I would like to talk about yogurt and yogurt-based drinks that are very popular in Eastern cultures.
Ayran it’s a yogurt drink, that has different names – Doogh, Tan, Lassi – it is served chilled to accompany a tasty lunch in Turkey or early dinner in Azerbaijan, or maybe late breakfast in Iran and India. It’s actually liquid that is left over from the process of making butter out of milk. After shaking the liquid for awhile, fat cells of milk solidify making a butter. Leftover liquid (fatless milk) is salted and served to the table chilled. It is a relatively complicated process so I will concentrate my attention on Ayran, which is made by liquefying yogurt by adding water to it. Yogurt is much easier to make out of milk. I will share the recipe of how Leyla makes it.
One gallon of whole or 2% reduced Milk is boiled and cooled down in a pot or a glass jar to 100 degree F. For the very first time, you will need to add 3 tablespoons of organic probiotic yogurt with healthy bacteria (sold in WholeFoods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts or order online). Then leave for 4-5 hours wrapped in warm blanket. You can have your own house made yogurt that easy. Don’t eat it all, leave at least three spoonfuls for the next time so you don’t have to buy yogurt anymore to start the whole process. If you like the taste better, place it in fridge to stop fermentation, if you want a little more sourness, leave it outside so fermentation continues.
Freshly-made yogurt is filled with countless numbers of beneficial bacteria that help digestion and kill harmful viruses. Fresh homemade yogurt, if compared to commercial store-bought yogurt, has the fresh, active bacteria. Once the yogurt has been refrigerated, the quantity of friendly bacteria decreases.
Fresh yogurt is being digested three times faster than milk. Yogurt helps to digest other food we eat, reduces bloating and constipation. Yogurt drinks are even more light and digestible and help in intestinal comfort after eating a meal.
There is one more dish made out of yogurt that is very popular in Russia and Ukraine and was adopted and modified by Azerbaijanis – Okroshka. There are plenty of recipes but I like Okroshka made by Leyla. She adds chopped cucumber, mint ( dry or fresh) and salt to yogurt and mixes all together. Added ice liquefies it and cools it down at the same time – perfect drink for warm weather!
Photo: Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome