Dairy products are readily available in all stores. Most dairy products need to be refrigerated except for sealed long-life milk products that can be kept outside a fridge. The shelf life of dairy products is indicated as the ‘sell by’ and ‘best before’ dates. Products should be consumed before the ‘best before’ date. Long-life products should be treated as fresh once opened and also be stored in a refrigerator.
Other dairy products available in the shops are:
Fruit yoghurt and drinking yoghurt are fermented products. Adding beneficial bacterial cultures to milk allows it to go sour, which gives yoghurt its typical taste and texture. Fruit flavouring, fruit pieces and chocolate chips may be added, making yoghurt tasty and a perfect snack to enjoy with or between meals.
Maas, also known as amasi, is made from milk that has been fermented using beneficial bacterial cultures. This slightly sour and thickened dairy drink is enjoyed by many South Africans, just as it is or traditionally adding it to pap.
Buttermilk is made in the same way as maas, but by using a slightly different culture. Commercially available buttermilk is also called ‘cultured’ buttermilk.
Humans have been eating cheese for thousands of years already. Long ago the discovery of cheese was probably quite by accident, when people realised that milk goes sour and curdles if it is kept in a bag made from an animal’s stomach. This is caused by the enzymes found in rennet, which lines a calf’s stomach. Rennet makes milk separate into solid curds and liquid whey. The curds can be pressed to form a firm cheese. Some cheeses can be left for several months to produce a strong flavour and are called mature cheeses. Today the cheese making process is modernised.
Cream is the fat from milk. Because fat is less dense than water, the cream will float to the top. The creamy layer can be separated from the milk before further processing. The milk available in stores has been homogenised so that the cream does not separate from the milk.
Butter is cream that has been shaken or churned until the fat separates from a watery liquid called buttermilk. To make 1 kg of butter you need 22 l of milk. Years ago, butter used to be made in a churn and was shaped with wooden tools, called pats, into rectangular blocks. If butter is not kept in a cool place, it will turn bad (rancid) quite quickly. Salt can be added to butter as a preservative.
Italians invented ice cream about 500 years ago. Traditional ice-cream is frozen cream, flavoured with fruit and vanilla and sweetened. Real ice-cream is made from full-cream milk, cream and other ingredients. The label on the container will indicate if it is made only from dairy fat or if plant fats have been added to reduce the production costs.
Ghee is Indian cooking butter. It is butter that has been heated and strained to remove almost all the water.