Yogurt, Lassi, Dahi, Cultured Butter, Buttermilk, Karnemelk, Ghee, Crème Fraiche
Probiotics are not new to the world. The age old tradition used to preserve food – fermentation – is a prime production method for foods containing these friendly bacteria. A very common use of fermentation is in making fermented dairy products.
Once thought to be harmful to humans, these fermented dairy products are now commonplace in many households around the world. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Yogurt ( Yoghurt)
This typically made by fermenting milk with Lactobacillus, bulgaricus and Streptococcus cultures. The milk is first heated to around 80⁰C to kill off harmful bacteria, and then cooled to 45⁰C for the cultures to be added. This final temperature is maintained for around 7 hours for the fermentation process to continue, before packaging the final product.
Yoghurts have been eaten for thousands of years and their nutritional benefits are many, being rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. The lactic acid in yoghurts is also said to promote good gum health. For those who are lactose intolerant, soy yoghurts are available in shops.
Having been made for so long, it’s no surprise that there are many varieties of yoghurts across the globe. Two of the more popular versions are:
Lassi: This is a yoghurt-based drink from India. The lassi is a staple in the Indian and Pakistani diet. It is usually slightly salty or sweet. In many part of India, and in the UK, the lassi is made sweet by adding in mango or other fruit juices. Salty lassi is flavored with red chilli and ground cumin.
Greek yoghurt: This is actually strained yoghurt. The yoghurt is strained in a cloth usually made of muslin to remove the whey. The result is a consistency that is somewhere between yoghurt and cheese. In Greece, it is used as the main component in tzadziki, an accompaniment with pitta sandwiches.
This form of yoghurt is also common in the Middle East and is known as Labneh, which is also used in sandwiches. Meat and other vegetables are sometimes added to it as a stuffing for various pies.
Dahi is also considered a form of strained yoghurt, from the Indian subcontinent. Made from water buffalo’s milk, the unstrained version has to be kept for a few hours in a clay pot. This causes the yoghurt to cool down and the water in it evaporates through the pot.
Is this surprising? Butter is actually made from churned fresh or fermented milk or cream. Used in various cooking methods and as a condiment, this age-old product is also commonplace in many homes. Cultured butter is the result of using fermented cream, using Lactococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria.
As with yoghurt, there are many forms of butter available:
Buttermilk: This is actually the liquid left over from the production of butter. In India, traditional buttermilk is called “chasse”, and is the leftover after getting butter from dahi.
Cultured buttermilk is sour in taste due to the presence of the lactic acid bacteria in the buttermilk. This is called Karnemelk by the Dutch and is a popular summer drink, enjoyed with a sandwich. It is also loved by the Germans.
Ghee: This is a form butter mainly used in many Asian and African cultures. The unsalted butter is heated for all the water to boil off. The solids will be at the bottom while the cooked and clarified butter will be on top. This is then spooned off and stored in an airtight container to prevent water and oxygen from affecting the buttermilk. Unlike butter, Ghee can be stored without refrigeration. The type of milk used will determine the texture, colour and taste of the ghee.
Other fermented dairy products include cheeses and kefir, but we’ll look at these separately. A word of caution here: due to the delicate nature of making these butters and yoghurts, it’s best to get them commercially from any local store. You can make them at home, but you will need expert guidance and equipment to ensure the right temperature is used and that the bad bacteria that populate sour milk do no cause you harm.
Finally, one form of fermented dairy product you can safely make at home is Crème fraiche. This is actually soured cream, originally from Normandy in France. It is made by adding cultured buttermilk to heavy cream. It’s then allowed to sit for several hours at room temperature so that the bacterial cultures in the buttermilk can act on the cream. The result is a cream that is less sour and thicker than sour cream.
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