Thursday, September 18, 2008

Making Yogurt

The homesteading continues!

After several friends mentioned that making yogurt is easy as pie (Which, personally, I don't consider all that easy. I have a hard time making a nice crust.), I thought I'd give it a whirl.

In the end, Eric became the one giving it a whirl and I was assisting. However, homemade yogurt was created in our house and we've been working on perfecting it ever since. I think we've finally reached a good point in our trials. We now have a thick yogurt, not too tart, that is relatively easy to make and sets up in three hours.

Unfortunately, since both of us have a scientific bent, we like a little precision when it comes to dealing with bacteria laden foods and we like to use things like thermometers and aseptic techniques. Nonetheless, take heart! It turns out fantastic yogurt time after time.

We started with this guy's recipe and then fiddled with it to get a thickness we liked.

For 1/2 gallon of yogurt you will need:
  • 2 quart containers, with lids
  • 1 8 oz container, with lid
  • 2 cup liquid measuring cup
  • a candy thermometer
  • a ladle
  • stirring spoon/fork
  • a small insulated cooler
  • a heavy bottomed pot, with lid
  • 1/2 gallon of milk (We like whole milk.)
  • 1 to 3 tbsp powdered milk (Amount depends on the thickness you like. No powdered milk at all gives you drinkable yogurt. Three gives you a nice, thick yogurt.)
  • 4 to 8 0z of unopened, plain yogurt with live, active cultures (This is your starter culture.)
My additions are in italics below.
  1. Sterilize your jars, ladle, measuring cups, and spoons. If you are unconcerned about aseptic technique, just make sure they are squeaky clean.
  2. If using powdered milk, whisk it into unheated milk until completely dissolved. We like to use 3 tbsp. If skipping powdered milk, your yogurt will be of a drinkable consistency, which is also nice.
  3. Heat milk to 85-90oC in double boiler (185-195 oF). If using a heavy pot, stir frequently to prevent sticking (He's not kidding, that stuff will burn on the bottom. If it does burn, just be careful while ladling the yogurt mixture into your quart jars to not rip up the burnt milk skin. Bleah!). Keep covered.
  4. Remove from fire, place covered pot in pan of clean cool water (We use the kitchen sink. Fill with cold water and stir until you reach the proper temp.) until stirred milk is very close to 55oC (130oF).
  5. Ladle 1 cup warm milk into 2 cup liquid measuring cup.
  6. Stir up yogurt starter with a clean fork, add to 55o C milk (In measuring cup, making a slurry, then add mixture to pot of warmed milk.), stir thoroughly, (temp should drop to 50 oC (122 o F) or just below). Pour still warm mixture into the two bottles, plus the smaller 8 oz jar. Cover immediately with the sterile lids.
  7. Place filled bottles in cooler, add enough 50oC (122 oF) water (We use the hot water left over from sterilizing the bottles. You can add additional cool water to bring it down to the correct temperature.) so that bottles are surrounded, but the water is well below the lid rims. The starter jar will have to be placed on a support to keep its lid above the water. Close the lid on the cooler to keep the heat in.
  8. Do not disturb the yogurt and it will be finished in 3 hrs, provided the temperature does not drop below 40 oC (104 oF).
  9. After 3 hours, remove jars from cooler and place in refrigerator, being careful to not jostle the jars.
  10. Refrigerate until needed.
For more firm yogurt, add 2 Tbl powdered milk to the ½ gallon of milk prior to heating. Either whole or skimmed milk may be used, but whole milk makes richer yogurt.

Note that the 8oz container can be used as the starter culture for your next batch if you sterilized the container first.

The finished product, plus peaches!

It's actually a lot easier to do than it sounds here. However, even if it sounds a lot more complex than you were hoping for, it does give you consistent and repeatable results. And who doesn't like consistent, repeatable results?

And yummy yogurt!

You know who else likes yogurt?

Babies.

Yogurt 'stache.

I like to add either jam to my plain yogurt or a small amount of sugar and vanilla and chopped fruit. It also makes very nice smoothies, pancakes (Just swap the yogurt for the milk in the recipe and add a splash of milk to thin it as needed.) or whatever recipes where you'd like to use yogurt.

There are several benefits of making your own yogurt.
  1. You get to control the amount of sugar.
  2. You determine the flavorings. You probably won't be adding any dyes or high fructose corn syrup to your yogurt, either.
  3. You get to control the quality of the milk used. Remember: Yummy In, Yummy Out.
  4. If you normally don't like plain yogurt because it's too tart, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how mellow this yogurt is.
  5. No more unrecyclable plastic containers!
  6. More when you need it, plus a few hours.
  7. Breakfast! Lunch! Healthy snacks! Dessert, even!
  8. The price is right. For the cost of one half gallon of milk and some time, you can have a lot of yogurt.
  9. You'll suddenly discover new ways to use yogurt in your baking.
  10. Did I mention that it's yummy?

Try it and let me know what you think!

8 comments:

Cousin Janet from NewYork said...

Tracy, you are truly amazing. Now on top of everything else you are making your own yogurt. There is no end to your talents & I am very impressed. BTW you know that web- site I love, PioneerWoman Cooks.com
She just finished having a Dairy recipe contest & has all the recipes that were sent in on the blog. There are many using yogurt, some of which sound awesome
so I thought you'd like to try them
with your new home made yogurt. Love to all

Kimberly said...

That's so cool! I'd never think to try this, but your instructions make it sound doable - even for me!

elisava said...

okay, i am a little lost here. although it does not in any way diminish the achievement... are you saying that, in order to get live cultures, one must buy yogurt? can't you purchase the cultues from a speciality stone, and use it like yeast? i only ask because we go through a buttload of yogurt and yogurt drinkables, and i would be more than willing to ake our own! what do you think?

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Janet: Thanks! Yeah, I saw her yogurt mania and I tried one recipe so far. I'll have to give a few of the others a try as well.

Kimberly: It is doable! Easier than caramel in some ways and you're less likely to give yourself 2nd degree burns....

Sara: You only have to buy the first yogurt to act as your starter, after that, you're good to go. Or, if you can get the culture in packets like yeast, go for it! For drinkables, just don't add the powdered milk. You know, you could probably save a few of your current containers and reuse them. Reuse! Portability! Heck, if you have a LOT of those drinkable containers, you could just pour your warm mixture into them directly and let it set up that way, then when you wanted them, shake them up, add flavorings and be good to go!

Red Flashlight said...

You are powerful, brave, thrifty, and wise. :)

elisava said...

check it out....

http://www.healthytraders.com/yogourmet-freeze-dried-yogurt-starterculture-p-1678.html

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Sierra: Blush!

Elisava: Thanks! Not sure if that would be cheaper than buying yogurt, though, when going strictly by price. Hmm.

Reepsy said...

This is a very nice blog entry, on a topic I very interested in. I am the creator of MakeYourOwnYogurt.com, which I think would be a nice companion to this article. It's a step-by-step tutorial, with photographic examples, which will have you making yogurt in no time at all. Here is a link:

http://www.makeyourownyogurt.com/

I hope your readers find this a valuable resource.

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