Yogurt: An Ancient Food

People have been eating yogurt for something like 4,500 years. For 4,420 of those years, they had to make it themselves.

Then in 1929, commercially produced yogurt was introduced to Americans by Armenian immigrants Sarkis and Rose Colombosian, who started the Colombo and Sons Creamery in Andover, Massachusetts.

Yogurt became increasingly popular in the 1950’s and 60’s, when it was touted as a health food — rich in protein, calcium, and B- vitamins.

Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of high blood pressure, help relieve certain gastrointestinal problems, help discourage a particular female infection (I won‘t go into detail here!), and helps you feel full.

When purchasing commercially prepared yogurt, be sure the label mentions “live, active cultures,” which indicates a more natural, health-beneficial product.

Yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese. You can even add yogurt to biscuit or pancake recipes because the yogurt’s acid acts as a leavening agent, just be sure to reduce the amount of baking powder.

Ever hear of YOGURT CHEESE? Here’s how to make it:
1. Line a large strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Set the strainer on top of a bowl or large liquid measuring cup.
2. Place 2 cups (more or less) of plain yogurt into the lined strainer.
3. Cover the top of the strainer with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator – bowl and all- for up to 24 hours. The whey (liquid portion of the yogurt) will drip into the bowl. What will be left in the strainer is the curd, “yogurt cheese”.
4. The yield will be at least half the original amount of yogurt you started with.

Here are a few ways to use yogurt cheese:

* As a spread (add your favorite seasonings)
* As a dip with olive oil
* Shape into small balls and coat with sesame seeds (makes a nice appetizer)
* Mix with pasta to create a cream-like sauce
* Blend with sun-dried tomatoes or red roasted peppers in food processor, then spread on crackers, pita bread
* When making tuna or chicken salad, use instead of mayo.

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  1. David Blasco May 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I love it! Yogurt that is. And I had no idea Armenians brought it to the super market.

    Wasn’t the long life expectancy of native Armenians once attributed to eating yogurt?

  2. Bonnie May 20, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Is this actually “Greek yogurt,” which is thicker and denser than other yogurts? (I’ve seen similar methods described for making Greek yogurt, which seems to be experiencing a surge in popularity.)

  3. Robyn May 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    They're very similar, however, yogurt cheese will be drier & a bit firmer than the Greek yogurt.

  4. Anonymous October 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    This is called Lebne.. or here in the U.S it is celled Kefir Cheese. It is just a condensed yogurt. When you are out of yogurt you can just add a little water to it and whip it a little bit with a fork for a yummy yogurt.

    I also prefer using Lebne for Tan/Ayran (yogurt drink)

  5. Anonymous May 8, 2011 at 1:23 am

    I add fresh chopped dill and green onions (scallions)to my lebne. However depending where you are from add olive oil with dried mint (middle east) . . . sandy

  6. Granny Porkchop December 29, 2011 at 3:44 am

    I'm starting to think cheese of any kind is the international language. Delicious and resourceful. Sharing one of my favorites, hope someone enjoys it too.

    Middle Eastern Labaneh

    Ingredients: 4 C Yogurt, thick
    1½ t Cumin, ground
    1½ t Spearmint, fine cut
    1½ t Salt
    ½ t Red Pepper Flakes
    Olive Oil
    Garnish with coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro

    Put yogurt in colander with two layers of cheesecloth. Make sure cheesecloth overlaps the sides, yogurt needs to be drained. One way to do this is to tie all the ends of the cheesecloth to a long wooden spoon so that the yogurt doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Place bowl in refrigerator overnight for at least 12 hours. I prefer 16-18 hours in refrigerator or cool place. The longer it drains the thicker it’ll be.
    In a clean bowl, unwrap cheese, add mint, cumin, pepper flakes, and salt and thoroughly mix them in. Lightly grease hands with olive oil and shape balls, drop them into size appropriate container, gradually add shredded garlic and olive oil, until all cheese shaped and just covered with oil.
    Garnish with cilantro and parsley before serving.
    Store in refrigerator.

  7. Robyn December 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    G.P., All I can say about your Labaneh recipe is YUM!!!

  8. George Banaian January 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    The "Tahn" can be bought at most mid-Eastern markets.


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