The Culture Test: Seven Small-Batch Plain Yogurts Worth Trying

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
December 30, 2015 9:08 pm Last Updated: January 5, 2016 12:01 pm

In “Yogurt Culture: A Savory Tradition,” I explored the health merits of yogurt, which is eaten as a savory food—without added sugars or preservatives—in many traditional cuisines around the world. To get started on the conversion to savory yogurt, here are some locally made, small-batch yogurts I think you should try (check websites for retail locations; prices vary according to retailer):

Small batch, made-in-New-York yogurts. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Small batch, made-in-New-York yogurts. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Chunkiest and Freshest Tasting

Culture’s highly strained process results in a robust yogurt with a granular texture, great for mixing into food. I tried putting it into soup, ate it with roasted vegetables, and mixed it into some Mexican rice and beans. The yogurt readily improved each item with its creamy goodness.

The highlight is its fresh and clean aftertaste; the tartness disappears as the yogurt melts in your mouth.

$3.50–$5, cultureny.com 

Funkiest

If you’re the type who loves funky cheeses, this yogurt will delight your taste buds. Trimona Yogurt was founded by Atanas Valev, an agricultural engineer from Bulgaria who missed having yogurts like back home when he first came to work in the United States, and thus spent the next 18 years perfecting his recipe. 

Valev explained that an authentic Bulgarian yogurt is unstrained (so as to keep all the nutrients in the whey), and tastes tart yet light. When you first taste Trimona yogurt, the initial note is a distinct fermented taste that’s reminiscent of cheese, which then gives way to hints of sour. 

A colleague from Russia tried it and remarked that the taste was similar to the sour cream that his grandmother used to make. Valev said that homemade flavor in part comes from the combination of live cultures that he selected from Bulgaria (fun fact: Bulgaria is the natural habitat of a particular strain of yogurt-making bacteria, named Lactobacillus Bulgaricus). 

The other factor is the milk, which comes from only pasture-grazing cow breeds: Jersey, Guernsey, and Swiss brown. These cows produce milk with A2 protein, which is good news for people who are allergic to the A1 protein found in the milk from conventional Holstein dairy cows.

$5.39–$6.99, trimonayogurt.com

Perfect for a Dip

White Moustache’s signature Persian yogurt has a consistency that’s less viscous than sour cream, but has that same silky texture. It makes a fantastic alternative to the rich, heavy chip dips we’re used to eating. For a more subtle version of sour cream and onion, get the moosir version, with an Iranian shallot called Leopoldia. The shallots are pungent, with a tinge of bite, but the cool yogurt mellows out everything. White Moustache’s co-founder Homa Dashtaki said a quintessential Iranian comfort food dish is potato chips smothered with moosir. 

$5.49, thewhitemoustache.com 

Pucker Up

Black Sheep Yogurt is high up on the sourness scale. Made with sheep’s milk from a sheep dairy farm in upstate New York, the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, the yogurt might make some wince from the sourness but those who prefer their yogurt to be tangy and with a punch will love this. The texture is thick and smooth.

$3.25, oldchathamsheepherding.com 

Creamiest

Sohha Yogurt wins for the creamiest, custard-like consistency. Sohha makes two kinds of plain yogurts: original and tangy. The original has a light, pleasant tartness that grows more intense as it stays in your mouth, while the tangy flavor dominates your palate with a sharp dose of sour. Fout explained that he created a tangy version to suit customers who wanted a more intense flavor. I thought the original made for a perfect cup of plain yogurt to eat on its own, its piquant quality inviting spoonful after spoonful.

$3.99, sohhayogurt.net 

Most Creative

Blue Hill Yogurt comes from Blue Hill Farm, the same place that gave rise to chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurants. All the flavors are vegetable-focused: sweet potato, beet, tomato (OK, that’s a fruit), and carrot. 

As a chef would do, the yogurts are infused with spices, honey, fruit, and other ingredients to bring out the natural essence of each vegetable. I especially loved the ones that drew an artful balance between sweet, savory, and tart, like the beet flavor, which included red wine vinegar and raspberries to give a subtly sweet aftertaste; and the sweet potato, enhanced with some sea salt, molasses, and maple sugar.

$1.47 to $2.99, bluehillyogurt.com 

Light and Barely Tangy

If you like your yogurt to have a gentle flavor, Greecologies is your choice. Its barely there tang makes a great companion to the savory toppings of vegetables, herbs, and olive oil. The combination also makes it an ideal meal replacement. This will keep you satisfied and nourished.

Greecologies makes its yogurt the way it’s done traditionally in Greece: milk is strained using cotton bags (as opposed to the centrifuge machines that big manufacturers today use), and if you eat in, the yogurt is served in clay pots.

$7.25, greecologies.com