Yogurt/Curd/Dahi — call it by whatever name…

Very often we are trapped in a circle of prices. We cut or limit consumption in reaction to the ‘penalty’ of a price increase or availability of money, and raise purchases in reaction to the ‘bribe’ of a lower price or availability of extra money.

There are certain items in the grocery list that are subject to such swings more often than others. Yogurt/Curd/Dahi appears to be one such item which many people do away with, when this should not have been given its high nutritive value and usefulness.

Yogurt/Curd/Dahi is a derivative of milk. It is made by fermenting milk using bacteria commonly referred to as ‘yogurt cultures’. It can also be obtained by curdling with an edible acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then draining off the liquid portion.

The process of making yogurt involves heating the milk to about 80°C in order to kill any other bacteria that may be present and prevent proper fermentation, and adversely affect the texture of the yogurt. The heating concentrates the milk and denatures milk proteins. The milk is then left to cool to around 45°C, and the ‘yogurt culture’ is inoculated/added (50ml for a litre of milk). It is of note that the yogurt culture comprises such (good) bacteria as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius/thermophilus. The milk is then left to ferment at room temperature, and the yogurt is ready in 6-12 hours.

The making of yogurt is not a new thing. Its production and use are as old as the history of man. Legend tells us that yogurt was discovered because a shepherd forgot some milk in a skin container for a while. When he finally remembered it, he found it transformed into something denser and tastier. Practically all civilisations have used yogurt, fermented milk as a food item in recipes and as medicine for ailments, particularly for intestinal problems.

It is only at the beginning of the last century that it became possible to study the secrets of yogurt in a scientific way and find conclusively its nutritive, curative and probiotic properties. It has protein, fat and carbohydrate. It contains measurable amounts of vitamins A, E and K; thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12. It also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride and selenium.

Yogurt has a healthy content of probiotics – microorganisms that are helpful to humans. It has been found that the gut microflora in obese persons is relatively less and increasing the microflora is a means to combat obesity.

Yogurt is also used as a beauty product. Applying yogurt on face rids it of the fine lines, prevents early aging, relieves sunburn, reduces discoloration and fights acne. It is a wonderful skin moisturiser.

Yogurt is nothing but milk in a biologically preserved form. It is more stable, and has a longer shelf life. It is tolerated by people who cannot take milk and is easily digestible. It is often referred to as the food of the Gods.

The need to have yogurt in our homes at all times is evident because of its innumerable uses, and the more so because it can be easily and economically made at home thus coping with the fiscal burden and price fluctuations. Furthermore in so doing we are making a great step towards food sufficiency and food security, and this in line with the Government/World Food Security programme, to achieve a higher self- sufficiency level in the production of food.

* Published in print edition on 15 May  2015

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