Monday, August 2, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

For quite sometime I have heard of people making their own yogurt, I have long wanted to try making it, but just never gotten around to the actual process. Then one day I happened upon Greek Yogurt, I was out of town, and saw it there in the dairy case of some big nameless store. I had heard about Greek style yogurt but had never came face to face with it. Greek style yogurt is basically yogurt that has been strained of the liquid whey which makes it much thicker, creamier, and a bit tarter than our traditional American version, also some Greek yogurts are made with goat milk instead of cow's milk. Greek yogurt has more protein than the usual variety and tends to contain less sugar per serving, 10 grams less than my usual Hiland brand, although I believe this has more to do with the added in sugar than the actual natural sugar found in yogurt.

After first taste I was in heaven, but I quickly ran out, at $1.25 per 6 ounce serving, I only bought a couple, being unsure if I would in fact like it. I looked around several places for more, but there just isn't a lot of places selling it around here, even on a trip to Wichita I came up yogurtless. So began my online search for an easy Greek yogurt that didn't require the purchase of a yogurt maker, I have enough unused kitchen appliances and would like to avoid adding additional pieces. Finally I came up with my starter recipe using tips for several sources, I say starter because I have a couple variations in mind to try on my next batch, and I have just never learned to leave well enough alone. This recipe was simple, used basic household items and produced a very creamy yummy yogurt.

What you will need:

~1/2 gallon milk, I used 2% because many sources recommended using 2% for a creamier end product

~3 tablespoons plain yogurt at room temperature

~candy thermometer

~heating pad

First start with 1/2 gallon milk, slowly warm this to 180 degrees stirring periodically, this helps break down the protein in the milk, this is fairly easy if you have a candy thermometer, but if say you forgot you broke yours during Christmas candy making last year a meat thermometer will do in a pitch, although I will be picking up a new candy one today at Steve's or Alco.

Once you have reached 180, then it is time to cool the milk, I did this in a sink of cool water, as recommended by several sources, once the temperature reaches 110 degree it's time remove from sink.
Double check to make sure the temperature is around the 110 mark, at 120 degrees the temperature will kill the yogurt bacteria, add 3 tablespoons of room temperature plain yogurt and stir. Now it is time to let the bacteria do it's thing, which is basically eat and multiple, the temperature needs to remain close to 110 degrees, in order for the cultures to do their thing, this is when if you had one you would put this into your yogurt maker, which I find the term yogurt maker a bit misleading, since in fact all they are would be yogurt incubators, keeping the yogurt mixture warm. So instead of going this route, I took my pot, set it on a heating pad in a nice quiet corner of the kitchen and put a nice thick beach towel over everything. Now for the hardest part of the entire process - leave it alone for 7-8 hours, no peaking, apparently yogurt cultures are very shy and peaking could mess the whole process up.

If everything turned out when you do open it, you should have yogurt, thinner than the store bought because it is warm, but the best smelling yogurt you have ever came across, seriously. Stir well and then put into containers and put in the back of your fridge to cool, the stirring and cooling stops the cultures from doing their thing. Let cool overnight and you have plain yogurt, if you want Greek yogurt after it's cooled strain the yogurt through a coffee filter for a couple hours, this will strain out the liquid whey resulting in a thicker, creamier yogurt. You can also use the liquid whey in bread baking, but since its 110 degrees outside this week, there will be no oven useage to my house, maybe another day.

You can also turn plain store bought yogurt into Greek yogurt just by straining it, so if you didn't want to go through the trouble of making your own but want to thick creamy texture of the Greek yogurt you could simply buy a quart container of plain yogurt and strain it through a coffee filter, but that would just be too easy for someone like me ;)

I do like my yogurt sweet thanks to years of buying the little cups of yogurt, so I made a blueberry compote made of 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 sugar, cook for 10 minutes or so just until the blueberries start to break down and then you can add this to your yogurt for some sweetness along with a little fruit serving, just store in the fridge. I also added a little Kashi Go Lean cereal for crunch, and it was a breakfast worth getting up for!

Have you tried Greek yogurt, did you like it? Ever make your own yogurt?

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