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Make it Yourself Monday: Yogurt

This is the first of what I hope to be a regularly occurring series- Make it Yourself Monday.  I realized recently that there are a LOT of things I have learned to make myself in the past three or so years that I had previously bought, and that there are still many I would love to try.  I also realized that, before I got this drive to learn to make for myself (mostly driven by the price of today's featured item... it all kind of spiraled from there) I didn't think twice about buying my yogurt, breadcrumbs, chicken broth, bread, and cream of mushroom soup at the store. 

As I learned these tricks and recipes, I hungered for more.  So I learned it all very gradually- one new thing this week, another a few weeks later.  Learning to make everything from scratch would be overwhelming and stressful and, well, impossible to maintain.  By doing it a little at a time you give each new thing time to become part of your routine before moving onto the next thing.

So my challenge to you is to follow along with me- try the item I list each week (sometimes food, sometimes not...) if you don't make it at home already.  Most save money.  All are a better alternative to often either artificial or chemical laced store bought versions.

Super thick strained yogurt.

Yogurt is a superfood, in its purest form.  However, as with many other products that have their roots in traditional cooking, yogurt has been so altered and adulterated by commercial manufacturers that it is merely a shadow of it's original, healthy self.  Store bought yogurt is filled with artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and various products to ensure the texture is consistant... not to mention lots and lots of sugar.  One six ounce container of Dannon yogurt has almost four teaspoons of sugar.  Even if you were to use white sugar in your homemade yogurt, I am willing to bet you would use less than that.  And when you make your own you can opt for healthier sweeteners like stevia (if that floats your boat), maple syrup, or raw honey.

Eating yogurt not only delivers much of the nutrients found in milk such as calcium and protein, but it also provides your digestive system with a boost of probiotics, which help create the ideal environment in your gut for your own beneficial bacteria to do their job.  Including yogurt in your diet helps to boost your immune system and provides you with many nutrients and enzymes that your body craves.  Some people who have a hard time digesting milk are able to eat yogurt and other fermented dairy products because much of the lactose is consumed by the probiotcs.

So here's the one that started it all for me.
A jar of lovely non-homogenized yogurt, with the creamy top.

How to Make Yogurt at Home: Two Methods 
Makes one quart
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2 T. your favorite plain, additive free yogurt
Equipment for Method One:
  • Small cooler or your oven
  • 3 1qt. canning jars with lids
  • Thermometer
  • Heavy bottomed pan
  • Whisk
Equipment for Method Two:
  • Crock Pot (a small one, or double the batch for a larger one)
  • Thermometer
  • Whisk
NOTE:  You can make yogurt from raw milk, but if you wish to maintain the enzymes and other beneficial aspects of raw milk it requires more steps, and as I make my yogurt from low temp pasteurized non-homogenized milk instead I am no expert on using raw milk for this application.

Instructions for Method One:

Place heavy bottomed pot on stove over medium heat and pour in milk.  Stir milk often and carefully monitor temperature until milk hits 180 degrees, then immediately remove from the heat.  Allow to cool gently until the milk is at around 112 degrees, which takes about a half an hour (but check frequently, as this depends on the ambient temp of your kitchen and the heat retention of your pot).

As you wait for your milk to cool, put a kettle or pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  Fill two of the quart jars with boiling water, lid, and (carefully- jars will be hot!) place the jars in the cooler.  If you're using your oven instead of a cooler, simply preheat the oven the lowest temp you can, then turn it off.  If you have an electric oven leave your oven light on (this may help in a gas oven as well if your pilot doesn't keep your oven at around 110).  It helps to have a thermal mass, like a baking stone, in your oven to help retain the heat.  It also helps to have an oven thermometer, because you want to ensure that your oven is between 110 and 120 (absolutely no higher) when you put your yogurt in.  I never check the cooler temp, but it wouldn't be a bad idea.

When the milk has cooled to 112 degrees run some hot water over your third jar to heat it up, pour the milk into the jar, and whisk the yogurt into the milk (if you're wondering why I don't wisk it into the milk in the pan- I always worry about residual heat in the pan killing the culture, so I wait until the milk is in the jar).  Lid the jar and place it in the cooler as far from the hot water jars as you can get it.  LEAVE THE COOLER LID CLOSED FOR AT LEAST 8 HOURS!!!  Don't be tempted to check on it.  After 8 hours check on it- it's done if it pulls away from the side when you tilt the jar.  If it hasn't set up you can stir another tablespoon of plain yogurt into the milk, put more hot water (hot water from the tap, not boiling) in the water jars, and let it culture another 4 hours before checking again.

Instructions for Method Two:

Pour milk into your crock pot and turn on high.  If you have a digital thermometer that beeps when it reaches a certain temp, this couldn't be easier because, unlike method one, you shouldn't have to stir the milk as it heats up.  When the milk reaches 180 degrees turn the crock pot off and allow the milk to cool to 112 degrees.  Stir the starter into the milk.  At this point you can either put the crock insert in the oven with the pilot or oven light on (as in method one) or you can wrap your crock pot with towels- anything to keep the heat in.  I prefer the oven when I use this method because a crock pot wrapped in towels takes up a lot of counter space for 8+ hours, and counter space is always hard to come by here.

Just, um, don't turn your oven on while you have yogurt in it.  I've done it a few times using the crock pot method.  Thankfully my crock pot survived, although the handle in the lid is a little more artistic looking now.

I have used both methods extensively.  The second method is somewhat easier, but I was struggling with it after our move here, so perhaps our oven doesn't maintain a good temp (although I have some Oregono oil infusing in there right now, and the jar seems plenty warm).  I've had much better luck lately with the cooler method, and I love that you don't have to transfer the yogurt to another container- just put the jar in the fridge.

Flavoring Your Yogurt:
It is best to flavor your yogurt as you eat it, as opposed to flavoring the whole batch right away.  Flavoring it can cause the yogurt to become runny.  Plus, who wants to be limited by one or two flavors?  Flavor it as you go with:
  •  The most common flavor in our house- honey and cinnamon.
  • Jam or preserves.
  • Maple syrup.
  • Molasses.
  • Soaked Granola (check out Kitchen Stewardship- the recipe in this post is for standard granola, but there is an excellent recipe for soaked granola in her ebook, Healthy Snacks to Go, which I have and which is an excellent value!)
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Peanut butter and a mashed banana.
Other Uses for Yogurt:
Yogurt is more than just a healthy snack, though.  Here are some other ways to use yogurt and it's by-product whey (that liquid that settles to the top, or that you produce if your strain your yogurt to make it thicker).
  • Strain yogurt until it is super thick and use it like cream cheese- spread on toast, etc.
  • Use in place of sour cream in casseroles
  • Use to soak whole grains to increase digestibility.
  • Use excess whey to water plants, soak grains, feed to your animals (my dog loves it, as do my chickens), drink a little yourself (whey is a great source of calcium and protein, and has been said to be good for the joints... which is the main reason I choke the stuff down), mix into baked goods... there are more out on the web if you do a search.
  • Make frozen yogurt or popsicles.
  • Make tatziki sauce or other yogurt based dip.
  • Use to make ranch dressing. 
 Do you make yogurt at home?  If not, try it today!


Brianna said...

The way I did it in the crock pot is even easier than your way.

Put 8 cups of milk in a 4 quart crock pot. Cook on low for 2 1/2 hours. Unplug crock pot. Wait 3 hours. Scoop out 2 (or so) cups of milk, mix in 1/2 cup yogurt starter, pour back into crock pot. Wrap in a heavy towel. Go to bed. Wake up. (strain for a couple of hours) Ta da, yogurt.

The "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" cookbook is my source, and she includes several ways to make the yogurt thicker, but I'm not a big fan of thick yogurt so I just left mine plain. And I guessed on all of the measurements and it worked great. And the best way I've found to eat it came from my genious 4 year old niece- a little bit of honey and a little bit of cinnamon. Yum.

Brandislee said...

That's a very easy way, but not all crock pots get to the same temp at the same time, so it's not a bad idea to monitor the temp the first time. But like I told you, sometimes when I over-monitor the temp I get WORSE results.

simply heidi said...

I've got a yogurt tutorial coming up Friday. We seem to be in sync. Great post!

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