Fermented Milk Products from All Over the World. Matsoni (Georgia) Caucasus area
Matsoni is a type of yogurt, or soured milk, specific to the Caucasus area. In Georgia, it is called matsoni, while in Armenia it is known as matsun, although they are the same product. To make matsoni, any kind of milk will work, as long as it is fresh. It is believed that people in the area consumed this type soured milk for centuries, as the first time matsoni was mentioned in writings was in documents that come from the 11th century. But, there are high chances that this type of yogurt to be much older than this. It is said that people soured their milk in cold cellars, to use it later on for the making of butter and cheese. It was also consumed a lot as it is, as soured milk was available for longer than fresh milk, especially in an area where temperatures can be rather high during the summer.
If undisturbed, the matsoni has a rather thick consistency, but once you stir it with a spoon, it becomes more liquid as the coagulated matter breaks, and it becomes easier to drink. Matsoni is not just used as drinkable yogurt, as it is also appreciated as an ingredient for sauces, in desserts, and it is even used to marinate meat. So, it is very versatile due to its mild tangy taste and sweet flavor. It is can easily resemble with the regular yogurt when it comes to taste, although it has a more liquid consistency.
The most important bacteria in the fermentation process that will turn milk into matsoni are Lactobacillus delbrueckii and Lactococcus. The fermentation process occurs best at a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius or 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit. But, unlike other fermented milk products, the matsoni doesn’t have to be left to ferment for too long. Just 4 hours are enough, so you need to pay attention to this aspect, because the longer the matsoni ferments, the sourer it will get. If you made matsoni, you can keep a small batch to culture fresh milk and create another batch of matsoni. So you can enjoy this over and over again.
You will need to have a gallon of fresh milk, raw or pasteurized. Still, don’t use UHT milk as it is not good for the preparation of matsoni. And you will also need two tablespoons of previously made matsoni or sour cream. Put the milk in a pot and bring it close to the boiling point, at 90 degrees Celsius. Then immediately turn the heat off and allow the milk to cool down until it reaches a temperature of 40 of 50 degrees Celsius. If there is a thin layer of milk skin on the top, remove it, and add the tablespoons of matsoni or sour cream. Use a whisk to stir the mixture, making sure that the two components merged together well. Then pour the content into glass contains, preferably jars. Cover the jars with a clean cloth and keep them warm for the next 4 hours. You can do so by wrapping them in towels, to prevent the heat from escaping. Once these 4 hours pass, your milk must have thickened a lot and look more like jelly. At this point, you need to put your jars with matsoni in the fridge, to stop the fermentation process. Still, if the temperature is lower than required, it may take 6 to 8 hours for matsoni to form. I these conditions, keep the jars wrapped well in several layers of towels or thick blankets and place them in the warmest spot of your house.