Monday, May 6, 2013

It's a Yogurt Thing

This is what happens to fresh ripe strawberries. Loaded up with homemade yogurt on top of almond cake. Tastes like springtime, tart and creamy. Sometimes with a drizzle of local honey on top.

I make my own yogurt every other week. I never liked yogurt much, until I tried making it at home and tasted it. It's fantastic when it's freshly made, nothing like the store's yogurt, with its long list of ingredients.

For a starter I use 2% Fage Yogurt because it has 4 cultures in it, and for the milk I splurge and get a gallon of organic milk.
I make the yogurt in the crockpot. I've never had a batch fail, and it really doesn't take that much time.

Before I do anything, I boil water in the kettle and sterilize everything. The crockpot and its lid, the ladle and whisk. Anything that's going to touch the milk gets a boiling water bath, to make sure only the good bacteria get a chance at the milk.

This is 10 cups of organic milk in the crockpot. I turn it on high and cover with a dishtowel, checking every so often until the milk is 180 degrees F.

I check with a candy thermometer until it reaches the right temperature. I try not to boil the milk, turning the crockpot off when the milk reaches 180 degrees.

I like a thick yogurt, so I add 1/3 cup of powdered dry milk per quart. I take some of the hot milk out of the crockpot with the ladle into a sterilized two-cup measuring cup, add the dry milk to that, and use the whisk to mix together. It's too hard to get all the lumps out if you add the dry milk directly to the whole crockpot at once.

Sometimes I add the dry milk in two batches, to make sure there's enough milk to really mix them together well before putting the hot milk back into the crockpot with the remainder of the milk.

I keep the Fage yogurt out on the counter so it can reach room temperature. It isn't time to add it to the milk yet, but that way when it is time it isn't refrigerator temperature when it's added in.

If honey, sugar or vanilla extract are added, this is the time, and they are added the same way as the dry milk. Then the cover goes back on the crockpot and it cools down until it is 110 degrees F. That can take an hour or so depending on the temperature of the room.

When the thermometer reads 110 degrees F, some of the milk is taken out and put into the 2-cup measuring cup, the starter yogurt is added and whisked in well, and all of it is added back to the main crockpot mixture.

Wrapped in a large beach towel, the covered crockpot is put into the oven with the oven light on overnight. The oven light puts out just enough warmth to maintain the 110 degrees for 8 to 10 hours in the oven. But don't forget and turn the oven on!

I usually put the crockpot in the oven before bedtime and take it back out the next morning. The yogurt has firmed up, and it's ready to be ladled into sterilized mason jars. If I plan to make frozen yogurt, I will use a quart jar and make the full gallon of milk. With 10 cups, I like to use the small mason jars with lids, and use one per day at breakfast and on desserts.

Here's a week's supply or so, depending on how many I eat each day, and whether I use a recipe to cook with some of it. It's sweet, tart and thick like cream. Super deluxe on anything you add it to.

With vanilla wafers on the bottom of a bowl, bananas cut up in the middle, a generous dollup of homemade yogurt with local honey drizzled on top - it's just like banana pudding!

No comments: