DIY Kitchen: yogurt
I know that everyone who’s ever hung a cloth diaper on the backyard clothesline while a chicken scrabbles around their feet makes their own yogurt. It’s like the gateway drug to homeschooling and growing out your leg hair, or, I don’t know, blogging about homeschooling and leg hair. But, if you think making yogurt is a complicated chemistry project, I want to assure you that it’s crazy easy and the money you save on foregoing store-bought yogurt and razors will be enough to start your own blog!
all the players you’ll need (large pot, one gallon milk, 1 cup plain yogurt, empty quart jars)
I make a gallon of yogurt a week, which might sound like the national dairy council has been to our house with their persuasive footmen lecturing about the dangers of rickets. But, it’s more that it’s just as easy to make one cup as one gallon, and those bone-growing children, who request a “bedtime snack” 5 minutes after dinner’s over, will always accept a bowl of yogurt. Also, I bake with yogurt a lot, we eat a lot of smoothies, and want to make sure I always have 1 1/2 cups of yogurt around for this amazing salad dressing.
Yogurt is the most well known and loved cultured (fermented) food in America. It’s long been touted as a health food—as it should be: hello calcium and probiotics!–but most commercially available, flavored yogurts have almost as much sugar ounce for ounce as Coca Cola. But most compelling about making my own yogurt is bypassing the stackable plastic containers that once towered sheepishly in my cupboard, like a tribute to petroleum-products and the landfill they’ll be hanging out in for the next, um 1000 years.
I’m not sure if my children’s passion for yogurt is due to the scarcity of food items in our house that you can just shake out of a package and onto a plate, rather than soak overnight and then simmer for six hours. Or maybe it’s the delicious, cold creaminess that you can practically drink, ensuring a swift return to the Lego pile. Or perhaps it’s the way I’m inclined to bury a scoop of peanut butter or a dollop of applesauce in the kids’ yogurt, but even I, will never suggest that a vegetable be whisked into the smooth white folds.
There are many recipes for yogurt making, and after years of experimenting, I’ve found this to be easiest.
Heat one gallon of milk to 160F. Let cool to between 115F and 120F. Pour milk into 4 quart glass jars. Add 2 tbsp plain yogurt (either from a previous batch or from a brand that advertises live cultures) to each jar. Cap jars and place in oven with oven light on. The light should provide enough heat to keep the culturing yogurt between 95F and 120F. (this is the ideal temperature range for the cultures to multiply. Too hot and they die, too cold and they go to sleep). I always wrap the jars in a towel for extra warmth. If it gets too cold in your oven, you can turn the heat on the lowest setting for 2 minutes. Leave jars for 6 hours, or overnight, then transfer to fridge.
oh, you’ll need a food thermometer
and a high tolerance for spills (adding the milk to the quart jars)
Be vewy vewy quiet now for the next 6 hours
Cream on top, and thick.
*Use the cream if you’re buying raw milk. It comes out, well, creamier. If your milk is homogenized, the cream is already mixed into full fat milk.
*Add fruit or honey after your yogurt is done.
*Don’t jostle yogurt jars as they’re culturing.
*You can use store bought milk with great success.
*If you want to keep your milk raw, you can heat the milk just to 115F, and then add the yogurt starter right away. Because you’re not starting with a sterilized product and there will be unknown and prolific bacteria present, you may have less consistent (read: runny) results with yogurt, or not. Give it a try.
If you’re already a yogurt-maker, what’s your method?
DIY Kitchen is a new series that will appear on most Mondays, mostly.