Saturday, June 1, 2013

Yogurt, Whey & Greek-Turk Battle For Domination

New York recently played host to a yogurt summit.
That's right. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was front and center, too.
Despite its Big Apple reputation, New York is a state full of dairy farms. And it turns out the national craze - strained, thick Greek yogurt – is boosting milk demand and producing tons of waste. Greek producer Fage has operations in New York’s Mohawk Valley, while Chobani - founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish man of Kurdish extraction - operates in the “Southern Tier” of the state. 
The summit addressed just what to do with the runoff from straining yogurt, otherwise known as “whey.” I think of whey as a good thing. I think that's what Mediterranean food shops use to store feta. One would think industrial bakers could use it, or that someone could bottle a branded, new lassi or salty-mint drink. Instead, this Modern Farmer article totally demonizes the yogurt byproduct as "acid whey" and says it's a potential environmental hazard. One Upstate New York farmer tried to turn whey into electricity, but it cost millions.
There is another way to take the whey away: just artificially thicken the yogurt.
This 2012 NPR story explains the battle - mostly for yogurt authenticity - and says one Turkish dairy products company has studied just how to get the Greek "residual mouth coating, meltaway and jiggle."
Kiss a Greek, perhaps?
My advice: make yogurt at home. Here's a recipe for thick, Greek yogurt. Boil lots of milk, and cool it just enough to mix with some already-made yogurt. (My rule: it's just cool enough if you can hold your pinky in the hot milk for about 10 seconds). Then let the mixture sit in a warm place (that requires more finagling in winter). Strain. The above recipe says use an old t-shirt for straining. Greek grandmothers are known to use cheesecloth.

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