Bulgarian Yogurt Facts
Bulgarian yogurt is one of the things that make Bulgarians proud to call themselves Bulgarians; it is their exclusive invention and heritage that dates back many centuries. A mildly sour-tasting yogurt, kiselo mlyako is undoubtedly the best and the healthiest of all dairy products that are available to consumers nowadays.
The western world calls it Bulgarian yogurt but in its homeland, Bulgaria, it’s called sour milk. Whatever the name, this wonderful probiotic food has impeccable ancestry - it is believed to have been known for at least 4000 years.
The Bulgarian yogurt comes under the general category of yogurts which contain live bacteria. For yogurt to be considered of the Bulgarian variety, it needs to be made with two specific starter bacteria, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus (often simply called Lactobacillus bulgaricus) and Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus (often shortened to Streptococcus thermophilus). Most yogurts contain these two as they are such excellent starters but most "ordinary" yogurt has other good bacteria added as well.
It is the particular combination of bacteria that characterizes the thickness, acidity, taste and aroma of the yogurt. Kiselo mlyako's uniqueness lies in the peculiarities in the climate of the region and the very specific way in which it is prepared – using a combination of the two strains: Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus. The Streptococcus Thermophilus bacteria goes into action first and prepares the perfect environment for Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, which in turn starts multiplying and slowly turns the milk into yogurt.
People who have tasted yogurt from a dozen countries outside the Balkans always find that none of them tastes anything like the Bulgarian variety. Bulgarians completely agree that their yogurt is the best – some 400 000 tons are consumed every year in the country.
Many people ask if it is true that the famous Lactobacillus Bulgaricus bacterium is found only in Bulgaria. The correct answer is no - you can grow the bacteria in different parts of the world (in fact many people do).
What is unique about the Bulgarian strain is that only in Bulgaria it preserves its qualities in further generations of the same strain, i.e. if you use your previous yogurt to start your new batch. If this is how you make your yogurt outside Bulgaria, you will notice that after a batch or two, the yogurt loses its unique taste, physical appearance and qualities. Why this happens, scientists are not sure. It is often contributed to the unique climate of the region but there’s more to creating the perfect conditions for Lactobacillus Bulgaricus than the environment.
So how can you prepare Bulgarian yogurt abroad? The
answer is simple – use a dried-freeze yogurt starter
culture with live Lactobacillus Bulgaricus that was
produced in Bulgaria. Use a new culture with every batch
of yogurt you make to preserve the unique taste and
qualities of the yogurt. In this way you can achieve the
traditional taste of kiselo mlyako, similar to the one
our grandmothers used to make, guaranteed.
Buy yogurt starter culture with live Lactobacillus Bulgaricus.
Bulgaria's long and affectionate relationship with yogurt dates back to the Thracians, ancient inhabitants of the Bulgarian lands, when stock-breeders placed sheep's milk in lambskin bags around their waists and fermented yogurt using their own body heat. The word 'yogurt' is derived from the words for 'thick' and 'milk' in ancient Thracian. But being credited as the inventor is not Bulgaria's only source of yogurt pride; it is also credited with producing the healthiest yogurt in Europe, thanks to a unique bacteria native to the country.
In the early 1900s, a Bulgarian scientist called Dr. Stamen Grigorov, found an agent causing Bulgarian yogurt fermentation - a specific bacillus. Grigorov went on to pinpoint two more bacteria: a Streptobacillus and a harmful Streptoccus thermophilus which coexisted with that Lactobacillus in what appeared to be a perfect symbiosis. He also discovered that these two bacteria are not part of the micro-flora that exists in the human intestinal tract; however, they turn out to be very beneficial to it when introduced in it.
Interested in Dr. Grigorov's discoveries, another scientist, the Russian Ilya Mechnikov, a Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology and Medicine, went on to discover that more people lived to the age of 100 in Bulgaria than in any of the 36 other countries he studied. He directly linked this to the country's most traditional food - yogurt. According to Metchnikoff's research, the aging process results from the activity of putrefactive (proteolytic) microbes producing toxic substances in the large bowel. He knew that milk fermented with lactic-acid bacteria inhibits the growth of proteolytic bacteria because of the low pH produced by the fermentation of lactose. Based on these facts, Metchnikoff proposed that consumption of fermented milk would "seed" the intestine with harmless lactic-acid bacteria and decrease the intestinal pH and that this would suppress the growth of proteolytic bacteria, that he called "Bulgarian Bacillus" (read more about Lactobacillus Bulgaricus).
Since then, yogurt has been credited with having a number of healthy effects on the human body, including reducing cholesterol, reducing unhealthy bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract, increasing calcium levels and producing cancer-suppressing compounds.
Here's a short list to outline some benefits of consuming Bulgarian yogurt:
Yogurt is identified as a reason for longevity. Bulgaria is one of the countries with the biggest number of people aged 100 years and older.
Bulgarian yogurt is one of the best probiotics out there. Probiotic means ''for life'' and refers to living organisms that can result in a health benefit when eaten in adequate amounts.
Yogurt is an excellent source of "good" bacteria that is needed in the digestive tract. Active live cultures are basically good bacteria that are necessary for the body to function at its best. These good bacteria prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that cause bacterial infections and diseases. Healthy levels of good bacteria also promote digestive health and boost the immune system.
Yogurt strengthens the immune system and helps prevents tumor growth.
Its high concentration of calcium also helps against osteoporosis and reduces cholesterol levels.
It reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
Active cultures help certain gastrointestinal conditions including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhea, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, H. pylori infection and many others.
Bulgarian yogurt is organic yogurt and organic yogurt is an excellent diet food. Not only yogurt is nutritionally sound but it also makes you feel fuller faster. It is a good source of proteins too.