Though I missed posting last week, I did do round 1 of experiments for homemade yogurt. Unless you count 2 years ago as round 1.
While at college, my amazing roommate was always willing to try whatever crazy scheme I came up with–foodwise anyway. And one time, that was homemade yogurt. We did a crock pot method where we then strained the whey from the yogurt to *hopefully* make it a bit thicker. It was a long process, but for a few weeks we would make and eat freshly made yogurt.
It was a bit thin and tart: but I’ve never been a fan of plain yogurt. So I’d mix in honey or an apple cider drink mix powder.
Recently, in my bored blog perusing, I came across a Simple Bites posting about making yogurt. What caught my attention was the picture of thick creamy yogurt. Yes, a picture does say a thousand words, or starts the reading of a thousand or more words. Additionally, I was intrigued by how they added dry milk powder, and the “heating pad method” they used. I started exploring and found two other blogs with two different methods, and one that talked about sweetening the yogurt. Keeper of the Home used the same crock pot method I started making yogurt with two years ago, but had great pictures and tips for the whole yogurt making process. Meanwhile, Parkside Musings regularly sweetened her yogurt early in the process (rather than after the yogurt was made) and used an oven method of culturing the yogurt.
In tribute to Captain Planet: By their blogs combined, I make homemade yogurt.
So last week, before I ate half a gallon of homemade yogurt (I’m still coming to terms with that), I made a beautifully rich and creamy yogurt, learned how to not add fruit, and learned that the flavor of the yogurt will depend on the flavor of the starter. Now it is incredibly amazing and incredibly creepy, how you can perpetuate yogurt forever, effectively, very similar to friendship bread, or a sourdough starter. If you keep feeding it, it stays alive. You can save a bit of yogurt after each batch and use it for the starter of the next batch. So, like genetics, if your mom has brown hair you might too. . . if your yogurt starter is tart, yours will be too.
My first yogurt starter (I just had my hubby pick up plain yogurt from the store) was from a gag-me-it’s-so-tart yogurt. Please be sure to taste your plain yogurt. That being said, with enough sweetener even tart yogurt isn’t tart anymore. This time around I chose a different yogurt, that conveniently came in a smaller package–convenient because you only need 2 tbsp starter per 1 quart of yogurt. This new yogurt turned out a much milder flavor. Definitely better. A very awesome and cool website where you can buy yogurt cultures (including vegan for our milk allergy prone or animal loving friends) is Cultures for Health. Even more awesome because they have a comparison chart looking at flavor, texture and the specific bacteria strains used. Epic I tell you. I sat in the store with my smart phone comparing the bacteria in every different brand of plain yogurt before making my decision.
Overall, making yogurt is a fairly simple process that isn’t really ingredient intensive. It just takes a while. The same way making bread is fairly straight forward, not too many ingredients–it just takes a while. For unsweetened yogurt you need milk (whatever % you like. . . the more fat the creamier, and I love the flavor of whole milk), a yogurt starter, and dry milk powder (which is negotiable, unless you want thick yogurt). For sweetened, add sugar.
You start by mixing the milk, dry milk powder, and sugar (if using). The amount of sugar will depend on how sweet you want it. My first batch I did about 1/3 cup for a quart. It only slightly cut the tartness. This time around I did a generous cup for 2 qts. That being said, on my taste test, I’ll probably cut back on the sugar next time, this yogurt was much milder, that the extra sugar tasted like overkill. Forgive the boring pictures, making yogurt is almost always just a pot full of white liquid.
Now, bring the milk mixture to a light boil or about 185 degrees (so the other sites say) over medium high heat, stirring occassionally so you don’t burn the milk. Keep an eye on it. Because milk is sneaky. It take forever to heat up, and the second you turn your back to work on a blog post, answer a text, or tell the dog “No, I will not play with you” it has boiled over. One of the tips I came across suggested for thicker yogurt keep it at the high temperature for a longer time.
After the boil over, I mean “light boil”, remove the pot from the heat and let cool to about 100-110F. Or to those accustomed to making bread, a safe yeast temperature. For everyone else, if it hurts to stick your pinky in it, its too hot. If it feels barely warm to the touch, it’s too cold. A great tip is to put the pot into a sink half full with cold water. It helps the mixture cool down faster: but only if you remember to make sure the sink plug is in correctly.
A “meanwhile” I forgot is to have the yogurt starter warming to room temperature while you’re mixing , boiling, cooling, and cleaning up spilled milk. And while we are on meanwhiles, turn the oven on to 100-105F. If you can’t go that low, supposedly having the pilot light on for a gas stove, or the electric bulb is sufficient. I’m suspicious, but either way it needs to be a temp of 90-110F if you want to make yogurt.
In a cereal bowl mix the yogurt starter, and a bit of the cooled milk mixture. I should warn you, if the milk is too hot you may end up killing the yogurt cultures. If its too cold the yogurt will never “culture” and thicken.
Then take the yogurt starter/milk mixture and add it to the rest of the milk mixture. Stir well, and then pour into jars and cap them. I found 12 1-quart canning jars at Walmart for 8$. I thought it was worth it, mostly because I like the look of canning jars. You can also save other glass jars. Be sure to clean them thoroughly. If there is so much of a whiff of salsa or whatever, your yogurt will likely take on that flavor.
For easy transport, and reducing the likelihood of the jars falling over in the oven, place them in a small oven pan. If I do sweetened and unsweetened yogurt, I often use a dry erase marker to mark which is which. I’m not one for surprises when it comes to tasting yogurt.
Then you wait for about 8 or more hours. The longer you let it culture (past 8 hours) the tarter/more tangy it will be, but it also supposedly be thicker. After the culturing time, stick in the fridge to cool for a couple hours.
So here’s my finished result. (recipe is at end of the blog)
And what it looks like stirred briefly with a spoon
What do we do now?
Simple Bites has a great recipe for fruit on the bottom yogurt. At least it sounds great, I’ve personally, never been a fan of fruit on the bottom. There are a few options as to what to do with your plain or sweetened yogurt.
You can add vanilla, or chocolate.
Add honey and oats.
Stir in fresh fruit.
Add it to a smoothie.
Use that ice cream maker that you haven’t bought yet, but want desperately to make frozen yogurt *grins and nudges my husband*
Add flavored drink mixes.
Find cute little tubes and fill it like go-gurt and freeze em! Though maybe you could just make “yogurt popsicles”
Add jam or fruit preserves.
Use in baked goods in place of buttermilk or sour cream.
Hopefully, you’re beginning to get the idea. I chose to blend in strawberries for my one batch, and I’ll tell you how to do that.
Start with a few fresh or thawed strawberries (I used about 5-6 thawed frozen because I always have frozen on hand).
Use a blender to make into a strawberry mash.
At this point if you can scrape out the strawberry mash and stir it into the yogurt that would be best. If you add the yogurt to the blender and blend (even at low speed, unless you have a blender that can go really slow) the previously thick yogurt will become more like a yogurt drink. Last time I did two batches, the first ended up being like liquid; the second batch I added the the yogurt to the blender and hand stirred it, blending for just a couple seconds to bring the strawberry up from the blades a little. I also added sugar to taste in order to get a sweet enough yogurt and cut the tartness.
This time, I used a bowl to stir it together.
I decided to try to see if I could make it smoother, and used a hand blender. Sadly, just like with a normal blender, it thinner out the yogurt some. So if you don’t want thin yogurt, you’ll have to deal with not perfectly smooth yogurt. But here are the photos, the color doesn’t look as pink because I changed lighting.
So there we are, just take it and add it back into a rinsed (or completely clean) jar, label it and cool it or eat it.
makes 1 quart
- 1 quart milk (the higher the fat content the richer/creamier the yogurt)
- 1/2 cup dry milk powder
- 1/4-2/3 cup sugar (optional–depending on how sweet you want it)
- 2 tbsp yogurt starter (plain yogurt bought from store or reserved from previous batch)
- Preheat oven to 100-105F.
- Set yogurt starter in a bowl to let is warm to room temperature.
- Mix milk, dry milk powder, and sugar (if using) in a pot.
- Bring to a light boil (about 185F), stirring to prevent the milk from burning.
- Remove from heat and let cool to about 95-110F (or warm but not painful to the touch)
- Add 1/4 cup of milk mixture to starter. Mix well.
- Stir starter mixture into the rest of the milk mixture.
- Pour into 1 quart jar.
- Place on a pan and in the oven.
- Let culture for 8 or more hours.
- Remove from oven and cool in fridge.
makes 1 quart
- 1 quart plain or sweetened yogurt
- 5-6 fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
- sugar or honey to taste
- Use a blender (or fork) to mash strawberries into a mush. Blend longer if you don’t want chunks of strawberry.
- Stir strawberry mash into yogurt. You can use a blender or hand mixer if you want smoother result, but the yogurt will be thinner.
- Add sugar or honey to taste if needed.