In a small Greek village, a 10-year-old John Belesis baptized Steven Ioannou, becoming his “Nuonó,” which is Greek for “godfather.” Though they both grew up in New York, the pair had a love for their roots and the landscape of the town their family hails from and spent several months out of the year visiting Greece. The terrain was ideal for sheep and goats, which in turn produced a lot of milk. As refrigeration was scare, Belesis’ and Ioannou’s grandparents and other locals found ways to use the extra milk by making cheese and yogurt. The latter became something both children missed greatly when they returned to the United States after the summer was over.
“We would spend our days watching our grandparents milk their goats, pasteurize and culture that same milk, and fill cheese cloth bags which they would hang from the rafters,” Ioannou says. “We would watch these bags slowly drain whey off. The next day we would have breakfast with yogurt, it would be thick, tart, and creamy and we couldn’t get enough.”
Returning home after summer was over, Belesis and Ioannou yearned for the food they enjoyed in Greece during the time before Greek yogurt became popular in the United States. Years passed and as companies began to create their version of Greek yogurt, Ioannou says that though many people loved it, he and his Nuonó felt something was missing. While he sat in Belesis’ kitchen while he was making his own yogurt, the pair had the idea that they could recreate authentic Greek yogurt that was made in the same method as their grandparents.
Over the course of a year, Belesis and Ioannou learned the rules and regulations of yogurt production, perfected their recipe, and designed their packaging. Nuonós Creamery, family owned and operated in Southampton, was born. The name is a nod to Belesis and the relationship between the two partners.
What Ioannou wants people to know is that their yogurt is handmade, and the process is long. “Most Greek yogurt lovers don’t know that real, authentic Greek yogurt takes about three days to craft a single batch,” he says. “We really love what we do and take pride in the fact that we are still creating our yogurt the same way that we started.”
Nounós Creamery has been making their yogurt the same way for the last four years. Cow milk is selected from a few different diary cooperatives in upstate New York and is delivered daily to their facility. The milk is slowly pasteurized and brought up to temperatures that kills unwanted bacteria. Heirloom Greek yogurt bacteria is added and left for 12 hours. Technically they now have yogurt, but the process continues with filling cheesecloth bags with the yogurt, suspending it to drain out extra liquids, resulting in a Greek yogurt that is thicker and high in protein. They fill the thick, cold yogurt into the glass pots they use for packaging, along with any fruit used for flavor.
“We use glass and ceramic pots because yogurt is acidic and when packed in plastic tends to leach chemicals out of the plastic,” Ioannou shares, adding the cold fill process keeps the cultures relaxed, which is why the yogurt is so creamy. “Glass and ceramic are very pure and safer for both humans and the environment.”
The all natural, non-GMO, and hormone, antibiotic, gluten, and rBST free yogurts come in a number of flavors including classic plain, vanilla bean, forest berries, coconut mango, and most recently, black and blueberry blend. On the East End, Nounós Creamery Greek yogurt can be found at Citarella, Red Horse Market, Schiavoni’s Market, Sag Town Market, Best Market Westhampton, King Kullen Bridgehampton, Goldberg’s Cafés, and Golden Pear. For more information, visit nounoscreamery.com.