The Role of Dairy Fat in Cultured Milk Products
When you decide that you want to begin making your own cultured milk products at home you have a lot of options. Kefir, buttermilk, or yogurt. Thermophilic or mesophilic culture. Whole or skim milk.
Choosing one of the above over another can produce a very different product, even the fat content of the milk. So let’s explore the role of dairy fat in the cultured milk products.
The Right Dairy Fat Is Not Unhealthy
For decades now we have been taught that fat is bad for us. It makes us fat, it gives us heart disease, and it can shorten our life span they say.
Recent studies have indicated that the science behind these claims is not only bad, but patently wrong.
First of all, there is a big difference between the dairy fat that comes from an animal that has been fed primarily grain versus one that has been fed primarily grass. Grass-fed dairy animals produce a dairy fat that has a very different (and beneficial) essential fatty acid structure, vitamin content, and mineral content.
Culturing this good-for-you dairy fat only improves it.
Most delicious foods contain at least a little bit of fat - a steak with a bit of marbling, broccoli tossed in butter, avocados, bread with a smattering of butter. All of these foods taste better with even just a small addition of fat.
Fat not only enhances flavor, but it adds to satiety. A baked potato with butter is always more satisfying than a plain one, for instance. It simply helps you feel full longer and absorb the fat soluble vitamins present in your food.
In terms of cultured dairy, fat again improves the flavor. A full-fat yogurt or kefir is generally less tangy, more palatable, and easier to eat without added sweeteners than their low-fat counterparts.
Consider the texture of sour cream versus that of non-fat yogurt. Sour cream is luscious, thick, and smooth. Non-fat yogurt (especially when fillers and stabilizers are left out) can be grainy and lack-luster.
The fat molecules found in dairy products simply make a smoother, creamier, more velvety cultured food product.
As mentioned above, grass-fed dairy fat is a very different beast than commercially produced grain-fed dairy fat.
The beauty of culturing this milk is that it has been shown to actually increase the content of CLA in the final cultured product. It is hypothesized that this is due to the lipase activity of the culture.
So when you are choosing which type of milk to use for your cultured milk products - skim, low-fat, or whole - remember that dairy fat plays a role in the final product of your cultured dairy and effects flavor, texture, and nutrition.