Sunday, February 14, 2010

Easy Homemade Yogurt

If you’re thinking “why would I want to make yogurt?” consider the following:
1)Making your own yogurt will save you money – homemade organic yogurt will cost you about half the price of store-bought organic yogurt
2)Yogurt is extremely good for you – the live cultures in yogurt help promote healthy digestion and they strengthen your immune system
3)Eating yogurt can help you get the recommended 3 daily servings of dairy
4)Yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium
5)Individuals who are lactose intolerant can eat yogurt even though they can’t eat other dairy products (the cultures consume the lactose, so yogurt is essentially lactose free)
6)It is just plain fun to DIY

The recipe is quite simple, hardly a recipe at all in fact. To give credit where credit is due, my friend Kristin gave me the initial instructions for how to do this.

Milk: I use skim milk, you can use whatever you like, but organic milk is strongly preferred!
Plain (Unsweetened) Yogurt: I use full fat yogurt for my initial starter. Again organic is preferred, and the yogurt must be 100% yogurt – no gelatin or other added thickeners. Some good brands include: Stonyfield Farms, Fage, Oikos, and Dannon.
**After you’ve made the yogurt once, you can keep some of your homemade yogurt and use it as your starter the next time.

You will need around 2 tablespoons of yogurt for every 1 cup of milk.
I usually make a half-gallon at a time, and it lasts me 1 week.

1)Put the milk in a large stockpot. Heat the milk until it is just about to boil, but don’t let it boil. In other words, scaled the milk. If you have a thermometer, it should be around 170 degrees.
2)Let the milk cool until it is around 110 degrees, or until it is very warm, but not hot (e.g., you can put your finger in it and it won’t burn you.) This will take some time, so be patient.
3)Once the milk is cooled whisk in the yogurt until it thoroughly combined.
4)Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into glass or sturdy plastic containers (I re-use old quart-sized yogurt containers from my pre-homemade yogurt days).
5)Line your biggest stockpot or a deep baking dish with a couple of kitchen towels. Nestle the milk/yogurt filled containers in the pot/pan, putting kitchen towels or rags in between the containers and on top of them. The towels provide insulation, which will help the milk/yogurt stay warm and help it turn into a nice creamy yogurt.
6)Place the pot/pan in your oven (turned off), and let it sit overnight or 6-8 hours until the mixture is thick like a typical yogurt. If it is really cold in your home you may want to turn your oven onto its lowest setting for 5 minutes every two hours.
7)Once the yogurt is thick, refrigerate it. That’s it, so simple!

Don’t freak out if you have some separation, meaning there is liquid (called whey) separated from the solid yogurt. Just drain off the liquid. Also, if you want a really thick Greek-style yogurt you can pour the yogurt into a large strainer lined with some cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Let it drain until the yogurt reaches your desired thickness.

Okay so now you’ve got a bunch of yogurt, what should you do with it? Here are some ideas:
1)Serve the yogurt with some fresh fruit – berries, peaches, pears, bananas, etc.
2)Make a smoothie with yogurt, fruit, flaxseed meal (especially if you’re Erik), and a little honey or agave if your fruit isn’t very sweet
3)Top the yogurt with your favorite granola or other crunchy cereal
4)Stir a spoonful of your favorite jam or jelly or applesauce into the yogurt for homemade flavored yogurt
5)Serve a dollop on top of a baked fruit cobbler or crisp (much like crème fraiche)
6)Use in place of sour cream (e.g., on tacos or baked potatoes)
7)Make a veggies dip by stirring some minced garlic, fresh or dried herbs and salt and pepper into your yogurt
8)Combine some yogurt and your favorite spices for a flavorful and tenderizing marinade for chicken
9)Use yogurt in your favorite muffin or quick bread recipe
10)Use yogurt in your favorite curry recipe

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