Greek yogurt is all the rage these days when it comes to a healthy snack. But does it deliver nutritionally, and why does it cost so much more than regular yogurt?
Regular yogurt and Greek yogurt have a marked difference in their final appearance and consistency; however, both are started exactly the same way. They start with milk and a little powdered milk, are brought to a specific temperature, cooled rapidly, mixed with a bacteria culture and then are incubated. At that point, the process changes. Regular yogurt is ready to go, but the Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey. The straining process changes it to a thicker and creamer product. The straining process brings 1 gallon of regular yogurt to a volume of between 1½ and 2 quarts. That is one of the simple reasons that Greek yogurt demands a higher price at the store. It takes two to three times as much milk to make Greek yogurt as regular yogurt.
Does it have more nutrition than regular yogurt? It is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. Greek yogurt also checks in with 15 to 20 grams of protein. For those of us who are watching our weight, almost twice as much protein means we aren’t as hungry.
Just like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is a great source for probiotics, which help with proper digestion and immune system health. However, Greek yogurt loses some of the calcium during the straining process.
If you are interested in saving money and doing it yourself, yogurt is a great place to start. It is a cultured product that requires little special equipment short of a good thermometer.
You start with a quart of milk and add 1/3 cup of nonfat dry milk. Place it in saucepan and heat it to 185 degrees. Keep it at this temperature for three to five minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Cool quickly by placing it in an ice water bath until it reaches a temperature of 115 to 120 degrees. Add 1/4 cup of yogurt with active cultures and mix carefully to distribute cultures throughout the mixture. Sugar, honey, jams, or fresh fruit can be added to increase the sweetness if desired.
Now you simply keep it at 110 degrees from four to eight hours. I’ve used a cooler filled with hot water, heated it in the oven, used a heating pad, kept it in a thermos, or used a commercial yogurt maker to maintain that 110 degrees. Once the incubation period is complete, you have regular yogurt. To make Greek yogurt, line a colander with a coffee filter and spoon in the yogurt. Place in the refrigerator and allow it to strain for 24 hours. Catch the whey that is strained out and use it in your breakfast smoothies or in making bread.
That homemade yogurt can be made for about $1 a quart, about one-fourth the cost of commercial yogurt from the store. When it is strained, the Greek yogurt would cost about $2 a quart, still far less than the cost in the store. It is lower in sugar than commercial yogurt and I feel it has a much better flavor. Besides eating it as a snack, this fresh yogurt can be used to replace sour cream in any recipe.
If you are interested in making yogurt, Cooperative Extension has an excellent publication with detailed instructions that is available by calling 474-1530 or downloading it from our website at http://bit.ly/yogurtmaking.
Yogurt, whether the regular or Greek variety, can be an inexpensive, healthy treat for your family.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at email@example.com or by calling 907-474-7201.