Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making Home-made Organic Yogurt

I love yogurt - my parents come from a Persian background where yogurt plays a very prominent role, as a side-dish for pretty much every meal (you should try it with rice, or with potato ships as an alternative to traditional dip, it's terrific!).  In my household, yogurt isn't as prevalent, but we do enjoy fruit yogurt and I do serve it occasionally when I get up the energy to make some Persian recipes. 
I remembered that my mom used to occasionally make yogurt when I was a child (and I also remember there were rather mixed results) - and when I thought about it, trying to make my own yogurt made sense to me on many fronts:
  1. I can make an organic yogurt that has the taste profile I want (I like my yogurt to have a nice sour twang to it).
  2. Cost savings - the organic yogurt I like isn't always available, and when it is, it's quite expensive (about $7 per litre). 
  3. Yogurt has many health benefits - and when I make it myself, I am certain that it contains all those live pro-biotics that are so good for us.
  4. Helping the environment - this yogurt doesn't require packaging, and shipping beyond the original re-usable supplies I purchase.
  5. I can make fruit yogurt and vanilla yogurt using pure ingredients where I control the sugar and there are no artificial ingredients.

I am happy to report that I found success!  I have now produced over 6 batches of yogurt, with consistent results - so, I am ready to share, and I hope you are inspired to try making it on your own.
4L of Milk produces just under 4L of final product. 
It will produce less if you choose to strain it for a thicker yogurt.

I make 4L at a time (because I have pots big enough, we consume that much, and 4L is a convenient amount given that I can buy 4L of organic milk at Costco for under $8).  But feel free to try it out with a smaller amount - it is a very scalable process (that's right, it's not really a recipe, but a process).  Please don't be intimidated by the amount of text - I just want to clearly describe the process - it actually takes very little hands-on time!
Organic Home-made Yogurt
Here's what you will need:
  • Organic Milk (as much as you would like to make, I tend to make 4L of 2% - I think this recipe will work with any fat content, I have used 2%)
  • Organic plain yogurt with live bacterial cultures or a yogurt starter (you will need approx 2 tbsp of plain yogurt for each litre of milk, or alternatively you can buy yogurt starter in the organic dairy case of some grocery stores).
  • A large metal pot to heat the milk in on the stove (again large enough to comfortably fit the amount you are making)
  • An oven safe container (again large enough to comfortably fit the amount you are making - I use a big corningware/pyrex dish I have)
  • Kitchen Thermometer (I like to use a digital probe thermometer)
Put your milk into your pot, and turn on the heat to med-high (be sure not to turn it up too high, as the milk at the bottom of the pot can easily burn) - bring the milk up to 180°F.  Be sure to stir occasionally so that a skin doesn't form.  I like to use a digital programmable probe thermometer and set the alarm to notify me when my milk reaches 180°F. 
**Please note I have put the link to one of my favourite local kitchen stores, not because I want you to buy it from there, but just so you can see what one looks like, they are very readily available at many kitchen supply stores.  If you don't want to invest in a digital thermometer, you can use any other type of kitchen thermometer, you will just have to frequently check the temperature so that you hit the right temperatures.  I have learned that making yogurt is a temperature game - if you can accurately control the temperature, you can control the quality of your yogurt!

Once your milk has reached 180°F, now it's time to let it cool.  I like to transfer my hot milk to another oven safe container.  I do this because it helps the milk cool down faster and I don't want my big pot occupied for 24 hours, just in case I need it for something else.   Let the milk cool down to 112°F.  Be sure to stir occasionally so that a skin doesn't form, and set your digital thermometer to notify you at 115°F so you can get your yogurt starter ready while the mixture continues to cool the last few degrees. 

Once your yogurt hits 112°F, you have to add your starter (either yogurt  you made in a previous batch, yogurt you purchased, or starter you purchased).  Add 2 tbsp of your starter for each litre of milk you have heated.
**You have a bit of wiggle room here, the addition of the starter should take place between 112°F and 108°F. 
My probe thermometer is letting me know it is time to add my starter!

From here it's easy - cover your container and put it in a warm, toasty place.  I like to heat my oven for a minute or so (until it is warm) and then leave the oven light on and tuck my yogurt in for the night.  Some other people I have spoken to wrap their container in an electric blanket and plug it in, and my mom used to wrap the container in a blanket and put it on a heat register in the kitchen.  Whatever method you use, the goal is to keep the container warm to the touch.  Just slightly warmer than body temperature (between 108-112°F). 

I think the yogurt should sit at least 8 hours - and probably no more than 24.  I have found that the longer you keep it warm, the more sour twangy the flavour.  My magic number sits at around 12 hours.  Take a peek and give it a jiggle, it should be set by this point.  Put it in the fridge and let it cool completely.  (this usually takes around 12-24 hours for my 4 litres - the less you make the less time it takes). 

After the yogurt is cool, put it in jars and keep in the fridge...... mine have been known to last as long as a month and a half.  If you like your yogurt thicker than what it set at, simply set some cheesecloth over a strainer, set the stainer in a larger bowl, and ladle your yogurt on top of the cheesecloth.  This separates they whey (liquid) and will give you a very thick yogurt - just let it strain until you are happy with the thickness! 

Happy yogurt making folks - I hope you try it - it's super easy, and very satisfying.  feel free to ask me any questions if you need some help!

1 comment:

  1. What a neat idea to try that I never would have thought of on my own.