Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Homemade Yogurt?

A couple of years ago I really wanted to make my own yogurt. It just seemed like one of those things that I should learn how to do. So I went on a search to find out how to do it, and stumbled across a yogurt maker. At the time, there was an awesome deal on it, and a friend of mine wanted to learn to make yogurt too, so we combined our orders and got two for the price of one. I was eager to make yogurt. My machine showed up, and I immediately went to work and was so disappointed with the results.

Homemade yogurt is not as thick as commercial yogurt that is thickened with gums and starches and things. I was also concerned about how long my homemade yogurt was good for. As it sat day after day, it did get thicker, but I wondered if there was a point where it wasn't safe to eat- we are talking about live bacteria after all. So I tucked the yogurt maker away, and have only pulled it out a few times since.

Since my yogurt making disasters, I have learned a thing or two. One is that I rather like plain yogurt. I love a scoop of plain non-flavored yogurt with a dollop of homemade jam swirled in for flavor. It has so much more character than the super sweet pre-flavored yogurt. I love the tang which I miss when I have a dish of regular fruity yogurt. I really needed to try homemade yogurt making again.

Well, yesterday I was looking at a carton of whole milk I'd purchased for the other day's meatballs, and I was trying to decide what to do with it when I thought of making ice cream. I quickly decided that was not a good idea, and then out of the corner of my eye I caught the tub of plain yogurt, and decided yogurt was what I was going to make.

It begins with milk. In this case, I used whole milk and 1% combined. To the milk, some powdered milk is added and then the two are heated to just below boiling. Then it is left to cool to around 100ºF. After it's cooled, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with active cultures is slowly mixed in, and then the whole mixture cooks up for as many hours as you'd like in a yogurt maker. My personal preference is around 6 hours. Less time gives you less tang, and more time gives you more tang. When I pulled that yogurt out of the yogurt maker and set it in the fridge to finish firming up, I had such a sense of satisfaction. I had made yogurt from scratch. With this plain homemade yogurt, I can make more yogurt by taking out a portion as another starter. With this yogurt I can take a tour of other cuisines that feature yogurt. I can visit Greece again, Lebanon, Turkey, or India. I can take this yogurt and drain it a bit to make yogurt cheese (a distinct possibility). And I'm toying with the idea of adding a few things and plopping the whole mixture into my ice cream maker- frozen yogurt anyone?

It's wonderful. Tart and creamy, and I can add any flavorings I want. This mornings flavor is a cherry-berry jam I made myself- tomorrow's will likely be blueberry-lime. Homemade yogurt is indeed a treasure- and well worth learning how to make.


brian said...

Wow, love the new look! I remember making home-made yogurt 20 years ago. The makers had 5 opaque glass tumblers and sat in a warmer. When it was ready, we would chill and blend in jam (or jelly). Of course, as a kid, you liked the store bought stuff more, anyway--just because.

This maker looks pretty sharp. I bet it could play a starring role in frozen yogurt recipe.

Erika said...

Thanks Brian! That style of yogurt maker is still available- but it's much more pricey than this one, which runs around 20 bucks. This makes 1 quart of yogurt, which I do think could be perfect for frozen yogurt. I'll have to do that with the next batch...I've been enjoying this one a wee bit. :-)