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Sunday, November 10, 2013

* Home Made Yogurt

Making yogurt at home is very easy. There is no reason to buy any special equipment as you probably already have what you need. Making your own yogurt allows you to control what is in it, up the protein content if you wish, and is less expensive than store bought.  I like my yogurt to have a little sugar for sweetening, and a little vanilla for flavor. Store bought sweetened yogurt is like eating pudding it is so sweet, but I don't really like the tartness of plain yogurt either. For me, the hardest part of making yogurt is waiting for the milk to reach the right temperature.

I like to use organic milk because there is a higher percentage of omega’s in organic milk than regular milk. I also prefer whole milk for the extra creamy texture of the finished yogurt but 1 or 2% works fine too. You can leave out the sugar and vanilla if you want plain yogurt. I sometimes add powdered milk to up the protein content of the finished yogurt and it also helps to thicken it.
I purchase plain yogurt with live culture in it for starter rather than use my own home made as starter. Home made may not be as strong and there is nothing more annoying than taking the time to make a batch, and spending the money on organic milk, only to have to throw away the whole mess because it didn't culture right. Left over purchased yogurt can be frozen to use later. Always make sure all utensils and containers you use to make yogurt are very clean. Any bacteria on the surface of these can incubate along with your yogurt and you don’t want that to happen.

In a large pot, preferable a heavy bottomed one, pour your milk and the powdered milk if you are using it. Attach a candy thermometer on the side of the pot so that the end of the thermometer is about in the middle of the milk mixture. For stirring I use a spatula with a flat edge so I can pull it along the bottom of the pot. Stir continuously, as the milk will easily burn on the bottom. Bring the milk to 180° using medium heat. Immediately remove from heat source, and do not let it boil. If you find that your milk is burning on the bottom of the pot your heat may be too high. 
Once the pot is removed from the heat source, add in the sugar and vanilla if you are using it, stirring well to dissolve all the sugar. You now want your milk mixture to come to 105°. I usually just watch it, stirring on occasion while it comes down to the right temp, but you can set your pot in the sink that has some cool water in it. Don’t get any water in your milk mixture.

At 105°, I measure out my starter yogurt into a 2 cup measuring cup (if the temp is too hot it will destroy the starter). I ladle some of the warm milk into the yogurt and whisk it well. Then I add more milk mixture to measuring cup, whisking, then pour it all into my pot of milk and mix well. This makes it easier to stir out lumps before it is added to the pot.

At this point I use my jar funnel and ladle it all into 4 one pint Mason jars that are placed in a baking pan. Now, I change out my oven light bulb for a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Because of the configuration of my kitchen I need to take the door off my oven in order to reach the bulb. Did you know that it is really easy to take the door off a free standing stove? You open it to that first little bump where it is open only a few inches, and pull up. It comes right off on most stoves. It’s made that way to make cleaning and working on it easier.

With the door back in place, I put my baking pan of Mason jars in the middle of my oven and put a thermometer in front of them so I can read it easily through the oven door window. I want the temp to stay at 100° give or take a degree or two; and a 100 watt bulb works perfect to heat my oven space to that temp.

Now I will wait for the magic of the live culture to work. If I have added powdered milk to my mix, I can usually have yogurt to the consistency I want after about 10 hours. If I have not used powered milk, it takes longer, maybe 14 hours, until it has the thickness I want. It is necessary to plan the making of my yogurt with the time it takes to incubate in mind so I will be around to take it out of the oven when it is ready. (or have my husband do it when he leaves for work :) Once, I left it for 17 hrs and it was a nice consistency and tasted great.

My jars of yogurt are then put in the fridge to chill. A batch of yogurt will last  me a long time; it takes 3 to 4 weeks to use it all, and it continues to thicken ever so slightly in the fridge.

I love my homemade yogurt. I think it has a better flavor than any store bought I have tried. With the small amount of sugar and vanilla I add, it’s mildly sweet. It can be flavored by stirring in a spoonful of fruit jam if you like, but mostly I like to added dried fruit and some nuts.
There are many ways to make yogurt if this way doesn’t appeal to you; this way is super easy for me.
  • 7 cups of milk
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered milk (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar  (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tsp of vanilla  (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of starter yogurt
Heat 7 cups of milk, with powdered milk stirred in well (if you are using it) to 180 degrees stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla (if you are using it) and mix well cooling down to 105 degrees.

Add a cup or so of cooled mixture to 1/2 cup of starter yogurt, whisk well and then add starter to milk mixture in pot. Ladle into containers of your choice and keep at a temperature of 100 to 105 degrees until it reaches your preferred consistency and flavor (check it after 8 hours) for approximately 10-12 hours.

*when checking on the consistency of the yogurt while incubating, be sure to do it quickly so you are not allowing the oven to cool too much, slowing down the process.

* Update: I have tried this recipe many different ways, from adding more milk or less, more vanilla or less, etc. I can tell you that you can add up to one cup of milk more or less without much change. I usually do about 8 cups of milk as that is how much is in a 1/2 gallon carton. I have tried adding more vanilla and yes you can add too much; it will taste awful! I have only had one jar go bad and as it was not the whole batch I believe it was because the jar was not as clean as it should have been. I knew it was bad immediately from the first bite!
A while back I watched an episode of Good Eats and Alton Brown was making yogurt. He stated that you only need to heat the milk up to 120° so I tried that as it would be much faster. It worked just fine but the yogurt was a little thinner than usual. I did a little online research and most say that it is better (for many reasons) to heat the milk to 180°. I will from now on. You can do your own research and decide for yourself.

First published at Family Home and Life. Copyright © 2013 by Hill House Homestead ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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