July 30, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

I blame Natalie. She got me into brewing kombucha and now making yogurt.

I never thought about making yogurt at home. It's one of those things that seems a bit beyond the home cook's reach. I read about making yogurt once, but the article talked about sitting it on a radiator to get the ideal temperature. I didn't have a radiator. Besides, dealing with temperatures seemed too finicky for me.

BUT, I assure you, it is easier than it sounds. The "recipe" for yogurt is really basic and quantities are flexible. The recipe below is for how much I make, but it can really be whatever quantity you want, with a relative amount of yogurt/active cultures added. The only thing that is essential is the temperature, but you just need a candy thermometer clipped on the side of the pot. Then all you need is time!

Try it once or twice and you will have it down. If you don't want to worry about your yogurt at all, get an incubator. It keeps the yogurt at just the right temperature, so you don't have to think about it. I thought about getting one, but then I figured it out without one, so I didn't bother. I can make bigger batches my way, too.

I like making yogurt because it is cheap and I can make it Greek-style, like I prefer. I also like that there are no additives. Yogurt is so good for you! Natalie and I promise.

Homemade Yogurt
  •  8 cups of milk (I use nonfat, but use whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt with live/active cultures (I don't measure, just scoop what looks like enough)
  1. Slowly heat the milk to 185 degrees, stirring often.
    Heated milk cooling in an ice-water bath.
  2. Remove from heat and cool milk to 115 degrees. (I speed this up by using an ice water bath, but you don't need to.)
  3. Stir about a cup of 115 degree milk into a small bowl with the already-made yogurt. Gently stir milk/yogurt mixture into the pot of 115 degree milk. 
  4. Maintain the pot at about 105-115 degree temperature for 5-12 hours. 
  5. Stir the yogurt. It should have a soft jell-o like consistency. 
  6. Strain the yogurt, to remove some of the whey. I have used a colander lined with two layers of cheese cloth or a very fine-mess strainer. When the yogurt has reached your desired consistency, whisk until smooth. Refrigerate. 
Yield: Approx. 4 cups, depending on how much you strain it.

To keep the yogurt incubating at 105-115 degrees, I wrap the pot in a towel and set in my oven, which I've heated to this approximate temperature. I usually reheat the oven about halfway through to maintain the correct temp. Other people have success leaving it on top of their refrigerator, wrapping it with a heating pad, etc. Get creative!

If the temperature is too hot, it will kill the bacteria you need to make the yogurt. If it is not warm enough, the process will go too slowly. If you remove the yogurt at 5 hours, it will not be too tart. The longer it sits, the more tart it will become.

If your yogurt is too thick, you can just whisk in some milk to thin.

I tried adding vanilla extract to one batch. It was OK, just different than store-bought. I mostly stick to plain.

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