The word ‘Chaach’or Chaas has plenty of sweet childhood memories for me. It instantly transports me back in time to my mom’s old kitchen where she used to churn milk early morning in a ‘chaati’,a giant earthenware pot, with an equally big wooden whisk, called ‘madhani’ in Punjabi. It took her a long time and lots of elbow grease to churn butter every day, sloshing the milk with that whisk left and right between her palms to make it move faster and faster. I still remember that rhythmic splashing sound and my happiness on seeing the very first lumps of butter gathering at the top of the milk. Then my father brought home an electric churner; it made my mom’s life easier but the romance attached to the whole process got lost in the whirring of the machine.

Chaach is basically a homemade skimmed buttermilk – the watery, milky liquid that’s left over when butter is made. It is slightly sour and contains fragments of curd.
The commercially available buttermilk is made with a shorter fermentation time of around 12 hours, with a process quite similar to making yogurt.

As the butter is already skimmed off it, Chaach becomes a low fat liquid which is three times quicker to digest than milk. The lactose in milk gets transformed in lactic acid and the live culture reduces the bad bacteria in the stomach, improving digestion. That’s exactly why in Ayurvedic healing, Chaach is highly recommended with or after meals to reduce gas and bloating.

If you don’t churn butter at home then obviously you don’t have buttermilk at hand either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this delicious coolant in summer. There are two easy ways to make butter milk at home; one is by adding vinegar or lemon juice to warm milk. Just add two tablespoons to 1 litre of warm milk and wait a few minutes for curd to separate, leaving behind buttermilk. Pass it through a cheese cloth and you will get homemade paneer cheese as a bonus.

The other way which is my favourite is easier and makes tastier Chaach; just dilute yogurt with lots of water to make instant Chaach or Chaas. This method is used in many South Asian homes to make use of sour yogurt. The whole concept of making a drink out of butter milk or sour yogurt is about saving good, healthy food from getting wasted.

To revive those fond childhood memories, I still make Chaach for my family by churning yogurt and cold water in a little claypot with a similar but much smaller, handy little wooden whisk. The features that differentiate Chaach from lassi are that Chaach is much more diluted, flavoured mostly with salt, mint, spices or rose water and has lots of froth on top.

Combined with mint, it makes a summer cooler like none other!

Ingredients:

2 cups yogurt
4 cups water
1 cup mint leaves
1 green chilli pepper, seeds removed
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Lots of ice cubes

This Is What You Do:

Pound mint leaves, green chilli pepper, ginger, salt and cumin seeds together in a mortar with pestle or blend with a little water in an electric blender till smooth.

Combine yogurt and mint paste in a deep bowl or pitcher, whisk till combined with a hand held whisk or add to the electric blender.

Add 1 cup water at a time and keep blending till frothy.

Fill tall glasses with crushed ice cubes, pour Podina Chaach over ice cubes.

Garnish with more mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Serves 4

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