Luscious, creamy, thick, tangy, satisfying, indulgent… I’m talking about Greek yogurt. One of the most popular food items today, you can find it in a variety of flavors and styles. Perfect to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, snack or dessert; fantastic to use in cooking or baking; Greek yogurt is an all-day, all-the-time food.
To me, Greek yogurt isn’t just a food, it’s a way of life. I’ve been making yogurt for as long as I can remember, since I was a little girl. I used to watch my mother with a sense of awe as she heated the milk – how did she know when the temperature was right? Though yogurt making was a bi-weekly activity at my house, my sense of wonder never faded. My siblings and I would all help our mother ‘put the yogurt to bed’, by covering the pot with blankets, to allow it to rest and turn into the yogurt we loved. Hours later, we would bundle the fresh yogurt into cheesecloth, and hang the bundles in the kitchen, allowing the excess whey to drain. As the yogurt strained, it became thick, delicious, and tart – I could hardly contain my excitement; I would ask one of my sisters to help me take down one of the bundles so I could have the first taste.
Like many Greek families, we always got together for a Sunday afternoon meal, where yogurt was often a guest of honor. My grandmother would use yogurt to tenderize and marinate the meat, mixed it into pies and pasta dishes, and served it along side vegetables, bread, and salads – there was rarely a dish on the table that didn’t have yogurt involved in some way.
My grandmother would say that yogurt was the food for all ages, from babies to the elderly, and she was right! The paradigm of a healthy trifecta, Greek yogurt is full of protein, calcium, and probiotics. Containing nearly doubly the protein of regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is great for filling you up and nourishing you; the calcium is great for building strong bones AND maintaining them as you get older; and probiotics are necessary for a healthy digestive system.
At Loi Estiatorio, yogurt makes it onto the majority of my plates, both savory and sweet. It helps create the perfect balance of flavors and textures in the food I make, adding a creamy, luxurious, tangy element that enhances all the other flavors present. I eat it often for breakfast or as a snack, and enjoy finding creative ways to use it in my foods:
- Use Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise or sour cream for potato salads, deviled eggs, or onion and spinach dips.
- Use Greek yogurt as a topping for pies, tarts, and other desserts.
- Marinate your proteins in yogurt to help tenderize and flavor them.
- Use Greek yogurt as a base for your salad dressings and sauces, instead of butter and cream.
As a Greek, a chef, and healthy lifestyle expert, besides olive oil, I would argue that one of the most important ingredients in my kitchen is Greek yogurt. My Loi Dips line features two vegetable-based dips, and two yogurt-based dips, which are incredibly versatile! Loi Tzatziki is full of cucumber, and the combination of cucumber and yogurt is so crunchy, bright and refreshing, it’s the ideal complement to any protein imaginable. Loi Feta-Yogurt Pougi is a yogurt-based feta dip with a bit of a spicy kick to it; perfect not only for dipping, but for creating all kinds of unique and interesting dishes, where you would use yogurt or mayonnaise.
In order to understand just how simple and unprocessed yogurt should be, there are only two ingredients you need in order to make real Greek yogurt: milk and…yogurt! It’s true, you need yogurt to make yogurt, in the same way you need a bit of a mother dough in order to make a sourdough – it’s about the microorganisms! So, I’m sharing with you my mother’s yogurt recipe, to see how tasty, healthy, and easy it is to make Greek yogurt at home. Kalí órexi! Enjoy your meal!
Loi Greek Yogurt
- 1 liter of organic whole milk
- 1 cup of full fat plain Greek yogurt
- Heat 1 liter of milk to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need a thermometer, but if you do not have one, turn off the heat just before the milk boils (just as it begins to simmer).
- Remove the pot from the heat and wait until the temperature drops to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can try my grandmother’s old trick to get the right temperature: keep your pinky in the milk and count quickly to 20; if your pinky is burning at 20, let the milk cool off a bit longer.
- Dilute 1 cup of yogurt in the lukewarm milk and stir.
- Cover the pot with a blanket to maintain the temperature and keep warm for at least 6 hours. Note that you should not move or shake the pot during this process.
- Move the yogurt from the warmth to the refrigerator.
- Leave the yogurt for 24 hours in the refrigerator without moving, and your yogurt will be ready to enjoy. It will be good for ten days refrigerated.
* You can eat the yogurt like this, but if you want to make my mother’s authentic recipe, you need to take one more step:
Strain the yogurt in cheesecloth and hang to drain for several hours, until the draining stops. This is the real Loi Yogurt that my mother used to make – all the whey is removed. This process adds another week of life to your yogurt.
Chef’s Tip: To avoid common mistakes:
- Make sure you boil and cool the milk at the right temperature.
- Don’t be anxious to move the yogurt until it’s ready.
- Use high quality milk with no added water, and do not use skim milk.