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February 4, 2013

No More Fuss About Yogurt!

My mother, brother, husband, children, best friend, and anyone else who spends a little time with me know full well how much I love yogurt, cheese, fermented foods and drinks. I try not to be pushy with it, but sometimes I just get so darn excited about a "new" (to me) find that I just want to pass on something good. Just so you know, today is one of those days! My daughter and I have had all out stomp down arguments because previous attempts at making the aforementioned yogurt failed big time. We bought the fancy "starters", we tried crock pots, pricey milks, and heating pads. We searched for the best yogurt machines which only led to more arguing resulting in creating a loose smelly mess. 

I now know that the problem we had is a problem many others have; we over think things. Yogurt has been made and consumed for eons, or at least as far back as 2000 BCE [according to Wikipedia]. Yogurt or Yoghurt is a Turkish word meaning "curdled or coagulated; to thicken" This thickened dairy product has beneficial cultures or bacteria that have managed to flourish and grow for all these years without fuss. Got milk, got good cultures, get yogurt! Simple right? Somehow us new age consumers think that we can improve on what these little bacteria have done so well for centuries but we need to stop with all the foolishness. 

After a two year break from disastrous yogurt making I came across a video on homemade yogurt. This method was so simple, so quick, and seemingly so effective that I just couldn't believe it. It took the theory of using all the doodads and gadgets and kicked them to the curb. After watching this video I felt compelled to confirm this theory by watching other videos. After hours on YouTube I realized that my Middle Eastern brothers and sisters have been passing this knowledge on for generations. Does anyone think that their Middle Eastern neighbor is buying special  milks and gizmos to create what is a staple in their cuisine? Mine sure weren't. When I realized this I could have smacked my own head like the "Should have had a V8" commercial. 

Part of eating global to me means appreciating things as they are. Don't get me wrong here I have to have a starch and a protein with my kimchi. I can not just down a mouthful all hardcore like I've been eating it my whole life. However, I can down a bowl of yogurt in the blink of an eye with or without fruit, sugar, granola, or naan. What I don't appreciate is going to the store and seeing all of the rainbow colored pudding being passed off as yogurt. Ingredients that should never be in our yogurt include: cornstarch, corn syrup, gelatin, carmine (which is ground up bugs btw), and pectin. To put this in perspective for my family I point out that I use pectin when I'm making jelly, I use cornstarch to make gravy or lemon curd. 

I used to be on the Dannon and Yoplait bandwagon, lured in with their fun colorful packing; and biggest loser promises but it's not authentic. I have nothing against their making money, I just believe there should be truth in advertising. Real yogurt has two ingredients, milk and live active yogurt cultures not pie filling ingredients. The ingredient list for "real" yogurt should read something like what is found on packaging for Old Home Yogurt and FAGE: cultured pasteurized grade a milk and nonfat milk, or Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Cream, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei).

When we start becoming foodwise and appreciating the origins of our food not just from where it was picked or processed today but why we want or need it in your diet. This brings us so much closer to the past. We have to be conscious of why we eat what we eat and what it takes to produce what we eat. That's why I'm sharing my AHA moment [please don't sue me Oprah] with you today. I'm figuring most people who like yogurt and who are sick of all the plastic waste, inflated prices, and foreign ingredients in their yogurt will want to at least give this a try once. If you do try this method for making your own yogurt please let me know how it worked out for you. I will even post your pictures here if you send them to me, or if you have your own blog/site I'll place a link to your page from here. 

Last but definitely not least, all you need to make a delicious beneficial yogurt consists of:

  • 1/2 gallon Milk (room temp)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup Old* Yogurt (room temp)
  • OPTIONAL - 1/4 cup dried Milk
  • Pot
  • Spoon
  • 4 quart sized glass Jars with lids
  • Towel
  • Hot Water
  • Cooler
Heat milk for 7 to 10 minutes then take off of the burner, it should be simmering but not scalding. I did not use a thermometer but if you need to heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool the milk down for another 15 to 20 minutes. You should be able to put a *clean* finger in the milk and feel warm but no burning. Again I did not use a thermometer but if you do your looking for a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your room temperature yogurt starter to the pan and SLIGHTLY stir or just shake. You don't want to disrupt the cultures too much. They are alive so this is where you need to be gentle...
Next pour this cultured milk into three of the quart jars. Sprinkle a teaspoon of dried milk into each jar (for a thicker yogurt). Put on the lids, pour hot water into the last quart jar. wrap the three jars in a towel. Place all four jars in a cooler. 

You are now done, 10 to 12 hours you will have your own yogurt! Place in the refrigerator which will thicken the yogurt even more. The following pictures are my non-refrigerated yogurt. It doesn't show just how thick the yogurt turned out to become. I was so excited to share that I had to get this posted ASAP. 

How easy was that? Just eat and repeat! Remember to save some yogurt from each batch for your next "starter". If you don't use the dried milk you can strain your yogurt for a greek-like consistency. Since I hate waste I conserve some of the whey (I didn't have much) to use in my baking or other dishes.

NOTE: I do not mean spoiled yogurt when I say "old yogurt". I mean Save 1/2 cup of your left over store bought yogurt for the starter.
Insulated Cooler for yogurt incubator
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Yogurt setting up after nine hours
Yogurt after 11 hours

Finished Yogurt

Time to eat homemade yogurt