Confessions of an EVERYDAY ECOTARIAN

creative, conscious and conserving ideas, thoughts and solutions

On Food: Making Yogurt June 12, 2008

I’m on a food bent today.

Do you love really good, organic yogurt but feel like the budget is too tight to buy it? Perhaps you just feel wasteful buying disposable, (or recyclable) container(s) of yogurt every week.

You can make your own yogurt and it is EASY. Really. No laboratory needed, no big sterile environment is necessary. Just you, some milk, some culture and a warm place. Yogurt is one of those things that is as old as man and domesticated livestock. If they could do it, so can we. -and the best thing is you control what goes into it.

I use a 1-quart “Yogurt Maker” by Salton. I got it from Amazon for about $15. I now see that Amazon no longer carries it. However, they do have an individual cup yogurt maker for $29. I’ve often wished I had the options of individual cups so perhaps this is a better option anyway. You can make yogurt without a yogurt maker but I’ve found the incubator is inexpensive and makes the process much more predictable and the product more consistent.

Regardless, the process is the same. You buy milk -whatever milk you desire. I love using whole-milk for my yogurt. If you use homogenized milk your yogurt will be consistent throughout. If you use milk that has not been homogenized your yogurt will have a cream layer on top, (oh, how I love that cream layer!). You heat the milk to 200 degrees for 10 minutes. You let it cool until it is lukewarm. Some people add some dried milk powder at this point but I’ve found it isn’t necessary. Next, you take some live cultures and mix them into the milk. You can either use live culture that has been freeze-dried, (like Yogourmet) or just buy one cup of plain yogurt that has live and active cultures to mix into your milk. You then place the milk/culture mix in the incubator and let it rest for 4-10 hours -until it sets. If you like your yogurt more sour then let it go towards the 10 hour mark, mild let it go towards the 4 hour mark.

You will now have plain yogurt that you can add whatever you’d like into. Save about 4 ounces of this yogurt to start your next batch. You can re-culture your yogurt about 3-4 times with yogurt from the last batch. After this the cultures will be too weak and you will need a new set.

One more thing: The consistency of homemade yogurt is thinner than the kind you buy in stores.  You may find yourself asking, “How do I thicken my homemade yogurt?”  I have worked and worked to find a way to thicken it up, (my family prefers it thicker). After much trial and error I’ve stumbled upon a couple of solutions. The first is to add unflavored gelatin to it before you incubate it. I’m not sure I like its texture this way. It’s kind of like…well…Jello. The second -my preferred method- is to use a product called Instant Clear Jel. It is a pre-cooked corn starch. Therefore you can put it in something cold and it will thicken it almost instantly, (think instant pudding). I have found that you use about 2 TBS to 1 cup of yogurt. Sprinkle it over the top, whisk it in good and let it set in the fridge for a while. Then, go back to it and whisk it again until it’s creamy and thick. My family thinks it’s perfection!

Plain yogurt is also a great, healthy substitute for sour cream. You can also put the plain yogurt in a colander lined with cheesecloth and let the whey drain from it until you have yogurt cheese -which is a lot like cream cheese.

You can make a quart of yogurt for the cost of the milk plus your culture, (which can be simply one individual cup of plain yogurt). Healthy, delicious, nutritious and inexpensive!

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3 Responses to “On Food: Making Yogurt”

  1. Wonderful to see you writing about yogurt cheese. We like it so much we wrote a cookbook and guide to expand its uses. I hope you will allow us to share our enthusiasm:Yogurt cheese (or YoChee as we call it) is a wonderful versatile ingredient you can make at home to improve your own yogurt. It has substantial health and taste benefits (a creamy food which is low or no fat plus high protein and calcium). I hope you will take a look at,” Eat Well the YoChee Way” our guide and cookbook to this important food. We even paid to have yogurt cheese analyzed in a lab for nutritional content. The book really increases the use of yogurt cheese to main courses, soups, sauces, desserts, and much more. (Nutritional content included). Our website YoChee.com contains a free yogurt cheese how – to slide show, nutrition information and free recipes.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Thanks for the tips on composting! Question about the yogurt — does it have to be regular milk? Or could I use either lactose-free or soy milk?

  3. amyecotarian Says:

    Good question! Now, I haven’t tried this but I know it is possible to make yogurt from soy milk. The process is the same for soy . You would still be using a milk product to get it started, (yogurt w/live active cultures). The alternative to this would be to use a freeze-dried starter. I’m not sure about lactose-free milk. My guess is that it would be difficult because it is the sugars the friendly bacteria need to feed on. Lactose is milk sugar so if it is removed I’m not sure the culture would have enough to feed on. Soy if fine because there is a different type of sugar for the little guys to eat. Hmmmm….I wonder if you could add table sugar to the lactose-free milk and still somehow make yogurt with it? Maybe someday I’ll do an experiment. I love a good experiment, (that’s why I had kids) -Just kidding. Really. 😉


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