Homemade Yogurt

yogurt with granola

Some things like mom jeans, turtleneck sweaters, and rayon are better left to past eras. Other things our moms tried with their glasses the size of small saucers, their hair hanging long and straight, with us clinging to their wide-leg bellbottoms fare a little better. Questing after better, healthier food, our parents sprouted their grains, banned their children from eating anything with sugar, kneaded loaves of whole grain dense bread, knit us sweaters in bulky natural yarns, and smoked inside. Here are my parents in all their glory.

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As a young parent, I know right now I’m taking the very photos my children will look back at and laugh with their friends. But our parents had one thing right, they made their own yogurt. It was cheap, delicious and way cheaper than those fancy individual greek yogurt containers that didn’t exist back when our parents introduced yogurt to the everyday breakfast menu of America. If you look in our fridge it’s stacked high with Nancy’s yogurt containers. To quote a friend’s husband “which yogurt container actually contains yogurt in here?”

milk jug

I’d been meaning to try making my own yogurt when we recently went for a drive in the Skagit River Valley and happened on a local cheese maker offering fresh greek yogurt. After tasting how fresh and rich and delicious it was, I decided to use a small amount of the yogurt as the starter for my very own batch.

yogurt_thermometer

Here are some of my favorite recipes using yogurt:

This simple yet delicious French Yogurt Cake

This Miso Salad Dressing that makes every salad taste better

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

I’ve always wanted to try making labneh. What other recipes do y’all like making with yogurt?

yogurt_jar

HOMEMADE YOGURT

Yogurt is the perfect light breakfast meal, a vehicle for rich, dense granola. It’s great for adding to baked goods or as a stand in for sour cream or in dressings. We also love adding cucumbers to make tziki or chili powder or a splash of lemon juice and ground coriander for dipping roasted vegetables. Start a batch in the morning at the beginning of the week and have it around all week for healthy delicious meals.

Quantity: roughly two 32-ounce yogurt containers

Time to Prepare: 12 hours

1/2 gallon organic milk

2 tablespoons good quality organic/greek yogurt

yep, that’s it.

Start with the best quality milk and yogurt you can find. I would recommend using whole milk just for a richer taste. Pour the milk in a heavy bottom large saucepan and heat over medium low heat until the milk reaches 180 degrees on a candy thermometer. The milk should not boil or scald but start to bubble and form a thin skin on the surface. This takes about half an hour.

While heating your milk, you can sterilize your jars in an oven at 200 degrees. If you plan on using leftover plastic yogurt containers, then simply wash them in a dishwasher right before using so they’re sterilized. You can also pour boiling water in them and let it stand for a few minutes.

Once the milk reaches 180 degrees, remove it from the heat. Skim the skin that’s formed off the top and discard. Place your yogurt starter in a small bowl and add a cup or so of the hot milk and stir until incorporated. Then pour the mixture back into the hot milk.

At this point if you’ve been sterilizing jars in the oven take them out. Leave the oven door open so it starts to cool. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into your jars and seal. The mixture now needs to incubate so that the cultures can create your yogurt just like leaving yeast to ferment when making bread. You want to place the jars in a warm spot. If you’re lucky enough to live where it’s sunny, then let them rest in a sunny spot on the counter. Or if you live in an old, drafty house in the pacific nw like you me, you can leave them in the oven you just used with the pilot light left on if you didn’t pre-heat the oven. If you were using the oven to sterilize your jars, let the door sit open for a little bit so it’s not too hot. At this point you just walk away for 6 – 12 hours and let the cultures do their work. You’ll know the yogurt is ready when it starts to pull away from the sides when tilted. At this point, refrigerate for at least three hours before using.

Tips:

  • This recipe is easily scaled up or down. If you use a full galloon of milk, up the amount of yogurt starter to 1/4 cup.
  • The milk will scald the bottom of your pan less and I’ve also read your yogurt will be thicker if you raise the heat of the milk slowly over low to medium heat instead of trying to quickly get up to 180 degrees.
  • If you want to make greek-style yogurt, simply take the finished product and pour it into a colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth and let drain over a large bowl for an hour to two until desired consistency is achieved.
  • There are many variables you can work with to achieve the final product you want. Some of the things I’ve tried – using more or less starter, not stirring in the starter but letting the yogurt culture doing the work for you, letting the yogurt incubate for shorter or longer (from as low as 6 hours to as long as 12 hours).
  • If your batch has a slightly grainy texture, either try heating the milk at a lower heat or try a new starter for the next batch.
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