I get a lot of questions about what makes Greek yogurt so special. As far as I know, straining is the biggest difference. (Remember how it says “Greek strained yogurt” on the container?)
How do you strain yogurt, you may ask, and why go to all the trouble? Because strained yogurt is thicker, creamier, and less acidic. Being familiar with straining yogurt also means you have incredible control over the texture of your yogurt. Also, you have lots of whey to play with.
Whey is the liquid that drains out of the yogurt when you strain it. It’s also the slightly greenish liquid that separates from yogurt you buy at the grocery store. It’s pretty acidic, and it has a lot of lactose in it, but it’s also full of great nutrients, so don’t throw it out! At the farm in France, we gave whey to the pigs – because of its high acidity, it was hard to get rid of it any other sustainable way, and pork from pigs fed with whey have a delicious, distinctive taste. At home, keep the whey in your fridge until the next time you cook chickpeas, rice, or other dried beans, and soak them in the whey overnight instead of using water so they absorb all of the nutritious goodness. Some people even drink whey straight, but I have yet to be so bold.
How do you strain yogurt? Get a sieve, and a bowl that fits nicely under the sieve with a decent amount of space under the bottom of the sieve, and some cheesecloth. Place a few layers of cheesecloth in the sieve, pour the yogurt in, and wait. There’s no real science here – just let it sit (in the fridge, or at least keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get warm and spoiled) until the yogurt is the texture you want.
The batch of yogurt pictured here (made from milk from Keith Parrish’s Farm – South Pork Ranch, LLC in Chatsworth, Illinois, which had a strong, grassy smell that Dena liked much more than I did) I had an especially hard time getting firm to my liking, so I popped the whole thing in the strainer, just for about 45 minutes until it was the thick consistency I like over my morning granola and fruit. You can keep going, and it turns into a spreadable yogurt cheese, what they call labne in Turkey. It’s what I spread on these delicious crostini I made for a recent dinner party, and what I also like to do occasionally as a change from yogurt over granola every morning – spread yogurt on some toast with honey or jam.