteurized milk to make yogurt, you are taking a product that very likely does contain pathogenic bacteria, which, in its raw state, may not have enough of the bad bacteria to cause illness — but then placing that same milk in a bacterial incubation chamber.
And because the proteins have not gone through the critical heating process to partially break down the milk proteins, the yogurt-producing bacteria has a more difficult time in colonizing, leaving plenty more fuel for the pathogenic bacteria.
Can you see how the risks in consuming raw milk yogurt multiply exponentially? (foodsafetynews.com)
There’s another practical reason – two in fact – to boil milk before making yogurt (or kefir).
- We tried making raw milk yogurt and found that after a few batches, the yogurt starts getting stringy and slimy. The lactic acid-forming bacteria with which you inoculate the milk seem to be fighting a losing battle with the bacteria that already exist in the raw milk. The slimy yogurt is a sign that the culture is losing its steam. So you need a brand new starter. If you gently bring the milk to between 180F and 190F (82F to 87C) every time, you will have thick creamy yogurt that can be use to culture the next batch of yogurt without ever having to replace the starter culture.
- Raw milk yogurt is runnier than regular yogurt. It’s not really a practical way to make Greek yogurt, which aims to be thick.
HERE‘s an old post of ours on how to make yogurt, but here’s how we do it now.
For Greek yogurt, you first make creamy regular yogurt, then strain it.
For 1 quart yogurt.
Heat on the stovetop on medium heat
3 cups whole milk (raw or pasteurised, NOT ultrapasteurised or UHT)
1 cup raw or pasteurised heavy cream (not ultrapasteurised)
Pasteurised milk is heated to 160F, so if you use it, you still need to heat the milk to at least 180F before making yogurt. In a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan, let the milk come to a gentle boil or using a thermometer check until it’s between 180F and 190F (82 to 87C).
Cover and set it aside to cool to lukewarm (between 100F and 110F). Add a packet of Yogourmet yogurt starter (depicted HERE). Or use 1 tbsp of plain yogurt from a previous homemade batch or any organic store bought brand that is PLAIN, free of sugar, flavourings, thickeners and emulsifiers.
Stir ten times clockwise and ten times counter-clockwise gently with a spoon until dissolved.
Let the mixture incubate in a warm draft-free place (ideally between 100F and 110F) in a glass or plastic container. (We use our Salton yogurt maker). Covering it in a down jacket or blanket may help as well. It should set overnight or may take up to 12 hours. Place it in the fridge for another few hours to set even more.
Take a big bowl within which you can fit a colander. Line the colander with two layers of paper towels. Don’t use cheesecloth. We’ve tried it. Clean up is very messy and a good bit of yogurt clings to it and gets wasted. With paper towels, all of the the yogurt slides right off. No waste, no drippy cloth to wash. If you can buy unbleached paper towel rolls (like Seventh Generation), even better.
Put the yogurt in the colander and cover the whole thing – bowl, colander and all – with a plate or saucepan lid. Place it in the fridge. In 3 to four hours, the liquid will drip to the bottom and you’ll have great Greek yogurt. (Add a dash of salt, chilli, ginger and lemon to the liquid and drink it up. Or dissolve your whey protein powder in it.)
YOGURT CHEESE (LABNEH)
If you let the strained yogurt sit for a few more hours until it gets really thick and spreadable like cream cheese, you have labneh or yogurt cheese.
And please don’t buy “fatfree Greek yogurt”. You’re being swindled.
- Bee and Jai