How To Make Yogurt

One of my blogging goals in 2012 is to fill up the “Other Kitchen Fun” section of the Recipes and Guides menu bar on the left. There’s been mention of teaching some classes and I’d love to start working more on a how-to locavore eating guide this year. Just before I started on the locavore diet, I was working through a New Year’s Resolution to never make the same thing twice for one entire year. The kitchen partner was always coming home to a tornado of dirty dishes and new updates to my Facebook status:

“If I start by putting the raw turkey in the pan (yes I touched it), I’ll be one step closer to boning a duck.”

“Hand-dipped chocolate truffles are amazing, but dirtied every dish in my kitchen.”

“I genuinely like meatloaf although I really loathe the leftovers. That’s why I made mini-meatloafs today.”

I know. You’re thinking…Really Amy? Status updates about meatloaf? But trust me. If you wrote/dreamed/hankered after food as much as I do, you would understand. Most days my “status” really does revolve around what I eat.

But I digress. As part of my 2012 goal, I thought it was fitting to share a How-To from an old goal. Success builds upon previous success, right? Today is about yogurt. One of the new things I learned that year was how to make yogurt from scratch. While browsing the library for new things too cook, I found (and set to work on) Ricki the Cheese Queen’s Home Cheese Making With a little timing and the right ingredients, homemade yogurt is a heavenly accomplishment to add to your local food repertoire. It can be made with a pot and a warm oven, or if you’re lucky with an electric yogurt thermos We graduated to one of these a few years ago for the individual serving glass jars that fit in lunch boxes and dishwashers. I like my yogurt on the go.

There are a few things to know before attempting to make yogurt, and I strongly suggest consulting a cheese-making guide for a background on working with active cultures:

  • Do not choose milk that has been ultra-pasturized. The local brands sold in the Twin Cities area do not qualify as ultra-pasturized, but if you’re unsure check the label. Ultra-pasturized milk has no nutrients for the active cultures to grow on so your milk will always stay just milk. Regular pasteurized milk should be just fine, but if you’re having trouble getting your yogurt to set, this is the first place to investigate.
  • Active cultures can be purchased in a variety of ways: in the dairy section of your co-op or health food store, online , or by using the active cultures in 1/4 cup of pre-made yogurt. I think the powdered active cultures tend to set with more consistent results, but I have had success using some of my old batch as a starter for a new batch of yogurt. The directions below can be used for most powdered cultures, however it’s best to check the package instructions for exact temperatures.
  • It’s important to have clean, sanitary equipment (you don’t want any bad bugs killing your good bugs!) and a reliable thermometer. I use a digital one with an alarm because I like to monitor the temperature without having to stand next to the stove.
  • Although you can find loads of flavored yogurt recipes online, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (sets up most reliably) with goodies stirred in. We love ours with strawberry freezer jam, granola, or fresh fruit. I stir it into quick breads and have it around for smoothies, dressings or salads.

Homemade Yogurt

Adapted from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll

1. Start with 1 quart of skim milk in a 2 quart sauce pot.

2. Whisk in 1/4 C. of organic non-fat dry milk powder. (Thickens the yogurt)

3. Over low heat and while stirring occasionally, bring the milk to 180°F.

4. Remove from heat and allow milk to cool to 110°F.

5. Stir in active cultures.

6. Cover and maintain temperature at 110-115°F for 7-10 hours or until yogurt reaches a thick creamy consistency. This can be done in several ways. If you have an electric yogurt maker, follow the manufacturer’s directions (this is the easiest!). If you have a non-electric yogurt thermos (a specially designed container with foam insulation), pour the warm water in the container and allow it to sit covered in a towel until it reaches desired consistency. If you have neither, turn your oven on to the lowest setting for 5 minutes, wrap the covered pot in a towel and place it on the top oven rack with a pan of hot water directly underneath on a lower rack. Monitor the temperature frequently and add additional hot water to the lower tray if temperature falls below 110°F. The more constant the temperature, the more consistent the texture of the yogurt will be throughout the container.

7. Refrigerate and store up to 2 weeks.


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