The true origin of yogurt remains a mystery, with various countries claiming to have invented it. According to the Bible, Abraham ate it. It is possible that its long life is at the origin of yogurt's reputation as being good for you. But, during the last century, it was discovered that there were many centenarians in Bulgaria and it was concluded that their advanced age was due to their consumption of yogurt. This country is one of those that claim to have invented it, alongside Turkey and Asia.
It is likely that yogurt was created by chance from a fermentation of goat milk, thousands of years ago when this animal was first domesticated. In any event, it was an important element in the diet of all pastoral communities.
The Romans were familiar with it, according to Pliny the Elder, who mentions that "some barbarian tribes know how to thicken milk into a substance with a pleasant acidity". Later on, King Francis I of France summoned a doctor from Constantinople renowned for treating digestive problems with sheep yogurt.
We are indebted to Metchnikoff, a Russian microbiologist who took a scientific interest in the centenarians in the Balkans, for his discovery, in the early 20th century, of two lactic cultures that turned milk into yogurt. This product has long been sold in pharmacies.
In the 1920s, many Greeks and Georgians emigrated to France, taking their expertise with them: the yogurt started to be made according to these traditional methods. At the same time, Isaac Carasso, a Spanish doctor who knew all about the benefits of yogurt on the intestines and had a good business sense, began to produce and sell it under the name Danon (in reference to his son David), thus laying the groundwork for what would later become a worldwide group.
The flavor of yogurt is quite different, depending on whether it has been produced industrially or using traditional methods. It also varies depending on the origin of the milk: cow, goat, or sheep.
Yogurt made using traditional methods always tastes better.
Yogurt is packed in 125-g pots made of plastic or glass and in 2 kg flexible bags for use in the catering industry.
Yogurt drinks are sold in 25 or 50 cl bottles.
Yogurt is widely used in oriental cuisines: soups, cold soups, tzatziki (yogurt and sliced or grated cucumber), curry, tandoori (mixture of spices with yogurt used as a marinade for meat and poultry), and raita (mixture of yogurt, vegetables, and spices), etc.
It is also used to make a number of sauces, mixed with Parmesan, herbs of all kinds, dried tomatoes, and sliced olives, etc. Lemon juice and mustard go very well with it. It can be used to lighten a guacamole.
It can be added to soup, gazpacho, or used to make marinade for fish.
In sweet dishes, it goes well with fruit and can replace some of the milk in batter for pancakes, waffles, muffins, and madeleines. It can be used to make ice cream. And it is, of course, a vital ingredient in a yogurt cake.
All yogurts will keep in the refrigerator or cold room at 4°C until their use-by date.
However, as this date is set by the industrial producers who have a vested interest to sell as many products as possible (a product that has passed its use-by date should be discarded), it can be exceeded without any danger to health (especially if the yogurt has been heat treated): the product just tastes a little more acid.
The nutritional value of yogurt is very variable, depending on which products have been added (sugar, fruit, cream, etc.), and whether the milk used was skim, semi-skim, or whole.
But all yogurts contain protein, calcium, and other minerals. They are low in iron but their acidity promotes the absorption of this trace element. They also contain B vitamins and more or less vitamin D and vitamin A (depending on the nature of the milk).
Probiotic yogurts have a beneficial effect on intestinal transit.
In general, yogurt is known to stimulate digestive secretions, increase the immune system, and contribute to the balance of intestinal flora.
Depending on the country and its laws, not all yogurts have the same composition.
In Europe, only milk fermented with Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricum may be called yogurt.
In France, sterilization is prohibited and these two cultures must remain alive. It is allowed in the rest of Europe and in many other countries. The choice is vast:
Natural set yogurt
Made from pasteurized or sterilized whole, semi-skim or skim milk, to which skim milk powder (less than 5%) is added. It is then fermented in the pot. Sometimes sugar or artificial sweeteners or flavorings are added. It has a fairly firm texture because it is fermented in its pot.
Stirred yogurt, known is France as yaourts brassés
Made in the same way, but the cultures are added in the tank. The yogurt is then stirred to make it runnier. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, honey, fruit pulp, flavors, and coloring, etc. may be added
Stirred yogurts, usually sweet, variously flavored, and packaged in bottles.
An authentic Greek yogurt will be strained, and therefore thick. More often than not, it is actually a stirred yogurt enriched with cream.
Fermented milk or bifidus yogurt or probiotic yogurt
They are simply referred to as yogurt in everyday language. Additional cultures are added: bifidus and acidophilus. They are made in the same way as natural yogurt and the same products can be added.
All of these types of yogurt are available throughout the year.
In some countries, in addition to heat treatment, the addition of preservatives, stabilizers, and thickeners are authorized.
This is not strictly a yogurt because the milk is fermented with different yeasts and bacteria. The cultures used are in the form of grains. Part of the lactose transforms into alcohol, which makes the kefir foam and fizz, but remain liquid.