Thursday, September 6, 2012

Homemade Yogurt, Part Two

Last winter, I started making my own yogurt. I love yogurt, but my daughter also loves it and those four packs of YoBaby yogurt are $2.69. That's nuts, especially because all you need to make your own yogurt is some milk, and a little bit of yogurt to get the cultures started. I started using a method I previously posted, but it only worked twice for me and after those two times I ended up with three or four epic fails. I don't know what I did wrong because I followed the recipe exactly, but I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is to wait 8+ hours for yogurt to process, and it doesn't turn out. Let me just say it's a sad, sad day.

So, I tried another recipe using a cooler, and that one was "ok". I didn't love the finished product. So, I went off to Pinterest to find another recipe. I've heard of people having great success using a crock pot, but I'm picky in the way that I like to make my yogurt in jars instead of in a big pot. Less mess, and seems easier in my opinion. Then I came across a recipe for thick and creamy yogurt from Homeland Renaissance. It looked simple and it was a method for processing yogurt in jars. So I tried it this weekend, and after 6 hours of processing, I've got my yogurt mojo back, and that makes me very happy!

A few things I thought you might like to know about my yogurt making. I bought a 12 pack of 4oz canning jars for our yogurt. It's about the same size as the YoBaby yogurts, and it's a great size for a grab-and-go snack. My batch of yogurt makes 12 4oz jars, and two 16oz jars. You can use any size jar you like, I just really loved the idea of individual servings, and not having to scoop yogurt out of a jar everyday. Another great thing about this new recipe is that you sterilize your jars in the oven, you don't have to deal with boiling water, which can be messy and painful ;) You can also use other extracts in your yogurt. Lemon, orange,coconut, raspberry or almond would all be delicious! You can also leave the sweetener and extracts out of your yogurt if you'd prefer plain yogurt. Also, 6 hours is the minimum that Heartland Renaissance gives for the yogurt to "process". The longer you let it go, the tangier it gets. I might let mine go another hour or two on the next batch.

Now, here's the fun part. My batch of yogurt makes the equivalent of 5 packs YoBaby yogurts, which would cost me $13.45 if I bought them at the store. But my batch of yogurt cost $2.50, and that's using organic milk. I didn't calculate the vanilla or sweetener because that's stuff I always have on hand anyway. That's a substantial savings, and I can feel good knowing exactly what's in the yogurt.

Alright, hopefully I've given you some inspiration to try your hand at yogurt making. It's easy, delicious and costs pennies compared to the store-bought stuff!

Homemade Yogurt, adapted from Homeland Renaissance and Trina Holden at All That Is Good

Half Gallon (8 cups) Milk, I make mine with organic whole milk
1/2 cup maple syrup, honey, or sweetener of choice (for sweet yogurt)
1T vanilla extract (for vanilla yogurt)
1/4 cup Yogurt Culture (The yogurt culture is simply a little bit of previously made yogurt, or purchased yogurt with live and active cultures. Whole milk yogurt is my choice)

A large pot
A Candy Thermometer
A small-ish bowl and spoon
Glass Jars to hold the yogurt
A funnel or large pitcher
Dish Towels or two to wrap around the jars

1. Pour milk, sweetener and vanilla (if using) into your pot and affix candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Turn heat on medium.

2.  Place jars in the oven (I place my jars on my baking stone) and turn oven to 200 degrees. As long as the oven stays on for 30 minutes at least, the jars will be sterilized from this process.

3.  Place your yogurt culture into the bowl and allow it to warm to room temperature while your milk heats.

4.  Allow milk to gradually heat until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This normally takes about half an hour. Once it reaches 180 degrees, turn off from heat but do not remove from burner.

5.  Turn off oven. Do not open doors or remove jars.

6.  Allow milk to gradually reduce in heat until it reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit (normally takes about half an hour). Discard any film that has formed on top, then remove a  cup or two of the warm milk to the bowl with the yogurt culture and whisk briskly with a spoon or fork until well-combined and there are no lumps. Return milk and yogurt culture to the pot and stir into the remaining warm milk.

7.  Remove jars from the oven and, using the funnel, pour the cultured milk into the jars before returning them to the oven. Wrap a thick dish towel around each jar and leave, uncapped in the closed, warm oven for 6 to 8 hours. Do not disturb the jars.

That’s it! After 6 to 8 hours, remove jars from oven, check to make sure they’ve set, cap and place in your fridge! I’ve also forgotten the yogurt in the oven overnight, effectively making almost 24-hour yogurt, with no ill effects. But six hours is normally my goal.

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