Thursday, June 12, 2008

Make Your Own Yogurt

My kids and I go through a ton of yogurt each week. In general we eat it plain or with fruit, applesauce, or jam. I use it in muffin recipes. We drink it in smoothies. E likes to paint the high chair with it.

I used to have a yogurt-maker, but spooning yogurt in and out of eight little single-cup jars, washing the jars and lids, and not losing any of the eight jars or lids before the next go round just was not worth the satisfaction of doing it myself or the cost savings of making homemade yogurt. So I gave the yogurt maker to a friend and learned a newer, easier, more efficient method. I learned it from David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Chemistry. He is my best dairy friend; sadly we've never met. If you have any inkling of wanting to make your own yogurt or cheese, you MUST visit his website. He approaches food-making like a science. He uses simple but very detailed instructions with great photos and a few videos. And he shares his mistakes, which quite often are mistakes I've made too. It is very helpful to know when one is making a mistake and how to remedy it. So, I will briefly share my efficient yogurt-making techniques and then you need to go visit Dr. Fankhauser.

One of the keys to this method is knowing that yogurt stays good in the refrigerator for a long time (2 weeks to 2 months, depending on who you ask -- in my experience, it's still good at a month and a half if it is kept perfectly sealed). So, instead of making eight one-cup jars, I make five one-quart jars at a time.

Steps for Efficient Homemade Yogurt:

1. Heat a gallon of milk (at least 1% fat) in a heavy pot until it starts to steam. Do not let it boil. Turn down the heat to very low and keep the milk at the barely steaming point for 10 minutes or so.
2. Turn off the heat. Cover the pot. Let the milk cool to 110 - 115F. If you don't have a thermometer, it is cool enough when you can stick your clean little finger in the milk for 10 seconds without it hurting.

3. Thoroughly mix 1 cup of the starter (commercial or homemade) yogurt into 1 cup of the warm milk. Then mix the yogurt mixture in with the rest of the warm milk. (NOTE: Make sure your starter yogurt does not contain gelatin, pectin, sugars, or anything else except milk and cultures. If it does, your homemade yogurt will not set properly.)
4. Pour the yogurt-milk into clean quart jars. Put the lids on tightly.
5. Put the jars into a cooler. Fill the cooler with hot water until the jars are mostly covered. Put the cooler in a spot where it will not be touched for 10 - 20 hours.

6. Very carefully transfer the jars to the refrigerator after 12 hours. If the yogurt still isn't firm-ish after cooling in the fridge, put the jars back in the cooler with more hot water and let them sit another 8 hours or so.

For greater detail on the process, go visit Dr. Fankhauser. Also take a look through the National Center for Home Food Processing's yogurt page.

Oh, and remember that even if you mess up and end up with runny yogurt/milk when you are finished (you probably had the milk too hot when you added the yogurt), don't throw it out. Just use it for cooking or smoothies. It's not bad unless it got contaminated somehow.

I'd love to hear your yogurt-making joys and woes, so please share!

1 comment:

Johanna said...

A friend asked today if anyone knew how to make yogurt less tart. She had been incubating the yogurt in the crockpot, holding it at 100F or so using a thermometer to check. Another friend spoke up. He said that the more starter you use, the more tart your yogurt will end up. I didn't know that. Good tip!