Monday, March 7, 2011
Yogurt has such a universal appeal and is found in almost every nationality's cuisine. It is easily substituted for sour cream and is so full of beneficial bacteria essential for our bodies to stay healthy. If you strain it longer than you would for making Greek yogurt and keep squeezing out the extra liquid, you can make a yogurt cheese that is like cream cheese. I have wanted to make yogurt for many years. In fact, I bought a yogurt maker about 10-12 years ago. However, since I am a notorious procrastinator with my fingers in too many pots, it was not until recently that I decided I needed to give it a try. Part of the impetus was the rising cost of yogurt and the fact that they are full of sugar. Since my youngest is recently Type I diabetic, I decided it would be good to try making some with Xylitol, since I really do not care for the other chemically altered/produced artificial sweeteners.
Here is the picture of the type of yogurt maker that I used, which holds about 2 quarts or slightly more.
This is basically a small plastic pail with a handle and lid that snaps on tightly, then sets down into a styrofoam insulated tub with an insulated lid. I have seen others write about putting the yogurt in glass jars with lids and wrapping them up in towels or newspaper to be stored in a small styrofoam cooler or some other type of cooler that is thick (insulated with foam). Others even use a heating pad underneath the pot of yogurt mixture for the required amount of processing time. Basically anything that will help insulate the yogurt for about 8-12 hours will do the job. One of my newly purchased recipe books entitled The Indian Slow Cooker even has a recipe for making yogurt in the crockpot/slow cooker.
Notice I have a thermometer there. It is important to get the milk hot enough to take care of unwanted bacteria, but not too hot to boil or even scald the milk. You will also want to be sure you have brought the milk back down to the right temperature (110-118 degree F, or 45-48 degrees C) or else the culture you add will be killed quickly. There is only a small window of temperature that is ideal for the yogurt bacteria to reproduce.
I used the instructions that came with my yogurt maker because it seemed so easy. For the starter, I bought a small container of plain yogurt with no other additives, preservatives or thickeners. It is recommended in my instruction booklet that you get new starter about once a month in order to prevent problems from an aging culture. I am not sure if this is affected by whether you make yogurt more or less frequently. I kept some of the original yogurt aside to use later and put it in the freezer until needed.
2 liters of milk (either homogenized, raw, 2 % or skimmed- I used 2%)
1/2 cup non-fat milk powder (optional)
2 tsp plain and unflavored gelatin (optional)
4 Tbsp plain yogurt or 1 packet yogurt culture
Put a 3 liter or 3-quart pot inside a larger pot filled with water (to make a double boiler). Pour the milk into the smaller pot and add the other ingredients, mixing together well. Heat the milk to 180 degrees F/ 82 degrees C, stirring regularly.
Meanwhile, have a sink partially filled with very cold water. After the milk has reached 180 degrees, place the pot in the cold water and continue stirring and checking the temperature. When it reaches 118 degrees F/ 48 degrees C, add in a packet of yogurt culture or 4 Tbsp of last prepared plain yogurt (or store-bought). Mix well.
Pour mixture into a container rinsed with boiling water. Cover and wrap it up with either towels or newspaper, placing it in a cooler or styrofoam container, or placing it on a heating pad covered with towels.
Curdling requires at least 3-5 hours (some say 7-8 hours). I started mine before bed and checked it about 10 hours later and it was perfect. The longer you let it set, the stronger flavor it may have. However, my yogurt was very mild flavored even being left for 10 hours.
When the yogurt has been allowed to set adequate time, you may test it by seeing how firm it is. If it is firm enough, then stir the contents and then put into other smaller containers that have been dipped in boiling water, if desired. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably longer. When ready to eat, serve plain or with fruit, jam, fruit syrup or other sweeteners.
If you want a Greek-style yogurt, you may take a mesh drainer and line it with doubled cheesecloth. Put the yogurt into the cheesecloth, close it around the yogurt and then squeeze it tightly over the sink to express the extra liquid. You should then place it in a drainer sitting inside a larger bowl (making sure it sits up off the bottom of the bowl enough). Allow it to continue to drain for 2-3 hours. Then again take it and squeeze out any extra liquid. After that is complete, you may then remove the cheesecloth and store it in the refrigerator. The amount of yogurt will be reduced approximately by half from when you started, but it should be very thick.
Yogurt may be prepared from non-fat powdered milk, as well. To make 2 liters of non-fat milk, use 3 cups of milk powder and fill the remainder with water. Gelatin delays production of liquid when the curd is cut into. Addition of milk powder increases firmness and nutritive value of the yogurt.
There is also a milk-reduction method I just learned about from a fellow food blogger on Spoon and Chopsticks. Yogurt making is really not hard or time-consuming. It is so much cheaper and healthier to make your own. So be brave and give it a try. Don't procrastinate like I did!!! Good luck.