Thursday, January 13, 2011

Homemade Yogurt, and Living to Tell about It

A few days ago, I took yet another one of our snow days to try my hand at making some homemade yogurt. I had done this several years ago at a microbiology workshop (yes, I'm that much of a nerd that I'd take a week of summer to learn about microbiology), so I knew it wasn't nearly as complicated or scary as many people make it out to be. Basically, you're trying to do the same thing you do with yeast bread... encourage the microbes you want to have to grow and crowd out the bad ones.

My rationale for trying this was twofold. I wanted to try it at home because I knew I'd be able to have more control over the ingredients; I could use organic milk, mix in local honey for sweetner, use jam and frozen fruit for toppings. In essence, I could make sure that it was quality, with no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. I also wanted to try doing it because I knew it would be cheaper than purchasing store bought yogurt of the same quality, unless it was free with a coupon (which happens occasionally).

I primarily used the recipe in The Joy of Cooking, but I found a method for using the CrockPot in The Backyard Homestead, which is a fabulous book for those gardening enthusiasts. Basically, you use a milk of your choosing (I started with whole milk, just because that's what several recipes recommend, but skim will have the same protein content as whole, which is really what matters) -- 2 cups--and warm it to 180 degrees on the stove. I used a candy thermometer to measure the temp. Then, you allow it to cool to 106-110 degrees, add your yogurt culture (about three tablespoons of plain yogurt), stir well, and put into sterile jars. I just used small mason jars, the kind you would for jam. You place the filled, covered jars in the Crock Pot and set it to warm. (Not low, just warm) Cover the Crock Pot and allow it to set up for 5-6 hours, or overnight. Mine took about 7 hours, but I think I had a little less yogurt culture than the called for 3 T. The yogurt will keep in the fridge for about a week, but if you plan to make another batch, you should use your yogurt culture within 5 days.

I've enjoyed it for breakfast this week with blackberries from the freezer and some honey, but it would also be great with granola, sliced banana, or frozen for a dessert treat. You could easily add vanilla or orange extract if you like those flavors.

Let me know if you try it; I'd love to hear from you! Here's to living green, and saving green, in the kitchen.

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