Before Greek yogurt took over the dairy case, I used to make my own, spooning regular plain yogurt into a cheese-cloth-lined colander and leaving it overnight in the refrigerator to let the excess water drain out.
That’s pretty much the way Steven Ioannou and John Belesis do it at Nounós Creamery, a small factory in West Babylon that supplies retailers all over Long Island and New York City. The refrigerator is a temperature-controlled cooler room and, instead of a colander, the yogurt (cultured from fresh milk two rooms over) is pumped into 60 10-gallon synthetic bags. When the yogurt has lost about 70 percent of its moisture, it is pumped into 6-ounce glass jars.
That low-tech approach distinguishes Nounós from the big players — Chobani, Fage, Oikos — that either use a centrifuge to remove excess moisture, or force it through an industrial press. (Less scrupulous companies thicken their yogurt not by getting rid of moisture, but by adding thickeners such as gelatin, cornstarch, milk protein concentrate and / or gums. If you’re curious, check the labels.
Both Ioannou and Belesis grew up in Greece. “Nounós” means godfather and, indeed, it was 10-year-old Belesis who held baby Ioannou when he was baptized in their village of Kremasti in the Peloponnese. Initially, the two young men, who now live in Lynbrook, wanted to open a Greek yogurt shop in the Hamptons, but when they could not find a Greek yogurt that met their Hellenic standards, they decided to make their own. They started making yogurt in August 2014 and are currently expanding the facility, hoping to double their capacity from 2,000 to 4,000 cases a week.
Besides classic plain, Nounós also produces two smooth, blended yogurts (vanilla bean and blueberry) and two fruit-on-the-bottom flavors, forest berries and fig-orange. Jars run between $2.50 and $3 at North Shore Farms, Southdown Market, Wild by Nature and Whole Foods. For more information and a complete list of retailers, go to nounoscreamery.com.