Sunday, October 19, 2008
We have been enjoying our own yogurt for some time now. For a while, I thought that making yogurt was only a good option if you have free or very cheap milk. But I was recently looking at yogurt at the store. The cheapest I could find was Walmart's quart size at $1.57. One quart of milk will make one quart of yogurt, so unless you are paying over $6.00 for a gallon of milk, it is still far cheaper to make your own yogurt. And you avoid all the added sugars in commercial yogurt. I was scared to try making my own yogurt but after giving it a try I found that it sure isn't difficult to make!
For a quart of yogurt, you need:
1 quart of milk
1/2 cup dry milk powder (not absolutely necessary but makes it thicker)
1/4 - 1/2 cup yogurt starter (plain - not vanilla - yogurt) room temperature
Mix the milk and dry milk powder well. Heat on the stove to 180 degrees (almost boiling) You can use a double boiler but I don't bother. When heated, take off stove and cool milk to 115 degrees (baby bath water temperature) To cool faster put pot in a pan of cold water. When cool, add a small amount of your milk to your yogurt starter and whisk well. Add all milk and whisk well. Pour milk into a quart jar and cover. Incubate for 6 to 8 hours. Refrigerate. Serve!
The goal is to keep your yogurt from 100 to 115 for several hours until it is set. There are many methods to incubate yogurt. I'll mention a few. The first two I have done. The others I have just heard others use.
Yogurt maker. This will keep it the perfect temperature without adjusting. I have seen numerous yogurt makers at yard sales which is where mine came from. This is easy but by no means the only method that works.
Crock pot. Sit the jar of yogurt in a crock pot. Fill with warm water. Put the crock pot on warm. I usually just heat the crock pot for an hour or so, then pull the plug and cover it with a towel for several hours or overnight. If I want a large amount of yogurt, I just pour the mix straight into the crock pot without putting in jars. This method works well and I'm almost ready to chuck my yogurt maker and use this all the time. I hate single use items cluttering up my kitchen!
Heating pad. Sit your jar on a heating pad. Cover with a towel or blanket.
Oven. Turn your oven on warm. Turn oven off. Turn on your oven light. Put yogurt in to incubate. Don't forget it is in there!
Tips and Tricks
The first several times I made yogurt, I religiously watched my candy thermometer to make sure it was the correct temperature. Now I rarely use a thermometer. I just watch for the milk to get close to boiling, then cool to lukewarm to touch. I don't really measure any of the ingredients either but just mix in a dollop! It really does get easier after a few times. But I'm still amazed every time I pull out the jar and find the milk has turned to yogurt! It is almost miraculous!
To make yogurt the first time, you need to buy some commercial yogurt for use as your yogurt starter. After you make yogurt, you can use your homemade yogurt to start your next batch. After quite a few times of making yogurt, it may weaken and you'll want to start with commercial yogurt again. To avoid buying yogurt again, take your bought yogurt and place it in ice cube trays. Keep the yogurt cubes in a container in your freezer. When you need a fresh starter, get out several cubes and warm to room temperature.
Make sure your jars, pots, and utensils are very clean. You don't want the wrong type of bacteria to incubate in your yogurt! I don't sterilize or disinfect and I've never had problem with this. Simple soap and water seems to work for me. And my kitchen is far from sanitary at times!!! I just mentioned it as a problem solver if you have difficulties with your yogurt.
Homemade yogurt is sometimes a little softer then bought. Cooling it before using it will help to sit it up better. I have never had a batch fail though sometimes I think it is a little better then other times.
I made yogurt, now what do I do with it?
If you have young children, you have it made! Get them started eating unsweetened yogurt with all of the great acidopholus and immune boosting powers when they are young and their taste are being formed! It is a perfect first food for babies and especially important if your child needs to be on antibiotics. Our one year old gulps it down just plain! Older children may need some more encouragement. If you aren't used to plain yogurt, it does have a peculiar flavor. The three year old likes his with applesauce and a dollop of strawberry jelly. While the four year old relishes smoothies with frozen strawberries, bananas, yogurt, and maybe a little honey. But I'm most amazed at Ed. He had never even eaten the sweeten version before meeting me! His favorite breakfast these days is yogurt and homemade granola! Sure can't get any easier breakfast for me, except that I can't seem to keep yogurt on hand! I'm glad that something that is so good for you, is so easy to make!
I also use yogurt in any recipe calling for sour cream. I haven't noticed any difference in the numerous recipes I've tried. I've heard that you can drain your yogurt through cheesecloth overnight to make yogurt cheese. It can be used for a healthy substitute for cream cheese. Cheese cake anyone? I really need to try that sometime but right now we eat it fast enough the way it is!
I just found a recipe for vanilla yogurt that I haven't yet had a chance to try. To the above recipe, you add 1 T. vanilla and 4-6 T. sugar or honey.
I hope you give it a try! Even for just the fun of seeing fluid milk turn to yogurt! Let me know if you try it, have questions, or something is not clear.