Last week, as you may know, we were running the Cultures for Health giveaway for 3 starter cultures of your choice! In honor of my giveaway, I wanted to reflect on why investing in a starter culture is an easy, no-fuss way to add more nutrition and less cost to your life!

Matsoni is what I call a “counterculture” because it doesn’t need to be incubated in order to culture, as most traditional yogurts do. Although, to be fair to history and regionality, it seems to me that most of the yogurts that need to be “incubated” to remain at a constant temp of about 90-100 degrees–these yogurts actually hail from the parts of the world that have temperatures that are fairly constantly in that range!  All that’s to say that I don’t think Nature intended for much fancy equipment in order to culture milk.

The Matsoni is perfectly happy at around 70 degrees to culture within 12-24 hours. I made my first batch this week and here is what I love about it:

1) No need to incubate (already explained above!) so no expensive equipment or hassle required. Just add the starter, and do nothing until about 12 hours later when it’s ready!

2) You can transform regular pastuerized store-bought milk into an enzyme-rich treat!I actually cultured a quart of half & half and got a really creamy, mild, delicious and thick yogurt! If you strain this just a little bit, you end up with delicious, probiotic-rich cream cheese (raw cheesecake anyone? Or perhaps a smoked salmon-cream cheese roll up?)

3) It saves money! Organic yogurt can cost up to $5.00 per quart.  You can buy an entire half-gallon of organic milk for about the much, which means you can make your own for half the price.  By adding your culture week after week you can eventually pay for the price of the culture with the savings.

4) Did I mention it was easy? College students could keep this going in their dorm (bootleg a quart or two of whole milk from the cafeteria and culture it in your dorm room!!!), busy moms can quickly and easily make a batch in about 2 minutes and forget about it until the next day. No heating milk, cooling it to just the right temperature, then configuring some way to keep it warm, etc.  No adding skim milk powder or gelatin to thicken it, because it thickens right up (especially when you add cream or half & half). 

5) The taste and texture are amazing, even my husband liked it!  This is reason enough to stick with Matsoni.  I’ve tried kefir, fil mjolk, and regular yogurt and the taste is just too “off” for my husband. I recently make the Indian cucumber yogurt dip called raitaand my husband raved about it.  My kids love the Matsoni mixed with fruit sauce (just boiled down blueberries or peaches; no sugar added) for a fun and easy “fruit on the bottom” breakfast.  The texture (especially when using half and half) is thick and pudding-like and once the culture is set (about 12-18 hours for me) there was absolutely no “runniness” to it.

If you missed my recent contest to win your own yogurt culture, there’s good news.  Thursday, September 17th I’ll be announcing the winner for the contest along with a special coupon code for discounts at Cultures for Health. This offer is limited, so check in when I announce the winner so you can get the deal!

This is what Works for Me when it comes to Organic & Thrifty Real Food!

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22 Responses to “Matsoni: The Counterculteral Yogurt”

  1. Sarah Faith Identicon Icon Sarah Faith says:

    I read on culturesforhealth.com that this kind of yogurt has some cautions and extra steps when using raw milk. Do you know what those are? I am interested in this, it sounds fairly foolproof and I especially would like a thicker homemade yogurt, but I’m nervous now because we only buy raw milk. What is the special treatment?

  2. Sarah Identicon Icon Sarah says:

    Interesting . . . I’ve just now gotten the hang of making it in my crockpot every week, but this would be even easier! :)

    Best,
    Sarah

  3. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Sarah,

    I know! I had just sprung for an on-sale yogurt maker a few months ago as well, but it seems like I still wasn’t getting consistant results and the heating and cooling process just took forever it seemed. Good for you for figuring the crockpot process out! I say “whatever works!”
    :)

  4. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Great point I neglected to mention:

    You do have to pastuerize the raw milk first (which you need to do when making regular yogurt anyway) to kill competing bacteria which might, over time, weaken the Matsoni culture.

    My compromise (because we are all raw milk drinkers here too) is to buy organic half & half that is pasteurized already (since it’s cheaper than the raw milk) and use this exclusively for the Matsoni. That way I reserve my good raw milk for drinking raw and not “wasting” its rawness if I”m going to have to pasteurize it anyway. According to my calculations, it’s still a significant savings over buying organic yogurt. And the Matsoni cultured in half and half is SO good and creamy and it literally has the consistancy of mayonaise! Just ate some plain with no sweetener for breakfast this morning and it was amazing!

  5. Hmmmmm, I might need to try this.

  6. Alyss Identicon Icon Alyss says:

    Carrie, what’s the difference between matsoni and kefir? Do you use some of the previous batch to culture new stuff like with yogurt or is there a “mother/scoby”? Is it just bacteria, like yogurt, or is there yeast in it too? It sounds really interesting but I’ve never heard of it before. I’ll go do some googling! :)
    Alyss

  7. Betsy Identicon Icon Betsy says:

    That’s a good tip about the half & half. I just hope I can find some that’s not ultra-pasteurized. I’ve got time to look, though. It’s still too warm in south TX to be countercultural. My coconut oil is still liquid! Can’t wait for some cooler weather.

  8. angi Identicon Icon angi says:

    I will have to try this

  9. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Alyss,

    While I’m not sure exactly what blend of “bugs” make up Matsoni (shame on me for not researching a bit better!), it certainly doesn’t need a grain/scoby….it’s takes about 1 TBS per cup of milk to culture. I hadn’t heard of it before reading the Cultures for Health website, but I think I’m hooked!

    Carrie@OT

    P.S. Do let me know what you find out!!!

  10. Wow. That’s so easy even I can do it! lol And I love the term “counterculture” for yogurt cultures. And thanks for pointing out that it’s a money saving enterprise! :-)

  11. allison Identicon Icon allison says:

    I have been making matsoni from raw milk. You only need to make a pure/ pasturized starter each time. You don’t need to pasturize all the milk. It does involve more time than I’d like, and so far I’ve not been pleased with the results. The culture is very thick on completion, but once I stir the cream back in it breaks into clumps and liquidy parts. And continues to “break down” after being in the fidge. Tastes fine, but not what I was looking for nor what I think it’s supposed to be. I want a smooth creamy texture. I’ve contemplated purchasing organic milk and seeing if it worked better, but then it wouldn’t be cost effective and I might as well purchase organic whole yogurt. Any thoughts? Maybe I should try pasturizing the whole amount of milk, then at least I could avoid the homogenized milk.

  12. monica Identicon Icon monica says:

    thank you for sharing this information. i am a yogurt devotee and have been making it the cumbersome way with some irregularity, and supplementing with nancy’s organic during periods of laziness. i supplement my dog’s food with yogurt a couple times a week as well and we consume a fair amount overall.

    my question for you is this: as a source of gut-beneficial bacteria/probiotic health, does it compare as well to yogurt? are the cultures similar or is it a different strain of bacterias? does that make sense?

    as someone who is trying to limit the source of dairy fat, can i use 1% or 2% milk to make matsoni?

    thanks in advance for any help you can offer. :)

  13. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Hi Monica,

    I really enjoy the Matsoni. It is full of live and active cultures, just as the regular. In fact, it is also known as “Caspian Sea Yogurt”. It’s so easy too!

    I have not tried it with low fat milks. From what I’ve learned in my study of nutrition, dietary fats from vegetable sources (especially ones that are hydrogenated and highly processed) should be avoided, but fats from animals raised organically on pasture actually contain cancer-fighting CLA (conjugated-linoleic acid) which in some studies shows effective in weight loss! The fatty acids in good quality dairy are antimocrobial, antifungal and are short-chain which means that they are absorbed directly in the small intestine for quick energy rather than being stored. (This is all info from Dr. Mary Enig, internationally-renown nutritionist and biochemist, and author of _Know Your Fats_).

    So I would encourage you to bar the guilt with full-fat dairy products, as long as they are from organic sources! (I know that goes against popular nutritional opinion, but the dary industry makes more money off of us if they can sell off the cream separately and sell us the skim milk… with whole milk there’s much less profit margin…but that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me).

    Besides, I just don’ t think it would be as thick without the extra fat.

    Often low fat yogurts contain added stabilizers, gums, or powdered nonfat milk to make it thicker, but the matsoni is pretty thick on its own.

    Great idea about giving it to the dog!!!!

  14. Hi Carrie,
    I just wanted to share with you that I bought the Matsoni culture this week and finished my first batch of yogurt today and I am VERY pleased. I used to make goat milk yogurt and it was always so runny and I personally, have never liked yogurt at all. But…I LOVE THIS!!! It turned out SO thick and creamy and I actually love the taste plan all by itself. I can take a whole big spoonful of it. I think it seems a lot like sour cream and will use in replace of sour cream for just about any recipe that calls for it. The kids even like it, all but one, and I made them eat a lot of it today since they did get candy today. Even the little guy had a spoonful this morning and a spoonful this evening before bed and he’s the one that doesn’t really like it. Thank you so much for turning me onto this.
    BTW…I used organic half & half to make it. I love it!
    I also order water kefir grains but have yet to try them. They are still fermenting.

  15. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Susan Sophia,

    Wow, that is so great! Thanks for reporting back your results! It’s so easy! I love it too!

  16. Alma Identicon Icon Alma says:

    You can’t make thick cultured dairy with out fat, and yes a mentioned above it is very good for you. My family has a history of consuming huge amounts of whole dairy and butter (organic dairy farmming ancestors) and not one is fat. Actually my great gradfather, after selling his farm and moving to the city when he was old, adn drinking beer, became in general pretty unhealthy and sort of overweight.
    Almost all yogourt in the U.S. has pectin added to thicken it, even if it is whole milk. White mountain does not, it doesn’t make the best starter though unfortunately. In Canada the standard yogourt does not have thickeners, much nicer, don’t have to buy starters.
    The consistency of yogourt depends greatly on what the goats are eating, i have made yogourt which was like sour cream, and some that was like lassi (watered down yogourt drink from India) If they graze on high altitude plants and get to eat trees and berries they should have a high cream content. Infact you can make yogourt without pasteurizing OR inoculating, the enzynmes and bacteria are there.
    Not all milk will do this of course, you may want to test with only a 250 ml jar to see if it works with your milk. Ideally it should produce this super thick consistency. The best yogourt i have had i made this way from mountain grazing goats goats milk.
    Most milk will just get sour, sometimes good sometimes quite unpleasant depending on the milk and your taste! I still use everything for baking or soaking of grains, when it goes too far or i have too much it goes to the dog. There’s usually enough milk that he gets it every day.
    Allison: Your matsoni is ‘breaking down’ because it curdled, if the acid content is high enough it starts curdling it’s self like cheese. You could pour off the whey (use it to cook grains, feed to dogs) and it sould be like ‘greek yogourt’ which is thick because it is strained.
    Most yogourt will separate when left long enough or if it is warm, the bacteria keep eating the sugars and producing acids (basically bacteria pee!) which curdle it. I even see this variance with commercial yogourt from batch to batch, some is sweet and smooth and does not separate much, and anotehr from the same company may be more sour and separate more whey.
    Although i’ve never heard fo the practice of stirring cream back in, i mean i do it in my bowl but not with the whole jar. That might be the problem.
    However i have not made matsoni, i’ve been searching for a culture and found this site in the process. I have certainly always heard that it should be thick and creamy. I usually heat the milk though for yogourt, maybe this is necessary if you’re not making ‘all natural’ yogourt.
    Matsoni has been used in Japan for several hundred years, brought from western Asia probably with other trading that was going on.
    The culture consists of: Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris (also present in filmjölk, another thick custardy one) and Acetobacter orientalis.

  17. Alma Identicon Icon Alma says:

    Hmm, posted before disappeared. Anyway, Alison, you milk may separate and break down because it has cultured too long or was too warm. All milk varies, some i have incubated for 4 hours and some overnight to get the results i like. When the bacteria multiply and excrete acids, the acid curdles the milk in the same way lemon or vinegar curdles milk for cheese. Too high of sugar content in the milk can feed the sugar too quickly, same result. Milk varies in sugar quantity, i know human and horse are the highest but you are not using those.
    Once i made kefir with rice milk, i was a teenager thought it was necessary to add some hney to feed it, not thinking about the starch in the rice. It was about 70% whey!
    Also, breaking up the protein structure by stirring can cause this, not sure of the scientific reason. My husbands father told him it was the spit from their spoon collecting when they were little!

  18. Alma Identicon Icon Alma says:

    by the way, what happens in a house with wood heat, or no heat at this time where the temperature gets much cooler at night? There’s really no warm place for it unless i put it my little cooler overnight (actually my yogourt incubator), but that won’t last all night. I have little luck making kefir unless it’s the middle of summer, then it’s way thicker than yogourt.
    I would like it to work out though because i am excited about matsoni, have been wanting to get a start for a while, i like thick cultures, especially if they go for a long time and get more digested. I suspect i might have problems. Kefir gets very unpleasant if it doesn’t get the right temperature. For this reason i usually make yogourt, it’s much less time i have to control the temperature and less room for error.

  19. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Good point, Alma….the temperature issues is the biggest variable I find when making yogurt, and that’s why it’s great that there are so many different varieties that can fit into any person’s situation. i would go for a greek yogurt culture if I had a really had a warm home, and the matsoni is great for colder homes.

    Carrie

  20. carrie Identicon Icon carrie says:

    Thanks for the great info!

  21. Alma Identicon Icon Alma says:

    well, the problem is that i have both! Warm in the day, cool at night. That’s why i do short culturing thermophillic ones…much less time i have to worry about it. It can be done with sun heat too, but you have to wrap it up to protect it from direct sun. A friend recommends a dark sleeping bag. I just find that i have a better chance of having consistent temperature for a short time.
    I heard that filmjolk and such will culture in a cellar which is consistent, but that didn’t seem to be warm enough.
    If matsoni works in the cellar i would be delighted to try. Maybe when we build a better insulated house!

  22. Alma Identicon Icon Alma says:

    heh, or just really cold, it’s been a weird year, mostly warm now though.

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