Summer encapsulated is a tub of Greek yoghurt mixed with fresh honey, eaten while looking out over an azure Aegean sea, and listening to cicadas greeting the morning.
Greek yoghurt is made extra creamy by boiling off some of the watery liquid.
It is made extra tasty by filtering out the whey. This is the clear, runny liquid found on top of cheaper yoghurts.
Where conventional yoghurt manufacture makes around 1 litre of yoghurt for each litre of milk, Greek yoghurt is more concentrated, with only 250ml or so from each litre of milk.
If you talk to the old ladies who used to sell yoghurt from skins or clay pots by the side of the road in rural Crete or mainland Greece, they'll tell you that proper Greek yoghurt should be made from sheeps' milk, as this give an extra tang not present in cows' milk. They will also tell you that commercial yoghurts are too thick and too sweet to be called proper Greek yoghurt.
Most of the commercial brands — Total by Fage, for example — know their audience better than the black-clad women of the hills above Thessaloniki, however, and they make their so-called 'Greek yoghurt' with cow milk, with its own sugar – lactose. The fat content is fairly high, at 8 - 10 percent.
If you believe those black-clad women, then you will accept Wiki's claim that 'Greek Yoghurt' has come to mean any type of strained, enriched yoghurt. I tend to agree with that, as the Total brand name by the company Fage has come to be synonymous with Greek yoghurt and their product is made from cow milk and is a little sweeter than the traditional farm-made yoghurt.
Even if you don't like yoghurt, and hate honey, there are few who can resist the special combination of creaminess, sweetness, slight sourness and sunshine that come from a mixture of honey and Greek yoghurt.
Fun facts about strained yoghurt
Unlike ordinary yoghurts, which contain the whey, strained yoghurts won't separate or curdle if you cook with them.
According to Fage, 2 litres of milk is needed to make each 500g pot of yoghurt
Greek yoghurt does not freeze well, but if frozen, it can be used in small quantities in recipes
Fage is still a family-run company and they claim to be market leader worldwide in strained yoghurt products. The company claims a 58 percent market share in Greece for yoghurt products.
Although strained yoghurts are thicker than ordinary yoghurts, larger international companies have developed products called 'Greek-style' which use thickening agents to achieve the same texture. Few would argue that the taste is the same.
Making strained yoghurt
if you want to make a similar product, then there are instructions on the web. Also here on E2 (http://bean-sprouts.blogspot.com/2007/11/how-to-make-greek-yogurt.html)
The first step is to boil your milk. You could boil it for an hour or so to reduce it down and remove some of the liquid, or just a few minutes to kill off any unwelcome microbes. Allow the milk to cool to around 50°C (120°F) which, apparently is the ideal temperature for yoghurt cultures.
Add some live yoghurt culture — either from a previous batch of home-brew, or from shop-bought 'live' yoghurt. Use about a dessert spoon-ful to half a litre of milk, or even less.
Pour the mix into a thermos flask, or other insulated vessel. First, of course, make sure your thermos is free from bad microbes. Boiling water will do that. Seal and leave the milk overnight. It should thicken. It should not smell bad.
At this stage you have ordinary yoghurt. But it's best to cool it down in the fridge. Warm yoghurt does not taste so good.
To get the strained, whey-free variety which Wiki tells us is called Greek yoghurt, you need another couple of steps.
Pour the thickened yoghurt into a muslin cloth, tie it off and suspend it over a bowl. After a couple of hours, the bowl should contain a lot of colourless liquid, while the yoghurt has become even thicker, creamier and refuses to pour.
You can leave it longer than a couple of hours, but then it gets even thicker, eventually becoming a kind of cream cheese. If you like that kind of thing, then by all means add herbs, garlic and other flavours to mimic Boursin or other creamy cheese products.
Sources, further information