Matsoni

I’ve shared my love for matsoni (მაცონი) – tangy Georgian yogurt – before.  What can I say?  Not only is it delicious on its own, it’s incredibly versatile.  Georgians use it everywhere:  in cakes, as a base for soups, in bread dough, mixed with garlic as a sauce…

One can imagine my joy, then, when our host took us to the Matsoni House, a new facility geared towards preserving Georgia’s dairy-based culinary traditions.

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Matsoni with local honey and walnuts

The original matsoni culture used here – called Mariami – is hundreds of years old.  During Soviet times, factory matsoni was encouraged, but nearby monks and home cooks kept this culture alive.

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Matsoni with blackberries, which our waitress encouraged we try, since the berries were “very tasty.”

They even had matsoni ice cream, which I’ve never seen before and had to experience. Matsoni isn’t sweet, it’s tangy – so I was intrigued.

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Still tangy and a little sour but surprisingly refreshing!  Almost like a sherbet.

Inspired by our trip to this matsoni heaven, I decided to make my own.  I used the matsoni from the ladies at the Sagarejo Municipality Youth House as my starter (or “deda,” which means “mother”) and bought whole milk from the dairy lady in our village.  Organic, unpasteurized and non-homogenized milk is cheap and readily available here.

Making matsoni is simple:  just heat the whole milk on the stove until it boils, then let it cool until it’s the proper temperature.  What’s the proper temperature?  Well, Georgian ladies I’ve met just know by sticking their pinky finger in the milk, but I needed Google. It’s about 75-80 degrees.

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Starter matsoni on the left, warm milk on the right

Then, stir in two heaping tablespoons of your starter matsoni and let it ferment in a warm place for at least six hours.  I did as the Georgians do, keeping my matsoni warm by wrapping it in our sweatshirts for the rest of the day.

And just like that…you have fresh, homemade, tangy matsoni.

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Not perfect – a little runny and not smooth – but I’m happy with my first try!

Amazing.