Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DIY Yogurt

I grew up on home made yogurt, but (no offense, Mom) our home made yogurt was never my favorite . Since then I was relatively ambivalent towards the food in general until I discovered Greek style yogurt. The health benefits of Greek yogurt have been extolled far and wide, so I won't go into it here. Greek yogurt had me at the creamy texture and only improved when I tried honey yogurt (I eat it like ice cream). 

The high cost of Greek yogurt, plus my love of all things home made, led me to give home made yogurt a second chance. This method is a combination of several I discovered online. Do some research and figure out what works for you. And don't be intimidated, all you need is about an hour of time, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, and 2 quarts of milk. 

I started out with a make shift double boiler and a candy thermometer. 

You don't need anything fancy, just a thermometer that goes up to 180 degrees.   

Fill the bottom pot of the double boiler halfway with water. Put it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Since you have to boil the water anyway, you might as well sterilize your utensils. Put a 2 quart oven safe container and metal spoon directly in the water. Turn the inside pot of the double boiler upside down on top of the pot. The steam will sterilize your yogurt making gear and help ensure a creamy, tasty product by minimizing sources of contamination.

Once the water has boiled, remove your newly sterile equipment and turn the inside of your double boiler right side up. Pour 2 quarts of milk into your pot (I actually use powdered milk: 2 1/4 cups of powder to 2 quarts, a larger ratio for higher fat content).

Bring the milk above 180 degrees. It is not a big deal if you go above 180, but you must hit 180 to denature the milk proteins and prime them for yogurt culturing. 

Meanwhile, bring 2 tablespoons of plain non-fat yogurt to room temperature. For best results, buy a yogurt starter with active cultures and no pectin. Yogurt with pectin will result in a slightly slimy texture for your first few yogurt batches. 

When your milk reaches 180 degrees, take it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. 110 is the ideal incubation temperature for yogurt bacteria, so you do not want the milk temperature to dip below 110. The rate of cooling doesn't matter, but for expediency I typically surround the pot of milk with ice packs. 

Pour the milk into your oven safe bowl, mix in your yogurt starter. I also like to add another 1/2 cup of milk powder for extra creaminess, but that is a personal preference. 

Cover the bowl with tin foil and incubate yogurt mixture at 110 degrees for 8-12 hours.  I use the pilot light in my gas oven to maintain the temperature, but according to my internet research any of the following will work:

1) A crockpot, filled with water, on low.
2) Make the yogurt in a thermos.
3) Place the bowl in your hot water heater closet.
4) Use an electric blanket

Try not to disturb the yogurt while it is incubating. After 8 hours (ish) it will have solidified. 

You could call it a day there, but I like to strain it for an hour for a more Greek style texture. 

With the exception of one mishap that resulted in ricotta cheese (hello happy accident!), I have been very pleased with the texture and taste of my yogurt making endeavors. Overall, it is very little hands on time and it is much cheaper than buying Greek yogurt. I set aside a couple of tablespoons of each batch to act as the starter for the next batch.  Or share some of your yogurt and start a trend akin to Amish friendship bread.

Good luck!

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  1. Oh no... I hate to say it, but I'm intimidated! Thanks for sharing, though. Maybe someday I'll work up the guts to give this one a try :)

  2. Catie, You of anyone should be able to do it. Its two perfect things: food and biology! Just think of it as a genetics experiment:) I expect good lab notes.