PNG images: Yogurt

Yogurt, yoghurt, or yoghourt is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as "yogurt cultures". Fermentation of lactose by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt its texture and characteristic tart flavor. Cow's milk is commonly available worldwide, and, as such, is the milk most commonly used to make yogurt. Milk from water buffalo, goats, ewes, mares, camels, and yaks is also used to produce yogurt where available locally. Milk used may be homogenised or not (milk distributed in many parts of the world is homogenised); both types may be used, with substantially different results.

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Yogurt is produced using a culture of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria. In addition, other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are also sometimes added during or after culturing yogurt. Some countries require yogurt to contain a certain amount of colony-forming units of bacteria; in China, for example, the requirement for the number of lactobacillus bacteria is at least 1 × 106 CFU per milliliter.

To produce yogurt, milk is first heated, usually to about 85 °C (185 °F), to denature the milk proteins so that they do not form curds. After heating, the milk is allowed to cool to about 45 °C (113 °F). The bacterial culture is mixed in, and a temperature of 45 °C (113 °F) is maintained for four to twelve hours to allow fermentation.

Analysis of the L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus genome indicates that the bacterium may have originated on the surface of a plant. Milk may have become spontaneously and unintentionally exposed to it through contact with plants, or bacteria may have been transferred from the udder of domestic milk-producing animals. The origins of yogurt are unknown, but it is thought to have been invented in Mesopotamia around 5000 BC. In ancient Indian records, the combination of yogurt and honey is called "the food of the gods". Persian traditions hold that "Abraham owed his fecundity and longevity to the regular ingestion of yogurt".

 

The cuisine of ancient Greece included a dairy product known as oxygala which is believed to have been a form of yogurt. Galen (AD 129 – c. 200/c. 216) mentioned that oxygala was consumed with honey, similar to the way thickened Greek yogurt is eaten today. The oldest writings mentioning yogurt are attributed to Pliny the Elder, who remarked that certain "barbarous nations" knew how "to thicken the milk into a substance with an agreeable acidity". The use of yogurt by medieval Turks is recorded in the books Diwan Lughat al-Turk by Mahmud Kashgari and Kutadgu Bilig by Yusuf Has Hajib written in the 11th century. Both texts mention the word "yogurt" in different sections and describe its use by nomadic Turks. The earliest yogurts were probably spontaneously fermented by wild bacteria in goat skin bags.

Some accounts suggest that Indian emperor Akbar's cooks would flavor yogurt with mustard seeds and cinnamon. Another early account of a European encounter with yogurt occurs in French clinical history: Francis I suffered from a severe diarrhea which no French doctor could cure. His ally Suleiman the Magnificent sent a doctor, who allegedly cured the patient with yogurt. Being grateful, the French king spread around the information about the food which had cured him.

Until the 1900s, yogurt was a staple in diets of people in the Russian Empire (and especially Central Asia and the Caucasus), Western Asia, South Eastern Europe/Balkans, Central Europe, and India. Stamen Grigorov (1878–1945), a Bulgarian student of medicine in Geneva, first examined the microflora of the Bulgarian yogurt. In 1905, he described it as consisting of a spherical and a rod-like lactic acid-producing bacteria. In 1907, the rod-like bacterium was called Bacillus bulgaricus (now Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus). The Russian Nobel laureate and biologist Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (also known as Élie Metchnikoff), from the Institut Pasteur in Paris, was influenced by Grigorov's work and hypothesized that regular consumption of yogurt was responsible for the unusually long lifespans of Bulgarian peasants. Believing Lactobacillus to be essential for good health, Mechnikov worked to popularize yogurt as a foodstuff throughout Europe.

Isaac Carasso industrialized the production of yogurt. In 1919, Carasso, who was from Ottoman Salonika, started a small yogurt business in Barcelona, Spain, and named the business Danone ("little Daniel") after his son. The brand later expanded to the United States under an Americanized version of the name: Dannon. Yogurt with added fruit jam was patented in 1933 by the Radlická Mlékárna dairy in Prague.

Yogurt was introduced to the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century, influenced by Élie Metchnikoff's The Prolongation of Life; Optimistic Studies (1908); it was available in tablet form for those with digestive intolerance and for home culturing. It was popularised by John Harvey Kellogg at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where it was used both orally and in enemas, and later by Armenian immigrants Sarkis and Rose Colombosian, who started "Colombo and Sons Creamery" in Andover, Massachusetts in 1929.Colombo Yogurt was originally delivered around New England in a horse-drawn wagon inscribed with the Armenian word "madzoon" which was later changed to "yogurt", the Turkish name of the product, as Turkish was the lingua franca between immigrants of the various Near Eastern ethnicities who were the main consumers at that time. Yogurt's popularity in the United States was enhanced in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was presented as a health food. By the late 20th century, yogurt had become a common American food item and Colombo Yogurt was sold in 1993 to General Mills, which discontinued the brand in 2010.

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