April 13, 2012

A Simpler Road: Homemade Greek-style Yogurt

Well my bloggy friends, homemade food experiment #2 was, I have to say, a success as well!!!

I love yogurt.  It's a staple in my diet.  Especially Greek-style yogurt.  If you're not familiar with Greek-style yogurt (how can you not be, it's all the rage nowadays! =P ), it's much thicker and denser than regular yogurt, with a slightly tangier, drier taste.  It also has almost double the protein of regular yogurt, and packs a big nutritional punch.  What I don't like is the price.  It runs on average $1.00 per 6 oz container here where I live.  Considering I shop bi-weekly, and I eat at least one container of yogurt a day, that's an extra $14.00 on my grocery bill that could be avoided by making homemade yogurt.  

My best friend has been making homemade yogurt for a long time.  Seriously, she's like Martha on crack.  She is a homemade/handmade/frugal/grow and can your own domestic goddess.  Seriously.  Word to my girl.  LOL  The content of this recipe is largely in part from information I gleaned from her while knitting on Wednesday night.  You know, credit where credit is due and all.  =)

When you break it down to its most basic ingredients, delicious homemade yogurt is one of the simplest things to make (aside, perhaps, from my other recent culinary delight, homemade Apple Pie applesauce!).  And, since simplifying is an ongoing theme here at The Road, it works out perfectly!  There are a ton of homemade yogurt recipes out there, if you G.oo.gl.e it, you'll have more recipes and variations on homemade yogurt than you can shake a stick at! 

Here's basically all you need:

~Live active yogurt cultures (obtained from a few tablespoons of plain storebought yogurt.  You need this to "grow" or culture your new yogurt.  It MUST say "live/active cultures" or it will not work!).
~A large saucepan/pot (if using stovetop method) or microwave safe casserole dish (if microwaving, which is what I did).

That's it.  Really.

Let's get started!  

I first gathered all my ingredients together.  (Duh.  How silly to point that out, huh?)    

Finally I have a use for my 2.5 qt casserole dish other than roasting chicken!  And how bout that snazzy new kitchen thermometer?  You'll definitely want one of those when making yogurt.

I then poured the milk into the casserole dish.  (You can use however much milk you desire.  More milk = more yogurt).  I used about half of my half-gallon since it was my first attempt...I didn't want to throw away an entire half gallon of milk if it didn't work!

I then heated the milk to approximately 185° F.  (I've read anywhere from 180° to 190° is optimal).  This step sterilizes the milk, and gives the yogurt cultures and good bacteria a nice environment to grow in.  Since I was using the microwave, it took approximately 15 minutes (in 3 minute increments, stirring to avoid hot spots and testing temperature) to reach 185° (our microwave cooks really hot really fast).  

Remove (carefully!) heated milk and allow to cool to approximately 110°F.  (See why I said you'll want a thermometer?).  You can simply set it on the counter and allow it to cool on its own, or place it in the sink with a inch or two of cold water.  I chose the "quick cool" method of the sink and cold water.

*Be careful not to cool the milk too much!  It only needs to cool to approximately 110° F.  If it gets much cooler, the bacteria and live cultures won't have a good environment to "be fruitful and multiply"!

Once your milk has cooled, it's time to "pitch" your yogurt starter.  All this means is add approximately 2 TBSP of your starter yogurt (either storebought plain yogurt or some reserved from your last batch of homemade) to the heated milk mixture.  

I scooped a small amount of the heated milk into a Pyrex measuring cup and added my starter yogurt to that to thin it out a little and make it easier to distribute through the heated milk.  I poured this back into the casserole dish and used a whisk to blend it all together.  

Now comes the most important part.  Keeping the culturing yogurt warm long enough to "set up".  There are a multitude of ways to do this.  Set your oven on the lowest setting for a while, then turn it off and place your incubating yogurt in the warm oven (with the oven light on to keep a little heat going).  You can fill your sink with HOT water and using a rack of some sort place the yogurt over the water and cover with a towel to hold in the heat.  You can pour your milk/starter mixture into your crockpot that has been preheated and then unplugged (wrap entire crock pot with a blanket or clean bath towel to hold in the heat).  Or you can do what I did and use a heating pad.  I turned my heating pad on the lowest setting, placed a thick potholder on top of that, then two kitchen towels, and finally placed my casserole dish of culturing yogurt on top of that and covered it with a towel.  No matter what method you use, the point of this step is to keep the yogurt warmed to approximately 100-110° F in order for the live active yogurt cultures and good bacteria to do their work and ferment or "set" your yogurt.  This also requires patience...something which I usually run a little short of, however I was so excited about the possibility of yogurt-making success that I was the Patience Poster Child.  Ok, well, maybe not.  I might have peeked a few times to make sure things were working as they should.  =)  

It will take several hours for yogurt to set up properly.  Mine took about 7 hours to get to typical storebought yogurt consistency.  If you prefer this, congratulations!  You have just made yogurt!!!  Transfer to whatever containers you will be using for storage, refrigerate and enjoy your new delicacy!  It's wonderful with fresh fruit, drizzled with honey, a dollop of preserves or topped with granola.  However, as I stated earlier, I really prefer Greek-style yogurt, so I went a few steps further with mine.  If you want Greek-style yogurt, you will also need a strainer/colander, cheesecloth (I actually used an old but clean pillowcase since I didn't have cheesecloth on hand), and a bowl for the strainer to sit on.  Place the strainer on the bowl (it should sit ON it, not IN it...you'll see why).  Line the strainer/colander with the cloth and scoop the set-up yogurt into it.  Toss the whole kit and kaboodle into the fridge and let it sit for several hours.  *Leave it alone.  Don't stir it, don't jiggle it, don't dance around your kitchen with it.  Trust me, the latter is hard to avoid.  It's so exciting to make homemade REAL food, how can you NOT want to crank up the Electric Slide and get your groove on with your curds and whey?  Or is that just me?  Well then...

After several hours (I left mine for about 5 more hours), take the strainer contraption, bowl and all, out of the fridge.  You will see a yellowish tinted liquid sloshing around in the bowl.  It's icky, but fine.  That's the whey that has drained out of your yogurt.  That's exactly what we wanted to happen.  Just dump that down the sink, or if you can think of a use for it, more power to you, rock on with your whey-incorporating self!  I dumped mine.  

You see what's left in your pillowcase (er, cheesecloth)?  That beautifully thick and creamy creation?

That's your Greek-style yogurt!!!  

Just how delicious does that look?  I used roughly 1 TBSP of strawberry preserves on the bottom of a 4 oz plastic food storage container, added my yogurt, and topped it off with a dollop of the same preserves.  The one in the front is topped with honey.  

I started with about 32 oz of 1% milk, and after all was said and done, it yielded approximately 12-16 oz of Greek-style yogurt.  Had I not gone the extra steps to Greek-style, it obviously would have made more.  

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I made my first batch of homemade, all natural, delicious Greek-style yogurt!  

I'd love to hear from you if you decide to try your hand at yogurt-making.  If you've been making yogurt for years and have any suggestions for different recipes, add-ins, time saving or storage techniques, feel free to chime in too!  

I'm loving this new-found passion of mine!

1 comment:

  1. Hi from ICLW! I LOVE yogurt - never thought about making my own! I'm sure its delicious. I might have to give it a try!


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