Yoghurt is gaining popularity worldwide for its nutritional qualities and its ability to boost immunity of the consumer. Flavoured yoghurts, fruit yoghurts Italian and Bulgarian yoghurts are increasingly being advertised. Indians have long incorporated this healthy option into their daily diet since ancient times whether it’s lassi in north or more or majjige in the south. Its use is extensive in cuisines across the country.

Sources, preparation and flavours

Traditionally, addition of a little curd to warm milk turns it into curd over a period of time. Probiotic Bacteria that convert milk into curd thrive at warm temperature and become activated when introduced into milk. They die when the milk is too hot and are dormant when it’s too cold. Amount of culture or curd added to milk determines the length it takes to become curd. If needed quickly, more amount, up to a spoon or two of culture can be mixed into milk. If keeping overnight, very little, a drop or two is enough. If kept longer, curd will turn sour and the top creamy layer may even turn rancid and smelly over time. Room temperature also affects the curd making process. Milk turns into curd quickly during hot summers and takes longer for the same process during winter. Those living in cold climates even put the vessel in an oven to maintain temperature to form curd. Yoghurts processed at machines at a dairy are made by introduction of cultures to milk. Flavours and additions like fruits are added during that time.

Once set, keeping it in cool temperature arrests further multiplication of Probiotics, thus maintaining its taste. Curd made from cow’s milk is thinner and easier to digest than that of buffaloes’ as it has less fat. Milk from indigenous breeds is healthier since these cows go to graze in open fields and are exposed to sunlight. Goat yoghurt is healthy too.

Omer Seltzer, an organic goat farm owner on Mount Eitan in Israel’s holy city of Jerusalem prefers to use traditional methods of making yoghurt at his farm to retain freshness. The dairy science technology graduate from the US says that strong smells are observed only in mechanically processed yoghurt. Those processed traditionally are devoid of any smell.  His keen observation even identifies the change in flavour according to seasons and the type of foliage that his 200 Anglonubian goats eat.  People drive down to his farm, mostly during weekends and holidays to purchase fresh yoghurt and cheese and have a picnic in the natural environs amidst olive, carob and other trees.

A new trend catching-up in some cities is to use donkey’s milk and yoghurt as it’s said to provide good immunity.

Nutrition

Yoghurt is a good source of protein and calcium just like milk and is more nutritious than milk because shelf life of milk is very short, less than half an hour and the processes applied to extend its shelf life do alter its quality. Fresh milk, warmed immediately and converted into yoghurt will have retained most of the nutrients. Yoghurt’s life can be extended by making it into buttermilk by adding water. Buttermilk is a healthy by-product and an excellent source of milk protein. It is easy to digest and has very few calories that make it an excellent diet drink.

It’s an old tradition in India to give curds (dahi) and Sugar (shakkar) to those going for exams. Coolant in curds helps reduce stress and the sugar supplies that extra energy to the brain to think. Researchers worldwide have studied the therapeutic and preventive effects of yogurt and have opined that yoghurt enhances immune response in human body and helps in fighting diseases such as infection, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma and even cancer.

Yoghurt and buttermilk are soothing to the body during summer. Probiotics, or healthy bacteria found in yogurt help keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs.  In some traditions-like Jews, never eat dairy and meat together in a meal.

Traditional theory in India suggests that tempering with oil helps in countering any ill effect that may occur if consuming yoghurt with another high protein food like pulses (dal).

Part of the cuisine

Traditionally most homes in India prepare or set curds everyday at home. It’s a kind of ritual to have curds or buttermilk with every meal. In South India, a meal has to end with curd rice. In Punjab, a meal is incomplete without a lassi.

Various Indian cuisines use curds in different food preparations. Kadi made by mixing gram flour to tempered beaten curds and Khichdi is the staple food for many. Avial is a popular vegetable preparation. More kolambu and majjige huli are nothing but curried curds. Salads mixed with curd form tasty raitas. Shrikhand and mishti doi are yummy desserts made with curds.

In whichever the form or whatever the time, keep enjoying the simple yet tasty curd for good health.

Authored by
Anand & Madhura Katti


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