Yogurt

I first started making yogurt last summer on a whim.  I read up on the various methods for making it including using a yogurt maker and the old school ways such as using coolers, thermoses etc.  Being the type of person I am, I wasn’t going to leave anything to chance and went online and purchased a yogurt maker.  The one I bought came with seven little jars (how handy!) as well as two different sized lids for the yogurt maker itself, the smaller one to use with the jars and the larger one to use if you were to make a big batch using, say, a Mason jar.  So far, I have only used the little jars so that is what this recipe is for.  The first time I made it, I was on a bit of a veggie-kick and decided to use soy milk instead of regular cow’s milk.  Big mistake!  Had I done a little reading on this beforehand, I would have learned that this is not a simple task as it requires some type of gelatin in order for it to set (although the instructions that came with the maker didn’t mention this at all).  After all the heating & incubating, I was left with something that resembled an off-white yogurt drink – not pretty!  I ate/drank it so as not to waste anything but…I haven’t used soy milk since.  I have to say that I’ve had some misses along with my hits but below is what works best for me.  Note: after writing this I realized that for such a simple recipe it turned out to be quite long but from my experience in reading up on making yogurt most times I had wished more had been added to the “recipes” I had read, since often I was left confused and guessing.

Here is a list of what you will need to get started:

Sterilized jars – I simply bring water to a boil in a heavy pan, turn it down to a simmer & immerse the jars, along with everything else that will come in contact with the yogurt for roughly a minute and then let air dry.  Some people let their dishwashers act as their sterilizers but since I don’t have one, this is my way.

Food thermometer – you’ll need this to get the milk up to the right temperature and then to get it back down to perfect temperature.  Seems a bit tedious but really there’s not much actual work involved in this at all, I promise.

1 liter of milk – I use 2% – I’m sure you can use skim but after the soy milk incident I’d rather just play it safe.

Some type of starter – I’ve only ever used store-bought yogurt for this and then my own homemade yogurt, although they do sell actual yogurt starters.  When I do try this, I will post how it turns out.  You need to make sure that whatever yogurt you do use that it has active yogurt cultures in it and this will be listed in the ingredients.  I use ½ to ¾ cup per 1 liter of milk.  If you are using your homemade yogurt as the starter remember that you can only do this for 3 or 4 batches after which time you will need a new starter.

A yogurt maker – since I have never done it any other way, I won’t even try to give instructions on the old-school way.  I will however tell you that according to my Mom, my grandfather used to make little bowls of yogurt every day by simply putting a spoon of the previous day’s yogurt in a bowl along with milk & leaving it on the counter to incubate – no thermos, no cooler, no yogurt maker, no thermometer – and after a couple of hours, ta-da yogurt!  I’ll have to try this one day soon and see how that works for me – I’ll let you know!

Now, to begin you want to put the milk in a pot and heat the milk up to 200 degrees F.  I’ve tried doing this the casual way (read: lazy way) by just letting the milk heat up and occasionally checking the temp and the results haven’t been great.  If anybody has ever tried this then you’ll know what happened: the milk solids sunk to the bottom, stuck there and “cooked” – what a mess to clean.  I’m no scientist so I’m only guessing about the reason why the yogurt didn’t turn out but I’m sure it has something to do with the milk solids sticking to the bottom of the pot and not winding up in the yogurt itself. So, do yourself a favor and stir the milk the entire time it’s heating up.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t take that long to get to 200 degrees, especially if you crank the heat up in which case you really need to stir the milk.  A good clue that it’s getting close to temperature is that the milk will start to steam; after that happens your only 2-3 minutes away from 200.

Once the milk has heated to 200 degrees, pour the milk into another bowl to cool down.  I use a big measuring cup that will more than hold the liter of milk that I have put into the freezer to get cold while the milk is heating.  If you do this, make sure to use a bowl that will withstand the drastic temperature changes.  At this point, go ahead and do something else, anything really, as the cool down process takes quite a bit longer than the heating process (even with the “frozen” bowl, my milk never cools down more than 20 degrees right away, but that’s definitely better than the alternative; when I’ve been really impatient I’ve used an ice bath to cool it down).  Oh, I should tell you that you want your milk to come down to around 120 degrees.  The ideal incubation temperature is 115 degrees but when you take into consideration the yogurt that you will be adding to it, which will drop the milk’s temperature a bit as well, 120 is a good temperature to shoot for.

Okay, so your milk is at 120 degrees or thereabouts – now is the time to add your starter.  Simply put the starter into the milk and whisk like you have never whisked before!  You want this completely blended together so don’t be shy.  You will wind up with froth on the top which you can simply skim off with a spoon (I do this every time, more for appearance sake than anything else).  After it has been blended and skimmed, just pour the mixture into the little jars (don’t put the little lids on the jars yet), put the yogurt maker’s lid on and set a timer.  I find the incubation time for me is between 3 and 4 hours.  I find it hard to tell by simply looking at the yogurt since the final set happens in the fridge however the smell does tell me when it’s ready – it smells like yogurt, it really does, trust me!  When that time comes, take the jars out of the yogurt maker, sit them on the counter for 15-20 minutes (or not, it’s just what I do) and then lid them up and put them in the fridge to cool and set.

And that’s it, that is how you make yogurt!!

You can doll these up with fruit, flavorings, sweeteners, whatever you like.  I like mine plain.

Enjoy!

~ Trisha

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