Maria Loi’s Greek Yogurt
Growing up in Greece, we always had a big bowl of homemade yogurt in our kitchen, and we ate from it every day. My grandmother used to say yogurt was the food for everyone in the family, from our little babies to the very, very old – it’s so gentle on your body and easy to eat that everybody can have it.
Our yogurt was fresher, creamier, thicker, richer, and tangier than any you can imagine – unless you’ve been to my restaurant, Loi Estiatorio, where we make yogurt using my mother’s recipe. She was the one in our family who led the yogurt-making, and I was the only child who would stay by her side to watch, learn, and help.
This recipe makes amazing yogurt, just like I grew up on, which can be enjoyed on its own, with honey and nuts or berries for breakfast, or a healthy snack for any time of day.
However, it’s also a very powerful and versatile ingredient, which can be used in other recipes to make sauces and marinades, moisten cakes, cookies, scones, and other doughs; it can be frozen, blended, or whipped, and turned into a cool treat, a great shake, or used as a healthy alternative to whipped cream. You can work with it to create frosting or icing for cakes, create a delicious frozen yogurt dish, or substitute it in any recipe that calls for cream, sour cream, buttermilk, or crème fraiche.
Did you know the acidity in Greek yogurt aids in the activation of baking soda, which makes baked goods light and fluffy?
Did you know the acid whey is great for soaking whole-grain flours, using in place of water and other liquids for baked goods to give it a sourdough-like flavor, and for lacto-fermentation of fruits, vegetables, amongst other uses?
This recipe is a stepping-stone for plenty of other creations, both sweet and savory – but the first step is making this yogurt.
As we say in Greece, Kali Orexi – or, good appetite!
- 1 liter of organic whole milk
- 1 cup of full-fat plain yogurt
- Heat 1 liter of milk to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need a thermometer, but if you do not have one, turn off the heat just before the milk boils (just as it begins to simmer).
- Remove the pot from the heat and wait until the temperature drops to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can try my grandmother’s old trick to get the right temperature: keep your pinky in the milk and count quickly to 20; if your pinky is burning at 20, let the milk cool off a bit longer.
- Dilute 1 cup of yogurt in the lukewarm milk and stir.
- Cover the pot with a blanket to maintain the temperature and keep warm for at least 6 hours. Note that you should not move or shake the pot during this process.
- Move the yogurt from the warmth to the refrigerator.
- Leave the yogurt for 24 hours in the refrigerator without moving, and your yogurt will be ready to enjoy. It will be good for ten days refrigerated.
*You can eat the yogurt like this, but if you want to make my grandmother’s authentic recipe, you need to take one more step:
Strain the yogurt in cheesecloth and hang to drain for several hours, until the draining stops. This is the real Loi Yogurt that my grandmother used to make – all the whey is removed. This process adds another week of life to your yogurt.
Notes – To avoid common mistakes:
- Make sure you boil and cool the milk at the right temperature.
- Don’t be anxious to move the yogurt until it’s ready.
- Use high-quality milk with no added water, and do not use skim milk.
About the Author
Maria Loi is Ambassador of Greek Gastronomy, elected by the Chef’s Club of Greece. She is Executive Chef of Loi Estiatorio, author, restaurateur, entrepreneur, member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, and philanthropist. Her culinary prowess has made her a food superstar: she is a popular television chef in Greece and the U.S.A, and the author of more than 150 magazines, and 36 cookbooks, including Ancient Dining, the official cookbook of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, and her most recent, The Greek Diet. Her lines of products, Loi Pasta and Loi Dips are available at Whole Foods Markets, and are expanding distribution.