Monday, March 21, 2011

How I made yogurt

Some of you said you were interested in how I made my yogurt.  Some of you said you kind of grossed out by thinking about making it at home.  If you're in the former group, read on, and if you're in the latter group, um...well, I'd skip the rest of this post.

To give proper credit, I took a lot of ideas from this post, and a lot of the comments to that post.  I made quite a few changes though, so I'll tell you what I did.  To give fair warning, however, in making yogurt, you are working with healthy bacteria, but without proper cleaning and care, you are also susceptible to allowing unhealthy bacteria in your yogurt as well.  So, please make sure you take caution when experimenting with this process, and keep everything extra clean so it's extra healthy!

My ingredients:
1/2 gallon 2% organic milk
1 small carton Chobani vanilla yogurt

You will also need:
A glass container with a lid
A food thermometer

I used organic milk, since it's important to me to have any animal-based products hormone and anti-biotic free.  Dave recently pointed out to me, however, that Walmart offers non-organic, but hormone-free milk, so I'll have to do some research to see if that's just as healthy of an option.

To turn milk into yogurt, you have to have some kind of a starter.  Some people buy starter drops online, but for right now, I chose to use a yogurt from the store.  I chose Chobani, for several reasons:

  • It has 2 different active cultures, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus
  • It has 3 pro-biotics, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidus, and Lactobacillus casei
  • While not certified as organic, they use hormone-free, anti-biotic -free milk from family-run dairy farms
  • They do not add any sugar
  • No artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
  • It tastes good, which means good things for my yogurt

If you are interested in trying this, you can go here to get a coupon for Chobani! (and no, unfortunately, no one is paying me to say this.  Just trying to pass along the results of my research!)

I boiled water in my tea kettle, and filled my glass bowl that I would be using for the yogurt, and added the utensils I was planning to use to sterilize everything.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then drain and let dry. It's important that only the good and healthy bacteria should be in my yogurt!

Next, pour the milk into a very clean pot, and stirring constantly, slowly heat the milk to between 170 and 180 degrees, so that the proteins in the milk change, and are ready to turn into yogurt.  Do NOT let the milk get any hotter than 180, it will affect the taste of your yogurt. I only let mine get to about 175.

You can see my lovely (sterilized) meat thermometer hanging off the side.  Not pretty, but it worked! I've read that the longer you hold your milk at this temp, the thicker your yogurt will be.  I didn't really care about that, so I just let it cool.  Keep stirring it for a few minutes while it cools, so your milk doesn't get scorched.

While the yogurt is cooling, I "pre-heated" my cooler by placing 4 glasses of hot water in the cooler and put the lid on.

Once your milk cools to 100-110 degrees, put it in your sterilized glass container, and gently stir in your yogurt starter.  I actually only stirred in about 2/3 of my yogurt starter, because by that time....well, I was ready for a snack.


Gently stir until it's pretty well blended, but do not over-stir. Put fresh hot water in the cooler, add your milk mixture, and let it sit for at least 8 hours.

I've heard of people who got yogurt faster, but it actually took closer to 9 for me.   Try to not look in the cooler until you think it's done, as you want the heat to stay constant.You can tell if it's "done" if it holds its shape a little when you tilt the bowl.  Do not stir it until you're done letting it sit.

Put it in the fridge overnight, and it will thicken more.

It cost me about $4 to make 1/2 gallon of yogurt, which should keep for up to a couple of weeks in a covered container in the fridge.

A couple of extra things you can do with your yogurt:

Greek-style yogurt:  Put some yogurt in a fine-mesh strainer with a bowl under it, and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Some of the whey will drain out, and you will have a thicker, creamier yogurt.  I think this could be good to make healthier dips with, as well as to eat plain!

Yogurt cheese:  Layer a fine-mesh strainer with a flour-sack type towel (not the terry-cloth kind, or something that will be fuzzy, because fuzzy cheese is always gross), and put some yogurt in.   For the first 6-8 hours, put some saran wrap against the top of the yogurt, then gently pile the towel over top.  Put the strainer over a bow, and keep in the fridge for awhile!

After the first 6-8 hours, you can take off the saran wrap, use a very clean spoon to shape it into more of a ball, then wrap the towel back around it and let it sit until the next day, or until firm.

Your yogurt cheese will be about 1/3 of the amount you start out with, so if you're making it for a recipe, keep that in mind.  It has a similar texture to cream cheese, but I don't know that it would melt the same.  If you have recipes that call for cold cream cheese, I think it would work.  It's also good with fruit and whole wheat crackers!

So, that's my story on yogurt for right now.  In my online research, I found a LOT of different ideas, options, and opinions, so I know there are other ways to do this, but this yogurt has tasted delicious (to me, anyway!), is cheaper, and feels healthy, so I've been very satisfied.  I'd be interested to hear from you, if you try any of this, or have other tips and tricks to share!

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