June 14, 2011

The opening lines of Yogurt by Sarina Jacobson reads, “Yogurt is the wine of the dairy world. Just as wine is made from fermented grapes, yogurt is produced by fermenting milk sugar, known as lactose, into lactic acid. The result is the internationally popular, creamy and smooth dairy product – yogurt.”

Yogurt is found all over the world and in many forms, and is thought to be very beneficial to eat. Ethel Lang Graham wrote in her book Creative Yogurt Cooking that in 1908 Russian Elie Metchnikoff  published:

“humans die prematurely from auto-intoxication. He believed that putrefactive bacteria growing in the intestinal tract and produces harmful toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream and gradually poison the body. He came to this astonishing conclusion by observing the diets of Bulgarian peasants who were noted for their great longevity.

The Bulgarians consumed about 3 quarts of yogurt a day. He theorized that since putrefactive bacteria will not live in yogurt, the consumption of large quantities of yogurt will prevent auto-intoxication.

His interesting theory has never been proved correct. However, in the early 1900s it certainly did much to popularize yogurt.”

And thus, yogurt is now available in any American grocery store and marks the beginning of yogurt as health food marketing, including those commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis.

Interestingly, Mechnikoff also named one of the bacteria used to make yogurt Lactobacillus bulgaricus after the Bulgarians. This is usually paired with Streptococcus themophillus because the two of them “produce the most pleasing flavor and firmness without contributing an undesirable, excessively sour taste to yogurt,” said Graham. Other common bacteria may include L. acidophilus, S. thermophiles, L. bifidus, L. casei, L. reuteri, and/or L. rhamnosus.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how to ferment milk to make yogurt.

Further reading to the nutrition of yogurt:


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