Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Making yogurt

I've been feeling like we've been missing yogurt here in this little house of ours.  In one instance, I needed some for a salad dressing; in another, we were wilting under the latest heat wave and could have done with a fruit smoothie.  In both cases, I made some creative substitutions and vowed to get around to making some of our own.

We have made yogurt in the past, but we recently switched over to raw milk and I needed to do some research to learn about anything special that needs to be done with this creamy white gold.  And I was surprised to learn that making yogurt from raw milk is even easier than making it with pasteurized milk.  For one thing, yogurt made from raw milk only needs to be heated up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas pasteurized milk needs to be kept at a simmer for 5 minutes.  I've also learned a different technique to inoculate the milk.  This was such an exciting discovery that I just had to share!  Here's what we do:

1.  Gather the following gear:
  ~ clean pint sized jars and lids
  ~ pot large enough to hold the jars 
  ~ candy thermometer
  ~ jar tongs
  ~ slow cooker or crock
  ~ raw milk
  ~ yogurt starter, either yogurt from a previous batch (1 tbsp. for each pint) or starter grains.  We used Yogourmet for our first batch and yogurt for our second batch.

2.  Fill the jars with the milk.  Leave enough space for your yogurt starter.  Keep the lids off for now.

3.  Place the jars in the pot.  I used the same kind of pot as I use to blanch vegetables - the kind with the basket inside that can be pulled out the strain the water.  Fill the pot with water - only up to the same level as the milk.  Be careful not to drip water into the milk!

4.  Put the pot onto the stove and turn on to medium heat.  Place the candy thermometer into one of the jars.  Keep an eye on it, as you only want the milk to be heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  This will happen fairly quickly.

5.  Once the milk reaches its required temperature, pull the jars out and quickly add the starter.  If you are using leftover yogurt, use 1 tablespoon for each pint jar.  If you are using the powder starter, follow the directions on the package.  Mix the starter in, then place the lids on the jars.

6.  Transfer the jars to the slow cooker.  Then pour the water from the pot into the slow cooker, again only up to the level of the milk.  Cover with the lid.   I used pint jars because I could keep them standing upright in the slow cooker while the lid was on.  You could likely also use a quart jar and place it on its side in the slow cooker, but perhaps double-check that the lid is tight to ensure it doesn't leak.

7.  Cover the slow cooker with a bath towel for extra insulation.  There is no need to turn the slow cooker on - keeping it this way will ensure the heat is retained.

8.  Your yogurt will be ready to take out of the slow cooker in 8 to 12 hours.  It may look incredibly runny and your heart may sink that you did something wrong (I did this twice).  Don't fret just yet...put your yogurt in the fridge so it can firm up.

And that's it.  No more babysitting our milk as it cooks and having that rubbery cooked milk at the bottom of the pan.  No more needing to preheat the thermos.  No more pouring milk between several containers and spilling it all over the place.  Just tangy, thick yogurt.  And all housed in totally reusable, glass containers.  Perfect. 

So far, we've enjoyed the first batch of tzatziki that we've had in years, and "the best ever" peach smoothies (quote from all three children - I promise!).  Looking forward to many more weeks of yogurt.

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