Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to Make Yogurt - No Goats, No Braids

When first married, I found an unassuming gem of a cookbook, "Babylonian Cuisine," in a Detroit secondhand bookstore. I learned that yogurt making is embarrassingly simple. Over the years, I've tweaked the original recipe to suit my ways until we have the Decadent version here. The yogurt one makes can be used to start the next batch, however, I think it becomes sharper in flavour and a tad less thick. Generally, I stick to using commercial yogurt for the culture each time. The amounts given here can easily be halved.

I pay 2.99 or 2.50 on sale, for this 750 gram container of yogurt. Half of it, plus two bags/2.6 litres of milk and a cup of powdered skim makes 4 litres of thick creamy yogurt. Just this week I had to impress these facts upon Fun, after finding a container of flavoured store bought yogurt in the refrigerator, which he confessed cost him 3.99 and on account of the additives could not reproduce itself.

It is imperative to start out with good quality, plain, unadulterated yogurt - no sugar, no gelatin, no starch. I'm in Canada and have always used Astro brand. And no, nobody pays me to say that, although they can if they want to. I first found this brand back in 1970 something on the shelf of a neon green, health food store.

In a farm community this was highly suspicious; the paint colour and the notion of a health food store. What did people think they grew anyhow? Aw, the boomers were rebelling! It was a traumatic thing to walk into that store, boldly plunked, front and center and directly across from the regular food store, in the only tiny mall in Town. Just glancing at it risked pegging one as some hippie nut. Did you know I was laughed at for eating yogurt? Here's a true confession; I ate yogurt when it was, and was not cool.
Use only the freshest possible yogurt for the culture. Since older stock is rotated to the front, that means reading the best before dates and digging through the stock to the back of the cooler. Ignore impatient little boys twirling upside down on the grocery cart and hissing stares of the store manager. If the yogurt starter is old it won't set properly. If this happens, what you produce can be salvaged through cake, bread making, muffins or pancakes. If the milk is old, you'll be rewarded with very nice cottage cheese.

  • 13 cups milk or 3 American quarts, plus 1 cup milk or 2.6 litres or Canadians - just use 2 of those plastic bags which come in the 4 litre bags
  • half of a 750 gram container or 1 1/3 cup plain good quality yogurt
  • 1 cup of powdered skim milk
See? In Canada our milk comes in these cute little 1.33 liter plastic bags, three to a bag.Measure out half of a 750 gram container of plain yogurt, or, if the container is half empty, just mix directly in the container itself.Add 1 cup of powdered skim milk.Mix well and set aside.Pour milk into a tall stock or soup pot; use no metal but stainless steel. Heat, stirring continuously, using a flat edge stainless steel or wooden spatula. Heat until it comes to a rolling boil and foams up. Adjust heat downward and continue boiling another two - three minutes, stirring constantly.Remove the milk from the heat and place on a cooling rack. Whisk it to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. If a skin does form, just skim it off.Let the milk cool down and then pour it into the container in which the yogurt will incubate. I use a 4 liter ice cream tub with a snap lid. This yellow stir stick/thermometer is from an old yogurt making kit. When the red line drops between two indicator points, the milk is cool enough to add the yogurt mix without killing the culture. I found the yogurt maker in a junk store, junked the kit and kept the thermometer. A meat thermometer works too, and mine registers 115 F when the yellow thermometer shows it is safe to add the starter. You could also test the milk by dropping some onto the inside of your wrist, the same way one tests temperature of a baby bottle. It should feel just a tad over lukewarm. When the milk is sufficiently cooled, add the culture and stir well.Place a lid onto the container. Remember, use only stainless steel, plastic, glass or pottery throughout all the yogurt making process. That means no aluminum foil. I then place my tub into a quilted casserole keeper, Saucey Chef gave me, cover it with a hot pad and wrap it further with an old acrylic tablecloth.Place the yogurt somewhere warm where it will be undisturbed. In summer, I let it sit outside. Otherwise, I place it in the microwave or oven with the light on. Just let everybody know what's going on in the oven. See that orange bit on the tablecloth? That was Buff. He and a friend decided to bake cookies, but didn't check the oven first.Come back five hours later and the yogurt will be set. If you want more tang, leave it longer. I've often forgotten about it overnight and it is just tangier, that's all. Refrigerate. The bit of liquid that forms is whey and can be either stirred back in, or drained off as the yogurt is used. Up to you. I drain mine off.


Jeanne said...

You are amazing
Love Jeanne ^j^

Decadent Housewife said...

Jeanne, thank you for you kind words. :)

Leila said...

Now, this is very interesting...

Query: why the milk powder? What does it add?

For some reason I have a mental block against making yogurt. I may need an intervention!

Thanks for the tutorial, though! Maybe it will give me the strength :)

Decadent Housewife said...

I've wondered that myself. The only thing I've ever been able to find that might explain this, is that the concentrated milk sugars in dried milk are what the bacteria feeds on, therefore making thicker yogurt.

I noticed on my last container of plain yogurt from the store that the ingredients now list skim milk powder. Previously the ingredients were listed as "milk solids."

You really must make it. It is so, so easy!

Anonymous said...

Just a note for you. Milk only comes in those bags on the east side of the country. Out here in the west, we can only buy the paper cartons up to 2 liter or the 4 liter plastic jugs.

Thanks for the recipe though. I am looking forward to trying it. Do you think it can be made in smaller batches? I'm not really sure what I would do with 4 l of yogurt.

Victoria said...

I'm so glad I found this post, and that it's all Canadian so I don't have to translate the quantities and find equivalent brands! :) I've been trying to find a yogurt recipe that doesn't have added white sugar, so I'm very excited to try this.

When you say you put the tub in the microwave or oven - do you turn them ON or is it just for the insulation?

Nicole said...

Thanks for this. I'm going to use freeze dried starter, at least for now, but I appreciate the simple instructions and will use your wrapping method instead of a crock pot, since it uses less energy. Also so happy to find metric instructions!