Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Taking Your Yogurt For a Jog

I'm all about making homemade stuff lately - like food kind of stuff. I know - what the heck am I talking about? I always make homemade food stuff. But usually I make home BAKED stuff - like cookies and cake and pie - you know, the sweet stuff. This time I'm talking about REAL food - stuff that's good for you - maybe not beans and brocolli good, but certainly way way way way way way above double dark chocolate brownies with chocolate frosting and sprinkles good.

Anyway, I posted recently about my adventures with custard. Well shortly after that strange idea popped uninvited into my head, another curious idea popped in. It's getting quite crowded in there! Really! You have no idea what's swirling around in that maelstrom inside my head. It's quite wonderful and frightening. But back to the topic. So, NOW what am I making, you ask? Yogurt! That's right. Yogurt! That awesome, bacteria-filled (or probioitic if you prefer) goodie.

Why on earth would I make yogurt? They sell it in the store you know! Yes, I know that, but I'm appalled and somewhat disgusted by the amount of sugar added to most yogurts. I eat yogurt every day. I make homemade granola and mix it into my yogurt for a nice breakfast (or lunch). I eat it, but deep down I'm cringing at the amounts of sugar - 25 grams or more isn't uncommon! That's the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar!!) Like I said, I normally bake a lot so I get quite enough sugar in my diet from that stuff - I don't want it in my 'real' food too! I know that yogurt, even plain yogurt, has natural sugars in it. But most commercial yogurt is overly sweetened with all sorts of added sugars. I know I know - eat the 'light' yogurt. But that has artificial sugars in it which I try to avoid (sucralose, aspartame, saccharine, etc, etc) OK, then just shut up about it and eat plain yogurt! Well, OK. But if I'm going to eat plain yogurt I may as well make it myself. So I did:

It's really easy. I poked around online a bit and got some tips from a friend. This is what I ended up doing:

(I made a small amount to start with just in case it failed utterly, a la the first custard attempt, or just in case it tasted so terrible I couldn't bring myself to eat it. Neither happened so the next time I will make twice as much.)

  • Pour 4 cups of milk into a saucepan and heat it up to 190 F, stirring frequently. (I used a candy thermometer. Also, some sources I found said to heat it to 180 F. Some said to boil it. Some some said to never boil it. Some said 190 F. I went for 190 F since it was in the middle ground.)
  • Once it gets up to 190, remove it from the heat and let it cool down to 105-110 (about 40-50 minutes)
  • While it's cooling, stir together 1.5 tablespoons of store-bought plain yogurt with active cultures to 2 tablespoons of milk and set it aside.
  • Once the heated milk has cooled to 105-110, add in the milk/yogurt mixture, stirring it into the milk completely.
  • Now, in order for those wonderful little bacteria to do their job and thicken up that milk into yogurt, they need warmth, time and privacy. That's right! Privacy! Yogurt does not like to be disturbed or rushed while it's procreating thickening. (Really, let it sit quietly. I don't think complete silence is necessary, but try to refrain from peaking in, poking at it, jiggling it, dancing with it around the kitchen or taking it for a jog. It prefers to just sit and think for a bit.)
  • To get it prepared for it's resting phase, I warmed up my crockpot slightly - just so it wasn't ice cold, then put my bowl of yogurt into the warmed crock (bowl and all - I didn't dump it out into the crock). I filled in the spaces around the bowl with towels to keep it cozy and warm. I covered it, pushed it into a corner of the counter and let it snooze in cozy, undisturbed warmth overnight. (You could use an insulated cooler, or just towels or any slightly warm location. The goal is to keep the temperature as close to 105-110 as possible so it can do its thing. A nice down comforter, mug of hot chocolate and a good book would also work.)
  • Now, I was pretty sure that in the morning I would have yogurt, but that still didn't quell my surprised delight when I opened the cover in the morning and discovered actual yogurt! Wow! It was very exciting! I squealed like a little girl on Christmas morning.
  • Then I moved the yogurt (sans crock) to the fridge to chill for a couple hours.
  • And since I like my yogurt on the thick side, I decided to greek-ify it, which basically means I drained out some of the liquid (whey).
  • Line a strainer with cheese cloth. If you don't have cheesecloth (like me) just use coffee filters. I had a double thickness of them in the strainer.
  • Then, put the strainer in a big bowl (to catch the drippings) and dump the yogurt in. Cover it and move it to the fridge to sit for a couple hours.
  • When I checked on it after a couple hours I was pleasantly surprised (I know, a lot of surprise going on with this particular venture) to find a nice quantity of whey had drained out.
  • Now put your yogurt into a container for storage (I put mine into some glass jars) (or, you can just eat it now if you prefer)
And, I also saved the whey (the liquid that drained out) in some other glass jars. You can just discard it if you want. But I got online to find out what I can do with whey - it's full of all sorts of healthy goodness. (That's my next adventure - just wait until I tell you what I'm doing with the whey!)

Lastly, I scooped some yogurt out into a bowl, added a touch of honey to kill a bit of the tartness, added a squirt of lime juice (I love lemon and lime yogurt!), mixed in a little granola and it was awesome! It was really really good.

I'm sure my mother is right now, this very minute, cursing my name and shaking her fist at her computer screen. She made homemade yogurt for years in these awesome little ceramic heated yogurt cups. And would I eat it then? No! Would I even consider that it was maybe an edible thing? No! I made disgusted faces, wrinkled up my nose and refused to even consider it an edible thing. And now here I am, making my own homemade yogurt! Curse you Ginormous Duck!


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