Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Easy Way to Make Yogurt

Making Yogurt

  I've been making yogurt for a couple years now. I started making it when I realized how many extra ingredients there are in store bought yogurt. The super sweet fruit and yogurt were too sweet for my taste and even with coupons it's still more expensive than making your own.

  I started looking online for recipes and methods. I found a crock-pot method that wasn't bad. I tried a lot of different recipes with mostly good results. I tried one where a woman put the milk in canning jars, then put them in a pan with water and heated it that way. I did that for several weeks until one of the jars broke in the pan and I lost 1/4 of my yogurt.  I only had one batch I couldn't eat and that's because I burned it. I've had batches turn out really thick, almost cheese like, I overcooked that batch. It was still yummy and we ate it as a soft cheese spread and I still put it in my smoothies. 

  After much trial and error, I have it perfected. If you follow this recipe, you will be eating yogurt. What changes your results is when you change the amounts of milk or yogurt. That's when your batches may not turn out. Figuring out why is what will make you an expert yogurt maker. When I first started I got creative and learned a lot!

 What I do now is a culmination of those recipes and have found what works for me, with the size of pan I use to make it.

   I make a half-gallon or so every week. I consume most of it myself, in my smoothies that I drink every morning. I have Stella hooked on smoothies so one day a week she helps me eat some.
I thought I'd do a quick tutorial that might help some of you get started.

What You'll Need

Whole milk (2 quarts or a half gallon) (I've made it with 2% and it still works fine)
Cup of Plain Yogurt (at least 5.3 oz)
Sauce Pan (large enough to have a couple inches of room at the top for stirring)
Candy Thermometer
Wooden spoon
Containers to store finished yogurt

 First I start with whole milk, a half gallon, and pour it in a 3 qt, stainless steel pan. You'll need a good candy thermometer. With the pan on the stove top, and thermometer clipped on the pan, use medium - medium-high heat.

 Keep an eye on the thermometer while stirring gently. Make sure you have a clean, empty sink and run about 4" of water in it, (depending on the height of your pan). Have some ice or blue ice (for coolers) on hand. 

  When the milk has reached 185 degrees turn off heat. Carefully carry to the sink and set the pan of milk into the water. The thermometer usually slides around during the transfer so you may want to set it to the side for the moment or if you're able to, grab it with a finger during the transfer. The last option is the one I use because I don't want to wait for the temp to go back up on it.

 Now you have the pan in the sink. Check the level of water compared to the level of the milk. It needs to be even or as close as possible. This is when you add the blue ice or ice to the water. Be careful not to splash water into the milk.You can add the lid for a few moments if you're worried. It won't ruin the batch if you get a little there, but a lot could ruin the batch. Stir the milk while watching the thermometer. When it comes down to 110 degrees carefully remove it from the water and set it on the counter. You're done with the thermometer; you can leave it in the sink.

  This is when you add the starter yogurt. You can use some from a previous batch, saved and frozen right after it's made. I've done this but I have better luck when I buy a cup of yogurt from the store. Choose one with no gelatin as it makes it syrupy. Make sure it has both of the active cultures in it. I've been getting Oikos and I just read the label and it simply says "active cultures”. I have used it though and it works great. I get the Greek yogurt and for a size, it says 5.3 oz. 

  So now you need to put the yogurt in the pan of milk, (after scraping the cup to get all of it), stir with a whisk. Stir until you see no more lumps, little ones are okay.

Now put the lid on your pan. You'll need 2 bath towels to wrap it in. It needs to keep the heat for several hours so wrap it good. Lay the first towel on the counter and wrap it up around the pan. 

Then take the second towel, which is still folded in half, and lay it over the top of the pan and tuck it in the best you can.

 It needs to sit undisturbed for 6 hrs so choose a spot that is out of the way, where it won't get bumped.

 Set your timer for 6 hours and walk away! No need to do anything to it for 6 hrs. If you check it, you'll release the precious heat and it won't work as well.

There you are 6 hours later. Beautiful yogurt that I can use in so many ways. I could strain it and make a soft cheese. I can use it in place of sour cream in many recipes.

I'll let it cool a bit, then cover and store it in the back of the frig, on the lowest shelf. It thickens as it cools.
It lasts a couple weeks but never makes it that long at our house.

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