Pop Quiz: Where did Greek Yogurt originate?Answer: Not where you may think!
The word “yoğurt” is Turkish in origin. Most historical accounts trace yogurt to the Neolithic peoples of Central Asia around 6000 B.C. It is believed that herdsman began the practice of milking animals. The natural enzymes in the animals’ stomachs curdled the milk which made the milk last longer (this was before refrigerators).
Greek yogurt is also known as strained yogurt, yogurt cheese, or labneh. Greek yogurt is simply yogurt that has been strained to remove the whey. Yogurt strained through muslin is a traditional food in the Levant, Eastern Mediterranean, Near East, and South Asia, where it is often used in cooking, as it is high enough in fat not to curdle at higher temperatures.
Today, Greek yogurt is around the world. In Turkey, it is known as süzme yoğurt (“strained yogurt”). Strained or süzme yogurt is used in Turkish mezzes and dips. On the Arabian Peninsula, Greek yogurt or labneh is used fresh. It is also common to find dried labneh then covered in herbs and spices and stored in olive oil. The labneh is made from either cow’s milk or camels milk!
In Greece, strained yogurt is used mostly for tzatziki dip and as a dessert, with honey, sour cherry syrup, or spoon sweets often served on top. In Jordan, labneh is very common for breakfast, sandwiches and mezze too.In south Asia (primarily India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), regular unstrained yogurt (dahi or curd), made from cow or water buffalo milk, it is often sold in disposable clay bowls called kulhar. Shrikhand, an Indian dessert, is made with strained yogurt and sugar, saffron, cardamom, diced fruit and nuts mixed in.
Plain Greek yogurt has double the protein, half the carbohydrates and half the sodium of the regular variety yogurt. It can easily be swapped for other fats when baking or cooking. However, be mindful that some varieties of Greek yogurt are high in fat and up to double the cost of regular yogurt. To save money and still achieve the health benefits of Greek yogurt, you can make it at home! You can use a yogurt maker or you can even make it in your slow cooker. Click here for step-by-step directions or here.
Unfortunately, recent problems with the increasing demand of Greek yogurt has surfaced. The whey that is removed during the straining process can’t be dumped, because it would prove too toxic to the environment, ruining waterways and killing fish. Now yogurt companies and scientists are trying to find some productive — and preferably profitable — use for acid whey.
Here are a few recipes you will want to try using Greek yogurt.