The elixir of long life. In Greece, yoghurt isn't just eaten plain or with garlic and cucumber as in the famous tzatziki, but is also considered an aphrodisiac when served with honey and walnuts. Yoghurt is milk that has been thickened through the action of a special fermentation. It is one of the legendary foods of the Mediterranean and has been known since antiquity for its strengthening and healing properties. In ancient Greece, doctors prescribed yoghurt for many ailments, especially diarrhoea and other disturbances of the digestive system.

It is made of high quality fresh sheep's milk, and of course due to its freshness, all of the milk's fat is transferred to it. However, this is also the reason why it is very tasty! Many producers of the Hania Prefecture sell their 'home made traditional yoghurt' in both dairy shops and supermarkets, where you find it in re-usable clay pots - a must when in Crete.


Traditional yoghurt is made in the spring up until June. There were two reasons for the seasonal production. Sheep produce milk from the moment they lamb until the summer, when the heat and the shortness of plants to graze on naturally will condition them to dry up. The heat of a Cretan summer was never ideal for dairy production. Yoghurt needs to be kept cool once it is set, and until the 1950ís refrigeration was rare outside cities. The storage cellars, cool enough from Autumn to spring, loose their chill in the summer. 


Therefore, yoghurt was made immediately after the milking, when the temperature of the milk is the same as the animalís and ideal for the addition of the lactic acid bacteria that turns it into yoghurt. The shepherd would simply add a little yoghurt from the last batch as starter to the fresh milk. He would keep the containers covered and warm, probably in the room or hut where he made his cheese. When people began boiling the milk that was used to make yoghurt, they knew they had to wait until it cooled back down to 'sheep' temperature before adding the starter.


Traditional yoghurt is set in terracotta bowls glazed on the inside, still a popular way to set yoghurt today, and with good reason, the ceramic bowls are porous enabling the whey (water content) to leak out slowly, by beading on the sides of the bowl. By loosing water the yoghurt gets thicker, and this natural evaporating also cools the yoghurt. Yoghurt is an addition to every meal scooped over rice pilaf, dolloped in tomato sauce, served with stewed and fried vegetables, meatballs, and grilled meats. It is used as a sauce which is then baked, over chicken and certain beef dishes setting and thickening like béchamel. It is used as a condiment, stirred with shredded cucumbers and garlic to make the well-known dip tzatziki. Swirled with honey or spoon sweets, yoghurt is simply delicious. 


Yoghurt's active bacteria act as a natural antibiotic for a wide range of infections, but without the harmful side effects of antibiotics. It's been proven that yoghurt kills harmful bacteria. Recent research has also shown that yoghurt strengthens the immune system because it promotes the body's ability to produce more substances that fight harmful bacteria. Yoghurt then has a double action against infections, it eliminates dangerous bacteria and strengthens the immune system. Greek doctors even today will always recommend sufferers from any stomach or digestive disorder to consume yoghurt helping with stomach ulcers and protecting the stomach from toxic substances like tobacco smoke and alcohol.


Always check the information on the yoghurt container to make sure it contains live cultures. Yoghurt in which the live cultures have been eliminated through pasteurization loses its healing properties. Similarly, you should prefer whole yoghurt to reduced-fat varieties. Skimmed yoghurt whose fat has been removed loses many of its vital substances, which protect the stomach. Some people are allergic to cow's milk, they then should try yoghurt made from sheep's milk. It has been proven that people who do not tolerate milk because they are allergic to dairy proteins because they lack the enzyme that aids in the lactose breakdown, can eat sheep's milk yoghurt without a problem.


If you stay out in the sun too long and burn, try using yoghurt on the sunburned area and it will soon take the pain and redness away.




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