April 30, 2009

almost like milking a cow, but not. homemade yogurt

You might think I've gone off the deep end. But I was so excited about making homemade yogurt on Sunday morning that, once 6:30 rolled around, I hopped out of bed, took Fin out, and went straight into the kitchen to prepare for my latest experiment.

I made a racket, but managed not to wake Ryan while I sterilized some jars and readied my workspace. Let me show you how easy this can be before I tell you what all I did (because c'mon, you know I can't make it easy).

The recipe is this simple.

Homemade yogurt:

2 cups milk
2-3 tablespoons yogurt (either store-bought or saved from your previous batch), or cultures

Set yogurt on counter to bring it to room temp (70 degrees). Heat milk on stove, stirring, until it boils. Cool milk to between 105-110 degrees (106 is optimal). Stir in the yogurt or cultures until incorporated, and pour into a clean jar. Cover and keep warm (about 100 degrees), without disturbing, until creamy texture is reached.

~*~*~

Easy enough, right? Let me break it down for you: Here’s what I did, step by step, on Sunday morning.

Wanting a sterilized jar to pour the yogurt into, I boiled two Mason jars in my stock pot (using a large stock pot, cover the jars in water, place on stove, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Carefully remove the jars and put them on a clean towel to air-dry).

Then, in a medium saucepan, I poured two cups of organic 1% milk. I actually forgot to stir (duh, but to my credit, none of the three books I was referencing said anything about stirring, except the Joy of Cooking which mentioned it at the end) and very nearly scalded the milk, but all was well in The Kitchen of Amberland. If I had scalded the milk, then the end result would’ve been nasty tasting. So please, again, learn from my mistakes and be sure to stir the milk as you heat it! I let the milk cool to 110 degrees, keeping an ever-watchful eye on it with my candy thermometer. (Remember the instant-read thermometer mistake? Well, an instant-read would be best for this situation, but I haven’t replaced mine yet—so I had to improvise.)

Once the milk cooled, I stirred in 2 or 3 tablespoons of store-bought organic low-fat plain yogurt. The trick is to buy the plain stuff and be SURE the container proclaims that it contains “live, active cultures.” That means the good bacteria are in there, and they’re ready to do their job.

After the yogurt and milk were well incorporated, I carefully poured it into one of my readied jars and topped it off with a lid. Here's the tricky part: I needed a way to keep the yogurt warm (around 100 degrees) for a few hours. Lacking a stove that goes down that low, I had to improvise yet again. Enter the lunchbox and hot washcloths. I took two kitchen washcloths, wetted them, and microwaved them for one minute. This made them incredibly hot, so I removed them from the microwave with tongs and tossed them into the lunchbox. I put the jar of soon-to-be-yogurt in there and zipped it up, with a small thermometer sticking out of the zipper so that I could monitor the temperature. I could have finished the yogurt after three hours, but waited a full six before removing it from the "hotbox." At that point, the yogurt had obviously become thick and creamy, and there was a little whey on top. One quick stir, and into the fridge it went. A few hours later, a taste of my homemade yogurt yielded a smooth, sweet, shockingly delicious surprise.

After the success, I had to immediately prove I could do more and tried to strain some of the yogurt to make it "Greek style." Using a couple of coffee filters (picked up free at work, since they ordered the wrong ones and couldn't return 'em!), and an itty-bitty colander, I strained about 1/3 cup of the yogurt in the fridge overnight.

Unfortunately, either due to the coffee filters or the fact that I didn't cover the yogurt with plastic wrap, the strained, thicker yogurt had a strange flavor that didn't sit right with me.

In any case, if you're wondering whether you should attempt homemade yogurt, I absolutely recommend it. The success of this Sunday morning project gives me the courage to try cheese making!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amber,

I'll have to try your lunchbox and washcloth method. I have found that putting the yogurt straight into a thermos will work, too.

goodness said...

Amber,

How daring of you! I have been wanting to make my own yogurt for a while now- more inspiration for me!
You must have either a keen intuitive sense or have done your reading- your yogurt making was just in time for the Milk Moon (Beltane). Have you read _Full Moon Feast_ by Jessica Prentice? I really recommend it if you haven't- I learned a bunch!

Happy cooking,
Kate