While living in a large town in Azerbaijan in 2007-2008, I remember going to purchase yogurt from women at a street stall (this was the only place, outside of a home, it could be found). I had to be taught that I couldn’t come empty-handed; I had to bring my own large glass jar, known as a banka, for the women to fill with yogurt. I had gotten used to eating fresh yogurt the previous year while living with a host family in a small Azerbaijani village, and theirs was made from milk that came directly from the cow kept in the barn in the side yard. This was the next best thing.
I miss the fresh yogurt of those days, sure, but also, the lack of packaging waste in that style of buying. I wondered if it would be possible to bring in my own glass jar and purchase yogurt in bulk at any stores in Asheville, so I approached West Village Market and the French Broad Food Co-op, places I thought might be the most receptive. Managers at both stores did seem interested in the idea, but when they checked with their large distributors and local dairy sources, it seemed no one was offering yogurt in bulk. What gives?
Even just for our family of two, I see so many plastic yogurt containers going to waste. The kind of yogurt I prefer to get, the one that seems most natural to me of the store-bought varieties here and reminiscent of the yogurt I would eat in Azerbaijan, is from Seven Stars Farm in Pennsylvania, and their containers are made from #5 polypropylene plastic, which luckily is recyclable here in Asheville, but seems not to be in some areas of the country. Seven Stars Farm writes on its website that they are using that kind “because of its physical and chemical stability at the higher temperatures present during filling.” This mention of the higher temperatures that the yogurt containers are in contact with makes me worried about the plastic yogurt containers so prevalent across our country in general, not just from a packaging waste perspective but from a health standpoint, too. Haven’t scientists been warning that leaching of chemicals into food from plastic happens to a greater degree as temperature increases? I am not used to thinking of yogurt as a warm food, but of course, it is during its preparation.
How about where you live? Is there any bulk yogurt available? Maybe if we all start asking, the distributors can get the hint that this is something worthwhile to offer. Short of that, and assuming I can find a source of good milk, I may just have to jump on the bandwagon of making yogurt at home.