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Greek Yogurt

Go for the Yogurt if nothing else

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I don't like yogurt. I know it is un-PC, but I can't stand the stuff. It's expensive, runny, either sickly sweet or strangely sour, and, in my opinion, only allegedly better for you than ice cream.

So why do I find myself musing fondly over my first time with a bowl of Greek yogurt one morning on the terrace of the Hotel Zafiria in Matala? It was on a trip that I would find introducing me to many new things, but in some ways, delighting in yogurt drizzled with Greek honey may have been the most unexpected of all.

Greek yogurt is a thick, unprocessed delight. Most of the versions found in Greece use sheep's milk or even a mixture of sheep and goat milks. Cow milk may be found in more commercial versions, but it is not the preferred ingredient.

Outside of Greece, the term "Greek yogurt" is applied to almost any full-fat yogurt, but most of the export versions or local re-creations are a poor imitation of the glory that is Greek yogurt.

Making Your Own Greek Yogurt

As of yet, I haven't taken the step of trying to make my own but there are lots of recipes you can try. But it's like trying to cook Greek foods outside of Greece. You can get everything absolutely right, but without the fragrant Greek air, the fresh and pure Greek waters, and the vegetables and meats infused with the special quality of Greece, it just isn't the same.

Local Greek Yogurt Alternatives

Some US companies are promising to recreate Greek yogurt. One I've tried, "The Greek Gods Greek Yogurt" has packaging featuring the various gods and goddesses and a shipping label saying just "The Greek Gods - Perishable - Please Refrigerate" that I found so amusing that I made it into a refrigerator magnet. I'd debate their statement that Greek yogurt is traditionally only made with cow's milk, but the yogurt itself better than most of what's out there on the market claiming to be Greek yogurt. Alas, it is still not the real thing.

On my last trip to Greece, I tried to beg some information about the Zafiria's yogurt. They didn't understand - to them, it's just yogurt, not ambrosia. "Do you make it here? Is it cow's milk? Is it sheep's milk or goat's milk or both?" I pled.
"It comes from Heraklion," the manager told me, then dropped his voice. "Look, it's not even that good. Just commercial yogurt. There are much better Greek yogurts."

"Much better ones," I repeated, stunned and then excited. Greece still has more secrets to share.

Think I'm nuts to carry on this much about Greek yogurt? I'm not alone. Read what others have said and done in their quests to find or recreate true Greek yogurt, and the horror that ensued when one award-winning Greek brand, Fage, got pulled from the US market. (Fortunately, that issue has now been resolved.

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