Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making homemade yogurt

Yogurt is a part of our family's daily diet and that's a good thing -- it's rich in calcium, high in protein and teaming with good-for-your-gut bacteria. But not all yogurt is created equal and many store-bought varieties are also loaded with sugar, artificial dyes, preservatives and stabilizers such as gelatin.

I'm always on the lookout for ways to buy less and make more, so I started making our own yogurt. It's deliciously tasty, wonderfully textured, less expensive and so easy too!

There are lots of low-tech ways to make yogurt using a cooler, insulated canister or even the pilot light of your oven, but I use a yogurt maker -- simply because my dad gave me his.

Regardless of the tools you use, the process is essentially the same: you heat milk to just below boiling, cool it to around 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then carefully add a starter culture of live bacteria. Nature does the rest. (For some fascinating reading on "how yogurt works," pop over this New York Times article by Harold McGee.)

The key is to keep the yogurt warm and draft-free during fermentation, which is where the yogurt maker comes in handy.

The recipe I use calls for:

• 3 1/2 cups of milk (I use whole cow's milk, though I'm going to experiment with goat's milk next)
• 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup instant milk powder (I use the greater amount for a thicker yogurt)
• 1/2 cup plain yogurt with live or active bacteria cultures (simply take this amount from your current batch and use it for the next)

Processing takes anywhere between four and 10 hours , depending on how mild or tart you want your yogurt.

This is after just four hours in the yogurt maker and two hours chilling in the fridge:

At this stage, the yogurt's taste is mild, milky and gentle on the palate. While it's lovely to eat on its own, we enjoy adding dried fruit, homemade jam and honey. But our hands-down favourite has to be locally-produced maple syrup.

Homemade yogurt makes the perfect compliment to our DIY granola, but it's more than that. As Salon author Francis Lam writes, "I don't know exactly how the tradition of eating yogurt for breakfast started, but it's a lovely symbol. Mornings are about renewing, and yogurt is a perfect symbol of rejuvenation -- of making old milk new again, living and breathing and good."


Mama Pea said...

My hubby prefers kefir (which he makes himself) instead of yogurt (which I make myself) but between the two of them, I feel we're both getting a good dose of gut bacteria (of the best kind, of course). You're so right . . . there are so many ways you can use good, ol' homemade yogurt. Even if you choose not to make your own, you can purchase organic PLAIN yogurt in the store that doesn't contain added sugar. Adding your own fruit, honey, maple syrup, etc. to that makes a very palatable dish of goodness.

Erin said...

Great post! If you have kids, you are sure to have yogurt around LOL! What many people don't know is that "thanks" to today's pasteurization and other treatments, most grocery store doesn't even have any good bacteria left in it, the ones that do have had it "added back in" after the process...what?!!! LOL

936000 said...

Okay, I am verrry intrigued by your sentence: "At this stage, the yogurt's taste is mild, milky and gentle on the palate" as I have never cared for the taste of yogurt and oddly enough, it makes my ulcer act up horribly. I always found it to be a "sharp" or bitter taste.
Can you explain does it stay that way "at that stage" or will it eventually turn into what I consider sharp and bitter?

Tracey ~ Clover said...

I alway make my yogurt in the crock pot, but have never added dry milk. I will give it a go on the next batch. Thanks for the tip. said...

@ Mama Pea -- I've never made kefir before, but I've heard loads of good things about it. It's on my 'to try' list -- stay tuned! And you're right about simply buying plain yogurt and adding to it. That's what we did before I started making it. Before that, I'd buying the gelatin-free organic yogurt and before that, I admit we bought 'regular' yogurt. It's been quite the progression!

@Erin -- thanks! And yep, yogurt is another 'victim' of the industrial food system -- many brands out there are more food 'product' than food!

@Meggs -- Using the maker I do, you can leave it in for processing (which is simply keeping it at a constant heat) for between 4 and 10 or more hours. The longer you process it, the tarter it tastes. My kids don't like the really "strong" stuff, so I keep it on the "mild" side. (They also find they maple syrup removes any last hint of tart, lol!) That's interesting about your ulcer acting up... you'd think it would like yogurt! My hubbie has an ulcer too, but he doesn't like yogurt of any kind (it's a texture thing) so I can't test it out on him! Does this answer your question?

@ Tracey -- I've read about making yogurt in the crock pot too. If I didn't have the maker, that's probably what I use. I'd be interested to hear how the dry milk works out. :)

936000 said...

Fiona-Absolutely and thank you for answering! I don't have a maker (yet) but think I may google making yogurt in the crock pot!
Thanks again!

mtnchild said...

Hi Fiona. How much yogurt does your recipe make? I'm by myself, and would not want it to turn bad for want of eating it all.

I rarely buy yogurt anymore because it is sooo processed.

Yvette said...

@Meggs -- My pleasure!

@ Yvette -- I just checked and it makes 1 quart (or 1 litre) of yogurt. I'm not sure how long it would keep because a batch only lasts about two days in our house! I know you're not supposed to keep the reserved cup of yogurt to use as starter for the next batch past five days, but that's because you need fresh and lively bacteria. Maybe you could try halving the recipe?

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