People are frequently confused, so here we are going to explain the difference in detail.
Historically yogurt has been consumed for millenniums as some believe that it was spontaneously discovered. Back in the days, people were using animal skin bags to carry liquids like water or milk.
Due to the primitive technology, some good bacteria were left in the bag and spontaneously during the summer, the milk has fermented. The fermentation extended the ability to preserve the milk(more than a day or 2 in the times with no refrigerators) which becomes gradually considered action. To start a new fermentation people back in the days just mixed the mother culture (the yogurt from the previous batch) and fermented again. This was the main way to reculture yogurt as just working with a mother culture (ready yogurt) to start a new batch and in the next few millenniums it was the main method to transport and distribute the yogurt. Later some pottery vessels also have been used. However, this limit the geographical extent and yogurt was able to be transported to the limited distance after the point of making as after some days or week of traveling (especially in hot weather) the mother culture can get too sour and consequently unable to be recultured.
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This was the main case and until the 50-60s of the 19 centuries when someone came up with the idea that it must have a better way to preserve the bacteria. With the new technology of lyophilization, the bacteria could be grown and concentrated in the milk and then freeze-dried in a sugar medium so it can survive for months ( in state of hibernation), years and decades and consequently transported to every corner of the world. Then it is enough just to be added to whole dairy milk and the fermentation starts again as during the fermentation process a new fresh mother culture is created on the back of the globe and then can be recultured many times again and again.
The transportation outside of the native for the yogurt bacteria environment, however, made them vulnerable to any kind of other invasive airborne and milk bacteria, so it turnouts that after some time and recultivation the airborne and milk bacteria gradually contaminate the mother culture and reduce the concentration of yogurt bacteria which become weaker and even more vulnerable to the invasive species when they are outside their native environment.
A main point to remember: The yogurt cultures become week not because they are not an ''heirloom'', but because they have been contaminated with other bacteria when they are outside their native environment or because other components and additives have been used which reduce the bacterial activity.
Any yogurt starter can be recultured to the moment is contaminated and the concentration of yogurt bacteria is reduced. The activity (potency) of the yogurt can be reduced also when additives and other components are added which could be flavours, thickeners or sweeteners or natural ones like honey,nuts and fruits. The reduced activity also increase the shelf life, so frequently is anticipated.
For example-the so-called ‘'Lactobacillus bulgaricus'' can be recultured unlimited times in Bulgaria only, however it becomes an easy victim to the other bacteria when outside the native environment.
It will be still heirloom culture as it has the ability to reculture, but the numbers of this depend on the sanitation level of your environment and milk used.
Heirloom or not heirloom.
The food industry created many kinds of food so-called yogurt even when they are not, for example - Almond yogurt or Coconut yogurt. These products when made commercially frequently contain additives, thickeners and basically are made(cooked) in a way similar to creme Brulee as some yogurt cultures are added afterward to satisfy legislation and called yogurt.As the starter cultures are hibernating and they cannot start fermentation in such a mix(or very limited fermentation) they do not bring any health benefits to the body. Consequently those ‘'yogurts'' cannot be recultured in a further generation.The fact that they cannot start a fermentation works perfectly for a long shelf life.
The food industry also created powder yogurts, which are frequently sold in over 100-200 grams bag and contain mix of dry milk, thickeners, flavours and some hibernating bacteria, some of those can be added to any milk, juice, drink or sometimes water and the dry milk and thickeners will be able to thicken the mixture as the starter cultures start a restricted fermentation which is not allowed to override the already carefully considered flavours. The end product is something which looks and tastes like flavoured yogurt, however, due to the limited fermentation and additives, the concentration of the bacteria is still way low in order to trigger a new fermentation or make further generation with it.
We also see on the market starter cultures for yogurt with maltodextrin and/or other additives as the sachet is usually between 6 to 10 grams. This is a starter culture and thickener only. It is designed to thicken the milk before the fermentation is completed where a majority of bacteria are out of hibernation and fully activated. It can, however, trigger fermentation in consequent batches but usually, a few more times only as the concentration of the bacteria could be limited due to the shorter incubation times. Remember the milk thicken and you should stop making it, but it does not mean that the fermentation is completed so the yogurt cannot reach its full potency.
Finally, we have a freeze-dried starter and the content is anywhere between 1-5 grams but not more which contains yogurt bacteria and sugar as a carrier on which the bacteria live in during the hibernation. These bacteria fully rely on the authentic fermentation and fully dependent on the milk used, incubation times and sanitation of the milk. The best feature is that this kind of starter makes real yogurt, however it requires more patience, and experience to pick up the right milk and sanitize and control the fermentation. However, the mother culture is fully developed and the best thing is that the second batch and the 3rd batch would be better and it would require significantly less time for incubation delivering a real yogurt anywhere in the world.
If you sanitize the milk, containers, and utensils you will be making more than 5 batches as some people can use a sachet for a year or even more.
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