Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yogurt... A Few Facts and Tips

Tired of yogurt?  I promise this is the last yogurt post for awhile...

The original recipe and process is here. But the process I use, quickly explained, is 
a) Heat milk slowly to 200 degrees. -Some people report that they have more problems with non-fat milk than with 2% or whole milk.
b) Cool the milk to 110 degrees, then stir in 2 Tbsp of prepared yogurt. (see below for more info)
c) Cover with plastic wrap and ferment in an oven set to Proof at 110 degrees for 4 or 5 hours.
d) Move the yogurt from oven to fridge, with as little disruption or jiggling as possible.  Let it set overnight.
e) Strain all day or overnight through cheesecloth or other light fabric to separate whey from what will now be Greek yogurt.  That process is was described yesterday (here).

Further tips and information I would've found useful as a first-time yogurt maker:

1) As you start warming the milk, remember to set out prepared, plain yogurt to come to room temperature.  Greek yogurt with no additives/thickeners is recommended... Either store-bought or homemade.  Use 2 to 3 tablespoons per quart of milk.  I read in some of my yogurt research that "more isn't better," so don't add extra, thinking it will help.  It may actually cause the yogurt to turn out thinner. 

2) IF you forget to set out the frozen or refrigerated yogurt to come to room temp, do it as soon as you remember, and spread it thin on a plate so that it warms up more quickly.  You can probably guess why I know this!

3) As soon as you make your own Greek yogurt (or with remaining store-bought yogurt referred to in #1), freeze
several 2 to 3 Tablespoon portions on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet.  Pop the frozen lumps off the wax paper and seal in a plastic bag to keep frozen for future batches of yogurt, at which time you'll use one 'blob' per quart of milk.  If the quality of your yogurt or its thickness begins to decrease after awhile of using homemade yogurt as ferment, start again with store-bought yogurt to keep the live bacteria culture at a good strength.

4) Start yogurt early in the day, or at least 7 or 8 hours before you want to go to bed.

In case you're wondering exactly how that 7 or 8 hours breaks down, and how long the whole process will take, here are the time stats from the creation of a recent batch:

  • Time to bring one gallon of refrigerated milk to 200 degrees in 8 qt pan on medium low flame:  1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Time to cool on stove (heat turned off) to 185 degrees: 15 minutes
  • Time to cool in bowl to 110 for adding prepared yogurt:  1 hour, 20 minutes 
         So, total before oven fermenting:  2 hours, 45 minutes
  • Time in oven to ferment: 4 to 5 hours 
  • Time in fridge to finish fermenting and thickening: Overnight/ 8 to 12 hours
  • Straining to make Greek yogurt on the 2nd day:  Overnight/ 12 to 24 hours, depending on consistency desired

My favorite yogurt breakfast or snack:
A squirt of Blue Agave Nectar, and a handful
of chopped almonds, or 1 Tbsp Almond Butter
5) You can flavor and sweeten the yogurt, and even put it in serving size containers before starting the oven fermentation step.  But since we use plain yogurt for a variety of things, I leave ours plain and add fruit, flavoring, and/or sweetener as we want to later.

6) Cost comparison:
2 quarts of Kirkland Greek yogurt from Costco:  $7
2 quarts of homemade from whole milk:  $2.50  
Monthly savings for Our Home for Ten:  over $40.  

7) The purchase of the thermometer that chimes at set waxing and waning temps (ThermoWorks EcoTemp Digital Alarm Thermometer) will decrease your initial savings, but for us, will be paid for in a month of yogurt savings.  It's worth it!!!

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