The shelves in our supermarkets are stocked with a wide variety of Greek-style yogurts, all claiming to have that amazingly thick, flavoursome taste and texture that can only be found in Greece. How often have we bemoaned that the Greek yogurt in our city isn’t the same as the delectably creamy, tasty yogurt we sampled for breakfast in Crete drizzled with locally made honey, or the dollops that complemented the best lamb we’d ever eaten in our parents’ village. Low in calories, packed with vitamins and minerals, it is the ideal snack and perfect accompaniment to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Setting themselves the challenge, and succeeding, in replicating the quality, texture and taste of authentic Greek yogurt is Nounos Creamery, created and managed by godfather-godson duo John Belesis and Steve Iannou. Based in New York, and producing plain yogurt as well as mouth-watering flavours, which include peach and passionfruit, forest berries and pumpkin spice, they use the traditional technique of straining the yogurt in cheesecloth before pouring into glass jars.
GCT caught up with Steve to talk all things Greek yogurt including the 3 day process involved in making each batch and why the yogurt in Greece tastes better than anywhere else in the world.
How did the idea for Nounos Creamery come about?
John is both my uncle and nouno-he baptised me when he was 9 years old in our village of Kremasti, which is south of Sparti. Some years later, he was working with yogurt in his kitchen while I was working in food retail with a family friend. One day yogurt came up in conversation, and I was very interested in finding out more ways to use his recipe.
John especially wanted to see real Greek yogurt on the shelves in America. We both agreed that there was something lacking in the “Greek-style” brands we saw available here. We both sat down and came up with some ideas, and shortly thereafter Nounos Creamery was born.
Tell us about the ancestral recipe?
Yogurt-making was part of life in Kremasti. Before there were refrigerators there was yogurt. It was the only method of preserving the extra milk that was produced during the day. John’s father George always dabbled in cooking and baking and both of us grew up eating his homemade yogurt. The yogurt cultures in Nounos Creamery yogurt were bred from the same cultures that are used in their village. The straining method is also an old-world Greek secret. They use cheesecloth to remove excess whey from yogurt making it thick. This is how it’s done in the village and how we produce yogurt on a larger scale in our facility here in New York.
What are the benefits of eating Greek yogurt?
The high protein to sugar content. Greek yogurt is also a great source of calcium, vitamin B12, potassium, iodine and probiotics. As well as probiotics being a well known dietary necessity, our little jars are packed with protein and are great meal replacements.
Tell us about the process involved in making Nounos yogurt?
We take farm fresh milk and pasteurise it to kill any bacteria in the milk. We then cool it, and add our heirloom cultures that feed on the lactose in the milk resulting in a low sugar, high protein, thick yogurt. We then take this yogurt and make it even thicker by straining the whey with cheesecloth, further concentrating the protein.
The start to finish on one batch of yogurt is 3 days! Once we are finally strained we then pack our delicious yogurt in glass pots. The glass is a safer alternative to plastic and can be recycled infinitely without loss of quality or harm to the environment.
Why does the yogurt in Greece taste so much better than anywhere else?
For two main reasons, one is the process. In Greece it’s all about cooking low and slow and this really carries over the taste. And the second reason is what the cows are eating. They get to roam around the foot hills of Greece feeding on wild grasses and herbs and what they eat ends up in the milk. That’s why milk tastes different depending on where it’s sourced.
Where are the yogurts available?
We are stocked in over a thousand retailers in New York, Connecticut, New jersey, West Virginia, Texas, California and Illinois. We are adding more retailers everyday so people can visit our website nounos.com for updated store locations. Our yogurt is also used by some retailers in their tzatziki and parfait recipes. We love working with retailers of all kinds, especially the local businesses that value authentic, quality food products.
Are there plans to add new products to the range?
We’re always innovating and trying to think of new ways to present Nounós to the public. The most authentic is our new line of whole milk yogurts: a full-fat yogurt experience that we think Hellenics and Europeans will recognize gladly if they’ve had thicker, homemade yogurts abroad. These are great for baking and cooking as well as snacking! We are also working on larger-sized portions of yogurt.