Thursday, April 14, 2011

forget what you thought

For the past couple years I've featured recipes to replace staple items you typically purchase from the grocery store. In particular, I'm thinking of recipes for bread, granola, soup, tomato sauce, and pizza. I have a few more I'd like to share with you and today we're talking yogurt. Yep. I said yogurt.

I know what you're thinking. When I first thought about making homemade yogurt, I imagined a
patchouli scented kitchen, crowded with hanging plants and meowing cats, and a crazy hippie lady stirring up strange batches of stinky yogurt. I swear that's not me. At least not yet.

The idea of making yogurt, honest to goodness yogurt, seemed like it would be a crazy complicated process. And even if you could make it at home, the texture and the flavor would never match up to store-bought. This is what I thought. And then last May I visited my friend Anna and she blew me away with an incredible breakfast of early season strawberries and the most wonderful homemade yogurt I'd ever tasted. Anna convinced me I could make it myself and thus began months of experimenting in the kitchen and trying to make yogurt.

Before I started making yogurt, I was a big fan of Fage (that's pronounced fa-yeh) Greek yogurt. My only issues with Fage? It's not organic. It also contains only two of those good for your body active cultures. Plus it's a little expensive. So my goal? Make an affordable, organic, homemade yogurt with good active cultures. And if possible, achieve a similar texture to Fage.

After a lot of experimenting, trying different cooking methods and times, I've come up with good results.

There are a lot of recipes for homemade yogurt on the Internet, most of them way too complicated and many of them inconsistent. I wanted a simple process with great results, one I could make on a weekly basis.

I started by using my slow-cooker. This gave me mixed and inconsistent results. Sometimes I had a great batch, sometimes it wouldn't come together and would be a soupy mess. Some recipes recommend using your oven on a low temperature or heating the milk and wrapping your pan in towels or putting it in a cooler. After many tries and inconsistent results, I decided to purchase a yogurt maker. Lucky for me, I received one for Christmas and immediately set about making yogurt every week.

If you're interested in making homemade yogurt, but don't have an interest in purchasing a yogurt maker, simply google homemade yogurt and you'll find a million recipes to help you get started. But if you love yogurt, eat it on a weekly basis, and want to make your own, I can't recommend purchasing a yogurt maker enough. If you're going to buy a yogurt maker, check out the
Cuisipro Donvier Electronic Yogurt Maker. After two months of making yogurt at home, this machine pays for itself. So worth it.

And this is how easy it is when you have a machine:

Homemade Yogurt
(If you like thinner yogurt, this recipe makes six cups of yogurt. If you like thicker yogurt, about three cups.)

- 1 quart of whole or low-fat organic milk (I use 1% or 2%. Do not use skim milk, unless you want to add powdered milk.)

- starter at room temperature (for your first batch you'll need 1-2 heaping tablespoons of store-bought yogurt. Once you have a batch made, you can just use a bit of your previous batch of yogurt for your starter.)

1. Pour the milk into a 2-quart saucepan (for stove top) or 4-cup glass measuring cup (for microwave). Heat milk on medium-low, stirring occasionally. If heating in the microwave, cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every two minutes and checking the temperature at 6 minutes. Temperature of the milk should be 185-195 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Confirm the milk has reached the right temperature and remove from heat. Let milk cool until it has reached 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take about 20 minutes. You can speed the process along by stirring occasionally or putting the saucepan/measuring cup in an ice bath.

3. Once the milk has reached the correct temperature, fill one of the jars with milk. Add the starter yogurt to this cup and stir well. Pour this cup back into the rest of the milk and stir well.

4. Pour the milk equally into the jars, snap on the lids, and place the jars in the yogurt maker. Place the cover over the jars and plug in the machine. Set the desired amount of cooking time. I recommend 8 hours for your first batch. You can experiment with longer cooking times. For a thicker, more flavorful yogurt, you'll want a longer cooking time. We usually cook ours for 10-11 hours. Press the start button and leave the machine.

5. When the yogurt is done, transfer the cups from the machine to the refrigerator and cool for 4-6 hours.

6. If you like thinner yogurt, go ahead and enjoy! Pop a jar into your lunch bag for work, or add a little granola and enjoy some breakfast. If you like thicker yogurt continue to step 7.

7. After your yogurt has chilled for 4-6 hours, you can pour the yogurt into a bowl lined with cheesecloth and leave for 8-24 hours. For me, using cheesecloth each week seemed wasteful, so I purchased a reusable strainer that I swear, makes the best Greek yogurt you've ever had in your life. Simply pour your yogurt into the strainer, cover, and leave in the fridge for 8-24 hours.

Then using a spatula, scrape your thick, lovely yogurt into a bowl and add back in some of the drained liquid (whey) until you reach your perfect consistency. I usually add a few spoonfuls back in. And don't toss that remaining whey! It's super healthy stuff. Mix it into smoothies, a glass of juice, or soup to capture those nutrients. Your homemade yogurt will keep about 10 days.

That's it! Easy peasy. Yogurt machine, thermometer, strainer, milk, yogurt. It is so easy and cheap to make yourself, I hope you'll try it!

Yogurt Tips
- I think Stoneyfield's organic low-fat plain yogurt makes a terrific starter for your first batch. Stoneyfield's yogurt includes six active live cultures. I've heard Danon works well too.

- Never use expired yogurt for your starter. Make sure the yogurt you purchase for your starter, or the bit you use from your previous batch is fresh. If you use expired starter, the yogurt will not come together properly.

- Heating the milk for too long or at too high a temperature will produce low quality yogurt. Just be sure to stir and check the temperature as you heat the milk.

Not a fan of plain yogurt? Here are some suggestions for flavoring your completed yogurt. Stir in a little:
- vanilla extract
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
- honey
- jam (our favorite jam to mix in is Bonne Maman cherry preserves)
- fresh fruit

If you start making your own yogurt, I'd love to hear about it! Special thanks to Anna for getting me started!

1 comment:

curtis k said...

Another great recipe! I'll be making my second batch this weekend.