culturingHow much do you know about yogurt? Did you know that the first yogurt was a chance discovery? A happy coincidence of milk and bacteria. Between 5000-9000 BCE, ruminants had been domesticated and were kept as a source of meat. During this time, humans discovered the art of dairying and soon a method for changing the flavor of milk and prolonging it’s keep time. It is speculated that shepherds first discovered yogurt in the stomach of a ruminant that had eaten a specific plant known to host a specific type of bacteria that can feed on lactose. This bacteria mixed with milk, the right temperature, and time and created yogurt.

I like the word culture. It imparts the feeling of development, of something becoming more than it was. Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.” It is empowering that everyday we are culturing ourselves here at Sterling College! The Merriam-Webster’s biology definition is “the act or process of cultivating living material (bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media.” In the lab, this process generally uses agar plates, but with milk products, the milk is the nutrient media. The bacteria we are culturing has developed a friendly relationship with humans over time. The lactic acid bacteria that are used in culturing dairy products produces lactic acid from the sugars found in milk, this lactic acid serving two purposes: to add flavor as well as to help preserve the milk by creating acidic conditions.

In the family of dairy products there are many from which to choose. Greek yogurt, Turkish kefir, and French cheese are a few of these. Many cultures have their own way of processing dairy resulting in variations of flavor depending on what animal the milk came from, the type of bacteria used in a culture, and the actual process of making the end product. Some can be difficult, like aged cheeses that require specific temperatures to heat the milk and careful considerations to the environment that it is allowed to age in. Other products can be very simple. Butter is made simply by agitating cream until the fats bond into a cohesive structure. Cultured butter lends added flavor to the butter from the work of bacteria converting lactose into lactic acid. The culturing process adds time and requires a starter of some sort. Some starters include store bought starter or another cultured dairy product, such as yogurt or buttermilk, can be used, but they must contain the beneficial lactic acid bacteria.

In addition to cultured butter, which was served to the community at dinner, the Value-Added Products class made a slew of dairy products through the day. Below are some of our accomplishments.

culturingCultured Butter We made two types of cultured butter using cream that was cultured with a buttermilk and sour cream starter.

culturingPaneer or Lemon Cheese is a fresh cheese that uses lemon juice instead of rennet to curdle the milk.

culturingFromage Blanc is a fresh cheese that was cultured for seventy-two hours before draining off the whey.

Other products that we made in class included ricotta, Bulgarian and Greek yogurt, and vanilla apple cider syrup ice cream.

Written by Taylor Anderson.

Filed Under: Blog Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems