In times of greater self-sufficiency, when many people still lived on and from the land, having at least one or two milk cows was the norm. In addition to providing milk for drinking, the coagulated, thickened milk in its varying stages and forms provided high-protein sustenance throughout the day. Thanks to superior processing technology, we can enjoy many of these same tastes and traditions today – without having to grab the milking stool.
For thousands of years, historians say, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because – unlike children – they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. However, as farming replaced hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe, giving people the ability to produce lactase and drink milk throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition, particularly in times of scarcity.
Traditionally, the skimmed milk was coagulated with the help of mesophilic or thermophilic cultures then put in cotton bags and the whey drained. This process took several hours. The resulting thick “yogurt” – insert your own culturally-appropriate food term here – was then worked by hand to produce uniform consistency. While effective, this method is very labor intensive and no longer meets the hygiene requirements of the industry.
Taking advantage of modern manufacturing processes and equipment, we can still enjoy the same high quality of these delicious products today.
Greek yogurt – more milk, more protein
In contrast to other types of yogurt, Greek yogurt requires more milk in the production process. A lower proportion of water and whey is used leading to higher protein content. For comparison, the production of one liter of conventional yogurt requires one liter of milk, whereas in Greek yogurt, at least three liters of milk are required. Due to this manufacturing process, Greek yogurt is more carbohydrate and protein-rich than other yogurts; it is particularly popular with athletes given its 10 percent fat and 6.5 percent protein content.
The Greeks tend to enjoy their yogurt with fresh fruit and honey or for dessert. In the U.S., Greek yogurt triggered a veritable yogurt boom; it has evolved from being a purely healthy and unpopular food to a real culinary treat for Americans – albeit more often for breakfast with granola or as a snack. Greek yogurt is also excellent in sauces and soups and is a good substitute for cream or crème fraiche. It is also a popular garnish in Greek potato salad and other baked dishes, like moussaka. The popular tzatziki sauce also uses Greek yogurt as its base ingredient. And while traditional methods of production result in a wholesome product, product safety and optimal hygiene standards cannot be guaranteed. Likewise, under these conditions, products have a limited shelf life.
Sophisticated process technology ensures quality
With the use of modern process technology, Greek yogurt and other types of fresh cheese can be produced with the same high quality. The GEA quark separator, which uses nozzle- and concentration technology, ensures the highest level of product quality. Several major Greek dairy companies, including Kri Kri, Mevgal and Dodoni, have integrated GEA nozzle separators in their production processes to produce this national favorite. GEA produces several sizes of quark separators, which manufacturers can choose from based on the size of their production quantity.
In the production process, skimmed milk is used in a 3:1 ratio to the final product – just like traditional production. Following an uninterrupted production period of at least 16 hours, consumers can enjoy a hygienically clean, high-quality and homogeneous product, with a shelf life of up to 30 days, assuming appropriate cooling (8°C) – all achieved by a single operator per plant.
Due to its intelligent product design, it is not only possible to produce different types of fresh cheese with the GEA nozzle separator, but also ricotta, Labneh or fat cream cheese, at temperatures of 40 to 60° Celsius. This flexibility, in combination with a secure and continuous process, leads to a consistent product quality.