Thursday, March 5

making yogurt

My friend came over this morning to see how I make my yogurt. It's one of my culturing habits I started in December and now it's part of my weekly routine. Making yogurt is one of those kitchen chores that takes some time, but not all of it is active time. Like baking bread. You have to be there to watch how it's rising, but you can do other things and just check in from time to time.

So the basics of my yogurt making habit....( this is where I realize I really need a decent camera so I could share pictures )

I start with a half gallon of milk, and heat it at medium heat for about 20 minutes until it reaches 180º F. This is to make sure that any competing bacteria are killed off. ( I usually unload my dishwasher and wipe down counters while it heats. )

Then the milk has to be cooled to 110º F so that when the starter is added ( more about that in a sec ) it won't be killed off. I set the pan of milk in a sink of cold water to do this. It takes 5-10 minutes depending on how full I fill the sink.

At this point I get my jars ready. ( Yogurt needs to be stored in clean glass jars so there is no residual gunk in there. I always use the same jars over and over. Once we have emptied a jar and it's been through the dishwasher, I set it aside. When I have 4 jars, I know it is time to make more. ) I put my 4 empty peanut butter jars into the other side of the sink with hot water. This gets the jars warmed so the yogurt stays at a more constant temp while it incubates.

( I use empty peanut butter jars because they have a wide mouth and are easy to empty. I would rather make smaller jars of yogurt and dip into them less so there is less separating too. You can easily use 2 quart jars, but I like the smaller jars. I think I will also get a different cooler at some point and even do individual cups for the kids to use in school lunches next fall. )

When the milk is at 110º, I stir in about 2 Tbsp of starter yogurt. This is just a little yogurt held back from my last batch. Originally it was plain yogurt (with active cultures) from the grocery store. I then take about 2 Tbsp out and put that aside to use as my starter next time. ( I keep my starter in a little plastic tupperware type container. It incubates on my stove top under a towel for the day. )

Then I stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 c raw sugar. ( Since we were used to eating store bought fruit flavored yogurt before, I am not making plain yogurt for the kids yet. It's a compromise right now, but they eat the yogurt and still think it's a little sour. Once our taste buds adjust, I will add less sugar I think. ) Then it's into the jars. I use my ladle and big funnel just like when I am canning. Before I fill each jar, I pour the hot water out and into my little cooler. The jars are only about half full. Yogurt doesn't need any head room. so I fill the jars to the brim.

I have an old cooler that would hold a six-pack of soda cans. It's really small and there is not a lot of extra room once the jars are in. If you need to use a bigger cooler, you can add a towel over the jars to insulate them too.

With 4 jars in the cooler and the water that was in the jars before in the cooler, the water level is about 3/4 of the way up the jar. That water needs to be about 100º. The yogurt then needs to incubate in the 100º water for 6-8 hours. Then into the fridge over night so it's completely set.

I like my yogurt thick and custardy ( which is why I don't like the crock pot method ) and this method yields that every time.

Some random other things:

The starter culture will work best if yogurt is made every week or so.

Longer incubation will make a tangier yogurt.

No matter how much milk you use, the ratios of ingredients stay the same.

More starter will actually produce a runnier end product, the opposite of what I would think.

It's really, really good...and with cherry preserves we made last summer it makes an awesome dessert.


Kathy said...

When are you starting delivery service??? And...from personal experience, I just have to say that your cherry preserves would taste good on or in ANYTHING!!! (((HUGS))) earth mama!

Lorrie Briggs said...

I had a yogurt maker given to me a couple of weeks ago. It was so easy to use. If you can boil water you can make yogurt. People seem to think it is such a difficult thing to make. It is also much cheaper.

Diane Joseph said...

I made my first batch of yogurt on Sunday and it tastes great. My kids really like it. I do have a question about consistancy. My yogurt seems to be stringy, is that normal?

noelle said...

Diane, so glad you tried it! My husband calls it the snotty yogurt. It is a little stringy, but just for the first day or two then it seems less stringy.