Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yogurt at Home

Yogurt is one of those things that I hate buying now that I know how easy it is to make at home. Yogurt is just milk that's been lived in by bacteria, so all you need to do is make the milk very habitable for the right bacteria, introduce the right bacteria, and let them reproduce. They do all the work, just give them a happy home!

Yogurt cheese made with this contraption
I usually do a gallon at a time, so that I've got plenty to use plain, pack into little containers with fruit jam to take to work with me, and also strain to make yogurt cheese (a great substitute for sour cream and cream cheese that is an awesome base for dips), but there's no reason you need to make that much- quantities mean very little in this "recipe."

One thing to be careful of is that you want anything that's going to come in contact with your milk/yogurt to be clean so that you're growing the bacteria you want, not some nasty bacteria that came riding in on the wind. Collecting a spoon, 1 cup dry measuring cup, glass bowl, and your thermometer and pouring boiling water over them into a bigger bowl does the trick for me.

Turn on your oven to it's lowest temp setting (mine goes as low as 180) and let it preheat.

First, pour your milk (I use whole milk because it's delicious) into a big pot and heat slowly to 180 degrees,  not letting the bottom scorch by stirring every once in a while.

A binder clip helps hold the thermometer away from the pot, leftover homemade yogurt ready to populate the new milk

Then let the milk cool to 120 degrees (you can speed this up with an ice bath, but I just go do something else for a while).

Take a small container of leftover homemade yogurt or store bought yogurt with LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES <-- those are the bacteria you need so they won't help you if they're dead, and pour into your clean glass bowl. Use the clean 1 cup dry measuring cup as a ladle to dip into your 120 degree milk and ladle onto the store bought yogurt in the bowl. Mix that together so they blend into a smoothie consistency and then pour it into the big pot of milk.

At this point, you can pop a lid on your big pot of inoculated warm milk, turn off your warm oven and pop the whole thing in for 6 hours or more, but you can also portion it out at this'll see what I mean below.

The idea is to give the bacteria a warm place to multiply and do their work- hence the warm oven. Just be sure you don't leave the oven on, that would be too hot. So turn it off, and put the covered, soon-to-be-yogurt in until it's tart enough for you. After 6 hours it should be solidified like yogurt, but will be very mild in flavor, with almost no tartness at all. If you leave it overnight for 8 or 9 hours, it will be more tart, like commercial yogurt.

Recently I bought some glass jelly jars with the intention of making fruit on the bottom yogurt to take into work for lunch and that wound up being a little extra work, but very delicious and pretty!
I made the strawberry jam recipe that came with the package of pectin, using frozen strawberries and adding a pinch of salt, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and a few grinds of white pepper to zing it up a bit.

Once the jam was done, I poured a little into the bottoms of the clean jars and popped them in the fridge to firm up for a few minutes, but took them out so they could warm back up to room temperature while I made the yogurt (I didn't want cold glass jars sucking all the heat out of my warm milk mixture when I poured it in).
Jam firming up in the fridge so the second layer wouldn't disturb the pretty layer too much

Once the milk was mixed with the commercial yogurt and ready to firm up, instead of leaving it all in the big pot, I poured it gently, using a funnel, over the now firmer jelly  in the jars. Then I screwed on the lids loosely and popped them into the warmed oven to sit overnight and turn into fruit on the bottom yogurt. I can't wait to do other flavors next time!
Strawberry Balsamic Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt

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