Thursday, April 17, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

I've been eating yogurt for years, but until I lived in Russia, my yogurt consumption was limited to Dannon and Yoplait. I hated dumping Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt into a bowl and watching it hold its cup-like, gelatinous shape. Reminded me of cranberry sauce from the can (which, I admit, I love, but the can ridges are a bit scary).

In Russia and later in Ukraine, I discovered yogurt made from 1%, 2%, and even whole milk. Suddenly I could get any kind of yogurt I wanted and in all sorts of surprising flavors, like prune and pineapple. After growing up on the ubiquitous berry concoctions, I was hooked. Later I lived in Bulgaria, the home of yogurt, and discovered tarator (see below for recipe) as well as the joys of a good-quality plain yogurt.

Yogurt flavors and companies have multiplied since I was a kid eating from a conical Yoplait container. Dannon sells their Activa brand, which claims to help your digestion (though I'm not clear how it differs from any other yogurt with active cultures), in fun flavors, like fig. A recent perusal of my dairy aisle turned up whole, 1%, and several kinds of Greek-style yogurt. I'm not, however, terribly excited about the amount of sugar or, worse, artificial sweeteners used in them. And now that the Little Pottamus is eating yogurt, I need to be able to find organic whole milk yogurt for him. Shame on Dannon, Yoplait, and even Stonyfield's for putting so much sugar in their yogurts marketed at kids!

So why not make my own? Turns out it's super easy and far cheaper than buying yogurt from the store (even with the most expensive organic milk our coop has on offer homemade yogurt is half the cost of the commerical yogurt I would normally buy). And homemade yogurt tastes better than anything you can buy in a store--it's creamy and you can make it as rich as you like. Making yogurt doesn't take much time. I usually put the yogurt on as I'm cleaning up the kitchen or prepping dinner. Give it a try!

Homemade Yogurt
Some recipes call for added powdered milk to make it thicker. I've never had a problem with homemade yogurt not being thick enough, but you might experiment. I like my yogurt plain or with a little maple syrup or tahini and, of course, with plenty of add-ins!

1/2 gallon milk (2% is my favorite, but you could use any kind of cow/goat milk--see below for non-dairy tips)

1/2 cup plain yogurt with active cultures (a carton of Dannon or Stonyfield's will do)

candy thermometer
2 quart-sized glass jars with lids

1 8-oz. glass jar with lid

large pot with lid (for sterilizing the jars)
pot with heavy bottom (for heating the milk)
small cooler or pot (for keeping the milk warm as it becomes )

Step 1--Sterilize the jars: Put two glass quart jars, their lids, and a small (8-10 oz.) jar and lid into a large pot (I use my pasta pot) with a few inches of water. Put a lid on the pot, bring the water to a boil, and boil for about 10 min.

Step 2--Scald the milk: While the jars are sterilizing, heat a 1/2 gallon of milk in a large pot with a heavy bottom. Hook a candy thermometer on the side. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk reaches 85-90 deg. Celsius.
Step 3--Cool the milk: Remove the scalded milk from the heat and cool until the milk reaches 50 deg. Celsius. I partially fill the sink with cold water, plunk the pot in the sink, and stir to speed up the cooling process.

Step 4--Inoculate the milk: Put 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with active cultures (I've used Dannon, Stonyfield's, and homemade yogurt from a previous batch successfully) in a 1-cup measuring cup. Add 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and stir to remove all of the lumps. Pour the yogurt-milk into the rest of the cooled milk and stir to combine.

Step 5--Pour the milk into the jars and cap them. Place the jars in a small cooler or deep pot. Add enough hot water until the jars are 3/4 submerged (you may need to place the smallest jar on top of an upside-down cup to make it tall enough). The idea is to keep the milk at around 50 deg. Celsius. At this temperature, you should have yogurt in about 3 hrs. (don't test the jars until 3 hrs have passed, or you risk losing heat each time you check on them). If the milk has gelled, congratulations--you've made yogurt! If not, just leave it a little longer, until it gels. Stick it in the fridge and enjoy. You can also freeze yogurt, just don't fill the glass jars too full or they will break (yep, one of my nice Mason jars broke yesterday).

Yogurt Recipes and Resources

Homemade Yogurt at 101 Cookbooks
A Comprehensive Yogurt-Making Tutorial (a more in-depth version of my instructions)
Homemade Soy Yogurt
Homemade Soy Yogurt at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt at Stephen's Recipes
Buy a GF, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free Yogurt Starter!

Tarator (Balkan Cucumber-Yogurt Soup)
Labneh (Yogurt Cheese)
Greek-Style Soy Yogurt or Soy Yogurt Cheese


Sheltie Girl said...

This is a great tutorial on making yogurt. I've looked into it a few times, but haven't done anything yet. My daughter can't have the dairy or soy versions and so far no one makes a rice or other type that you can buy at a store. So, I've looked for dairy free starters and the like trying to see if I can put all the pieces together. Yet haven't done anything yet.

You've inspired me to keep trying and looking for the right supplies.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten a Go Go

Gluten Free in the Greens said...

Thanks, Sheltie Girl. I just added a link for a coconut milk yogurt recipe and one for a GF,soy-free, dairy-free starter. A quick surf also turned up some people who had tried almond milk yogurt with some success. They added gelatin to make it less runny. Good luck!

Carrie said...

Wow!!! What a great post!! I have to admit I've NEVER tried making the stuff from scratch! I'm very impressed!!