April 4, 2011

This Ain't No Yoplait

Often at the end of the day I'm scrambling to get just one more thing done before heading to bed.  It always seems that my to-do list is exponentially longer than the time I have available to work on it.  My hubby politely reminds me that projects like this aren't helping the situation.  

A few weeks ago I got fed up with spending $0.50-1.00 on a container of yogurt.  Especially ones with ingredients on the label that I can't pronounce.  So I put in a request to a friend and started on a new adventure--making my own yogurt.  I was amazed at how simple the process actually is.

Between yogurt cultures and sourdough starters it appears as though, perhaps I should have been a microbiologist instead of a soil scientist. 

All you need to get started is a couple quarts of milk and a small amount of unsweetened, plain yogurt with active cultures.  After you make the first batch you can use use some of your homemade for future batches.  (I've used whole milk both times I've made it now, but will try 2% the next time.  I've read that you don't want to use less than 2% or it will get "grainy")

2 quarts of milk = 1 half a gallon.  Pour it into a heavy saucepan.

Over medium-high to high heat heat the milk to 175-180 degree Fahrenheit, stirring frequently.  A candy thermometer works well because it clips onto the side of the pan.  Next time I might snag C's nifty beer brewing thermometer (sterilized of course!) as it has an alarm that sounds when you reach your designated temperature.

Remove from heat and allow milk to cool to a temperature between 110 and 120 Fahrenheit. 

I usually cheat at this point and drop the saucepan into the kitchen sink, filling the basin with cold tap water.  With constant stirring it drops the temperature of the milk to it's desired range within a couple of minutes.

Take about a cup of the warmed milk and whisk it into about 1/4 cup of your unsweetened yogurt.

After whisking, pour mixture into the saucepan and mix everything well.

Wrap the saucepan in a heavy towel and put into a conventional oven that has been preheated for about one minute.  Turn the oven light on.  Let it sit and incubate for 10-14 hours.  The time varies depending on the environment and how thick you want your yogurt.  Mine typically takes 12-14.  I start it after dinner and let it go overnight, pulling it mid-morning the next day.

When it's done incubating, pull the yogurt from the oven and stick it in the refrigerator to chill.  

If you want regular yogurt go ahead and stop here.  If you're like me and want to try your hand at Greek yogurt, keep going.  

After pulling the yogurt from the oven I strain it to thicken the consistency.  My system is weird but it works well -- I line a strainer with muslin, put the yogurt into cheesecloth and then the cheesecloth goes into the muslin-lined strainer.  (It's cheaper than buying a $75 bullion strainer and a standard kitchen strainer doesn't have a fine enough mesh.)  To speed the process I place a plate on top of it all and add some weight.

Then I let it sit for another hour or so.

I let it go until it quits dripping whey into the collection pan.

Ideally you want to reduce it by half.  I've found that getting about 3 cups of liquid out makes for a perfect consistency. 

Then put your thickened, creamy yogurt into a tightly sealed container and refrigerator.  It will thicken more as it cools.

Apparently I got so excited about the finished product that I forgot to take shots of the yogurt before it went into the fridge.  Oops!  But it doesn't last around here long so I'll try to get some on the next batch.

So far this has been a huge hit.  I bought some vanilla Torani syrup to sweeten it and it works really well -- toss in some fresh fruit or granola and it's hands down better than anything you could buy at the store.


Lisa said...

I'm going to have to try that soon! I have a little mad scientist in me that is dying to give this a try!

Flying Monkeys said...

Thanks for the directions. I hadn't looked that far into it after I saw people were buying special yogurt makers. Just what I need one more gadget. : )

Susan said...

Yes, I think you are Superwomen.

pam said...

You know you can't post something like that without me trying it....