Sunday, February 24, 2013

HOMEMADE YOGURT HOW-TO

I have was quite adventurous recently, making a lot of different things... cream cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, kombucha, water kefir, milk, kefir, whey, & more.  Busy, busy week, for sure!!  I am not usually THAT adventurous w/all of the milk products, but I had a lot of milk & had to use it before it went bad so I got down to brass tacks.

Believe it or not none of them are very hard or time consuming, but the most challenging thing about the dairy products for me is culturing them at the time of day so I can check on them 12 hours later when it is a reasonable hour & not 2 a.m.  That seems reasonable enough though, right?!  It just isn't always the case that I have the opportunity to work on something earlier in the AM or later after dinner, so that I can check on whatever it is during waking hours.  I am getting better at it though.

Since I have heard from a lot of people making or wanting to make yogurt lately, I figured I'd post about my experience w/that.  In the past few days I have made 2 batches of yogurt because my family LOVES it & went through 2 QUARTS of yogurt in less than 2 days.  The yogurt is plain, but we stir in a little organic strawberry jelly from Costco (a great deal there for a big jar!) or some maple syrup (a new yogurt stir-in I came up with & it was a BIG hit!).  I'd do honey, but since honey is a natural probiotic & a natural antibiotic they would cancel one another out... so we eat our yogurt & honey separate.

Jar in the oven to incubate w/the oven light on
Yogurt is a great way to add natural probiotics into your diet, & can be used to soak grains, make cream cheese, etc.  It is said by many natural living health experts & doctors that the best source of milk would be farm fresh, or unpasteurized, but not everybody has access to unpasteurized milk, so just remember that most anything made at home is going to be healthier than store bought because it usually won't have the food dyes, additives, & preservatives.  If you use store bought milk that has additives, at least the yogurt itself you make won't have anything extra added to it... remember to think BABY STEPS or you will get discouraged before you even start!! 

SUPPLIES

1. 1/2 gallon of whole milk (it's best not to use pasteurized, but if using store bought milk try to use milk that is NOT homogenized, or at the very least NOT ultra pasteurized - I know Target sells a gallon of organic milk that is not ultra pasteurized, but it is pasteurized, as does Trader Joe's; TJ's organic milk is pasteurized whole milk & is $6 for a gallon which is still not bad when you consider what you would pay for a gallon of yogurt)

2. PLAIN yogurt to use as a "starter" (one source I discovered recently says "Brown Cow" brand is best if using store bought to achieve the thickest yogurt, but I don't have the brand locally... you can certainly  use other brands or use some from a previous batch of homemade yogurt too, but it may not be as thick - the general rule of thumb for starter yogurt is 1/2 c of starter to 1/2 gallon of milk - try to use whole milk yogurt)

3. pot (avoid Teflon)

4. glass bowl

5.  thermometer

6. plastic utensils



DIRECTIONS

1. Heat 1/2 gallon of milk to 110 F for raw milk or 170-180 F for pasteurized milk (it should take approx. 5-8 mins. over medium heat depending upon the size of your pot - be sure to stir constantly to avoid scorching the milk).

2. Cool the milk to 110 F (if using raw milk, no need to cool).  The fastest way to cool the milk, if needed, is to set the pot with the milk in it inside a sinkful of cool water... it will cool down fast & shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes, if that.  As soon as it is cooled to 110 F, place the pot back on the stove (flame off) & ladle 2-3 cups of the 110 degree milk into the glass bowl; add the yogurt starter & stir gently.

3. Add the milk with the yogurt starter to the pot with the remaining milk, mix it all thoroughly, & pour into a clean glass jar.

4. Place the glass jar in a warm place to incubate 12-24 hours (you can use a cooler filled w/water heated to 120 F changing the water a few times to keep it warm enough or the EASY way, which is in the oven w/ONLY the light on... this is what I do!).  Check after 12 hours to see if the consistency is what you'd like it to be.  We like ours thicker & tart, so I usually let it incubate for 24 hours.

When it is done, the yogurt will not be runny when tilted to the side... but if it happens to be thin after the full 24 hours it is probably just a thinner batch.  The longer it sits the more tart it will be.  Ours that sat for 24 hours was as tart as plain store bought yogurt, for comparison.

The texture I have achieved so far is like a drinkable yogurt... it isn't as thick as store bought yogurt in a plastic cup or larger carton, but it is super yummy & healthy!!

5.  Place the jar in the fridge to set for about 12 hours & then enjoy!  Be sure to reserve 1/2 cup if you'd like to make another batch using your own yogurt as starter.

I made yogurt in the crock pot a few years ago & it was okay... my family (as was I) was expecting a nice, thick yogurt, which it was not.  I didn't make it again until just recently & I forewarned them this time that it would probably not be as thick as store bought, but that it would still be very yummy & healthy.  Much to my surprise they absolutely LOVED it & devoured it too!  So I made another gallon of it 2 days later (yes, 1 whole gallon... & they ate that all up too!).

For my starter with the crock pot yogurt, I used store bought yogurt.  It was quite a while ago so I don't remember the brand though.  This time I used some starter from a friend & then used some from my own batch as starter for the next gallon.  I'd like to try the Brown Cow store bought yogurt as a starter for at some point to see if there is a difference in the thickness, but the only store in my area that sells it is Whole Foods, which is a cruise & not worth the drive to get 1 cup of yogurt.  I will try to remember to get some if I am ever driving by a Whole Foods.  

I have read varying info about how much starter to use.  Most sources say 1/2 c. of starter yogurt to 1/2 gallon of milk.  I found another source that said just 1 T. (yes, I tablespoon!) to every 3-4 C. of milk.  Wondering if one would work better than the other for me, I tried both & did not notice any substantial difference in either jar made at the same time, in a side-by-side taste test & texture comparison.  So, if you want to use less starter it shouldn't ruin your batch of yogurt & may not even make a difference at all, but perhaps that can vary depending upon what type of milk used, I can't say for sure.  I do know that for my batch, I didn't notice a difference.

When I make more yogurt I will probably use 1/2 C. just because that is what the majority of sources say to use, but if I am unable to wrestle away 1/2 C. of yogurt away from my family, then I won't think all hope is lost if I can only scrape together 2-3 T.

Easy peasy, no?!

ENJOY!!


What stir-ins to you like in your yogurt?? What are ways you eat your yogurt??  Do you prefer yours thin or thick like store bought yogurt?? Have you ever made it before, & if so, how did you incubate yours??  Do you use your yogurt for soaking/fermenting or do you eat is as-is??      

P.S.  Oh, & you can freeze your starter to use later if you won't be making any more before the yogurt will go bad.  I found the easiest way to freeze it is by placing it in a zipper quart freezer bag, lay it flat to freeze in a nice flat shape, & then you can slip in in a tight place to maximize freezer space once it is frozen.  Be sure to label it, because if you are like me & insist you will NOT forget what it is, you may prove yourself wrong!!