Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homemade Yogurt Success!

As I continue to embark on my healthy, do-it-yourself journey, my skills in the kitchen are being stretched. I just made homemade yogurt for the first time! I was actually surprised by how easy it was. It takes a lot of time to make yogurt from start to finish (six or more hours!), but most of that time is spent waiting. I would take five to ten minutes to complete each step and then go back to what I had been doing previously (usually tending to Jadon!). 

Here's the tutorial for making some homemade yogurt of your own:

To start, boil a large pot of water to sterilize all the materials that will come in contact with your yogurt. You will later use this hot water to create your own double boiler, a pot-within-a-pot for heating milk uniformly. Your inner pot needs to be something that can be heated safely, like the large glass jar I used. 

The milk you use will yield the same amount of yogurt in the end (one cup of milk makes one cup of yogurt). You can use any kind of dairy milk (coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk with not work), but I recommend using whole milk (especially raw!) so that your yogurt is nice and creamy. Pour your desired amount of milk into your inner container, surrounded by the boiling water. Heat the milk to a temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, this is the temperature at which milk froths, so you could technically complete this step without a thermometer. I used a meat thermometer just to be sure. Stir occasionally. This process will kill any harmful microorganisms.

While the milk is heating, set aside your starter culture (a few tablespoons of plain, unsweetened yogurt with active live cultures in it). Starter cultures can come from leftover store-bought yogurts, like mine, or they can be purchased.

After the milk has been heated, the milk needs to be cooled to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the perfect temperature for the bacteria in your starter culture to grow and multiply. I transferred my hot milk to another pot because I was nervous about the possibility of the glass jar shattering when going from a boiling hot to a freezing cold environment.

When the milk has cooled sufficiently, take a cup of the milk and mix it with the starter culture until it is a uniform consistency.

Then, add that mix to the rest of the cooled milk and stir until evenly distributed.

Notice that Jadon is ready for mom to finish the next step!
You will now need to keep your milk mix at a consistent warm temperature of about 115 degrees Fahrenheit so that the bacteria can thrive and turn the milk into yogurt. There are many incubating techniques that work, including a warm oven, a crock-pot, and even summer heat. Being the frugal gal that I am, I decided to try the "cooler" method because it doesn't require any additional energy. I poured the hot water from my double-boiler into four small glass jars that would fit inside a cooler with my large glass jar of warm milk.

I placed the milk jar in the middle of the cooler, and the hot water jars in each corner. After closing the cooler, I placed it in a corner of my kitchen where it could remain undisturbed for several hours. Some yogurt makers recommend five hours of brew time. Others insist on seven hours or more. I decided to go about six hours before checking on my yogurt.

Six hours later, I wasn't sure if anything had changed when I looked at my jar from the outside. But after I tested the consistency, I found that my mix had thickened quite a bit. For the final step, the yogurt must be refrigerated so that the bacteria stop consuming the milk and reproducing. Otherwise, the yogurt will just get thicker and thicker, and become more and more sour.

I transferred my yogurt to new containers and kept them in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I finally sampled the yogurt and was very pleased with the taste. It honestly tasted like my store-bought variety that I used for my starter culture. The texture was slightly more runny. However, I usually eat yogurt in smoothies, so the texture really doesn't matter to me.

Since I plan to continue making yogurt, I made sure to save a small sample of this batch for my next starter culture. You can even freeze the yogurt sample. I'm really happy that homemade yogurt is a healthy option for baby food. As we slowly introduce new foods to Jadon, I look forward to his reaction of my new yogurt.

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