Cultured dairy is a great way to get calcium into your diet as well as introduce health-promoting probiotics. When we talk about cultured dairy everyone thinks of yogurt. Unfortunately, many of the flavored yogurts in the store no longer contain live cultures. So you might be getting the taste of yogurt but you’re not getting the health benefits of the probiotics found in yogurt. You can buy yogurt starter at many health food stores or at Amazon and make your own to ensure you’re getting the probiotic goodness of yogurt.
Start with Yogurt
Homemade yogurt is very versatile. For sweetened fruit-flavored yogurt, stir in 1-2 tablespoons fruit jam into ½ cup of yogurt. Or you can simply sweeten it with honey, stevia or sugar. Add a little vanilla or cinnamon if you want. Your morning cereal takes on new life when you mix it with yogurt instead of milk. Bonus: the cereal doesn’t get soggy so quickly.
What about Greek-style yogurt? Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that is not as tart (culture it just an hour or two less than for regular yogurt) and it has some of the whey removed to make it thicker. The easiest way to strain out the whey is to set a coffee filter in a sieve and set the sieve over a bowl for a few hours. You will have a nice pool of whey in the bowl and the remaining yogurt will be the thicker “Greek style”, ready for you to add fruit or other flavorings.
If you strain the yogurt even longer–12 to 48 hours–you get will a nice yogurt “cheese”. You can use it to replace cream cheese or sour cream in most recipes. You can use the coffee filter method if you like (described here) but there are also yogurt cheese makers you can buy. These are nothing more than a very fine mesh that traps the milk solids while the whey drains out. They are convenient because they have a plastic lid the seals on top and keeps the yogurt from drying out. That’s especially nice when you are straining the whey for a day or more. I got a brand-new, still in the box yogurt cheese maker for
$1 at the thrift store. If you are not so lucky to find a deal like that, you can strain the whey from the yogurt with a paper coffee filter set into a sieve. You need to strain it for at least 12 hours. The longer you strain it the thicker it becomes. For a cream cheese substitute you will need to strain it at least two days, so plan ahead.
I have more detailed instructions on making yogurt and yogurt cheese here.
I recently started making kefir. Kefir is cultured milk that is not as sour as yogurt. It is thicker than buttermilk but thinner than yogurt. With just a little sweetener (honey, stevia or sugar) it makes a very tasty, creamy desert. It’s also good over cereal. Put it in the blender with fruit for a delicious, creamy breakfast smoothie. It’s a good way to introduce probiotics to your children’s diet. My 10-year old loves kefir, where he’s not so crazy about yogurt.
See how easy that is?
So, take your pick: buttermilk, yogurt or kefir, there’s an easy (and tasty) way to introduce more culture into your life.