Sunday, February 26, 2012

Farmhouse Cooking....Exploring Yogurt and How to Make It

   Here on the farm, we have been making our own yogurt for several years. Experimenting with various methods yielding various results gave us some good experience to go on. Here are my conclusions:

1. Yogurt culture from an existing yogurt is preferred to powdered culture starter.

2. Using our Excalibur dehydrator is our number one preferred method of maintaining culture temperature. We prepare the culture and milk, place in dehydrator, set temp, and allow the process to work 8 hours or overnight.

3. Second choice would be using the pilot light in my gas oven, placing prepared culture and milk in mason jars, placing the jars in a warm water bath and letting the process work overnight.

4. Canning jars are best choice for storing yogurt. We keep ours in pints or quarts.

5. It really is very easy and yogurt keeps well.

   So, how do we make yogurt? Let me walk you through the steps. Today we will demonstrate using a  powdered culture and a Yotherm insulated container. **Note: The Yotherm and powdered culture came in a cheese making kit we purchased, so giving it a try was only fair.  The results were pleasing and I do recommend it as a good method, however, I would not have purchased it personally because I already have two methods I really like and I feel using an existing culture is more economical.

On to the process. You need:

1 quart fresh milk (store bought, organic, goat, cow..even reconstituted dry milk...whatever you have)
1/4 cup fresh culture (or one package of powdered culture)
stock pot and spoon
canning jars (or your choice of storage container)
a Yotherm (or your oven, or a dehydrator your jars will fit it)

Here we go:

fresh milk and starter culture
   Gather your supplies making sure all utensils and surfaces are clean. Milk absorbs odors and oils so I recommend you work in a clean kitchen (no compost scraps on the counter or such). If you were using an existing starter, I recommend Dannon naturals plain or Stony Creek; I personally have used both successfully.

heating milk to temperature
   Pour the milk into a stock pot. Using a low flame (or setting) heat your milk to 185 degrees stirring occasionally to prevent foaming over or scorching. This step is vital to obtaining a thick yogurt. You may also add in 1/4 cup of powdered milk for added thickness. To get a custard-style thickness (like a Yoplait cup) add in one packet of unflavored gelatin before you begin to heat the milk.
   I have tried several different thermometers, and the digital one seen here is my all-time favorite. Temperature settings, timer, and digital reading really helps ( I use it in all my cheese making).
   Once you have obtained 185 degrees, remove the milk from the heat and cover it lightly (I use a flour sack towel). The towel prevents the milk from forming a "skin" while cooling. Here we want the milk to cool to 110 degrees before adding the culture. Anything warmer will kill the culture and defeat the purpose.

Yotherm ready for yogurt culture and milk mixture
    When you milk has cooled to 110 degrees, stir in your culture (powdered or previous batch). Pour the culture/milk mixture into your Yotherm being sure your lids are on tightly. If you are using the oven or dehydrator method you would put your culture mix into their storage jars (remember the pint or quart mason jars).

Yotherm wrapped in towel for extra insulation
   I wrapped the Yotherm in a towel for extra insulation. From here you must decide how long to culture. Standard recipes recommend six to eight hours for good culture development, soft set yogurt and mild acidity. If you prefer better lactose digestion and a higher pro-biotic culture, leave the yogurt overnight.
   If using the oven, place your jars in a warm water bath (water about 115degrees), turn on your oven light and let set overnight.
   If using the dehydrator, place the jars in the dehydrator, set the temperature for yogurt (most have a guide on the dial) and let set desired length of time.

   When the yogurt is finished culturing (Yotherm method) place it in jars or your desired storage container. Remove from the water bath if oven method, and pull from dehydrator if that method is used. Refrigerate the now ready yogurt in its storage container until you are ready to use it.

    Happy and healthy eating from our kitchen to yours!

   A great big thanks to the farm kids who helped in this post not only with the photography, but in working through the test runs on the various methods and cultures.


Tami Lewis said...

i enjoy making yogurt also! thanks for the tips :)
since i am no longer blogging at A Godly Homemaker i will simply comment via this manner :)

Simply Scaife Family said...

Thank you, Ms Lewis. Still good to hear from you.