12 April 2013

On making Yogurt





















I have 2 passions in life: Coffee and yogurt... and bread and my garden and... Wait that's not going to work. I'd be here all day if i started counting things that make me wild with excitement but right now i'm only here to talk about one thing. The many reasons why you want to make your very own homemade yogurt. 
The web is full of tips and tricks on this subject - and every other subject for that matter. Some make it seem confusing and others add a lot of ingredients that i don't believe in. 

The first reason I started making yogurt is that i like to make good use of the resources at hand and we just happen to have a 106 cows who are offering us a lot of milk. They provide the main source of income for our family and give me the opportunity to cultivate a growing passion for exploring the process of fermentation and making use of good bacteria.
There's a chance you don't have that much milk at your fingertips, but there are plenty more reasons for you to consider making your own yogurt instead of buying.

1. More ways to buy fresh and local products. If you are lucky enough to have access to a dairy farm in your neighborhood where you can get fresh raw milk, you should certainly take the opportunity to do so. Some farms sell it bottled and lightly pasteurized which is a good choice too. In Florida my parents live close to Dakin Dairy Farms, a large family farm that produces and bottles their own milk. My mom also gets cream from them and makes butter. I come from a long line of industrious women.
Go to a local farmers market or do some research, you'll find most areas have some access to local dairy.

2. It's so much better for you. Real yogurt is made up of live, active cultures, which makes it a "living" food. It's good for the life and flora in your belly. I believe we're seeing a lot more "lactose intolerance" because we are consuming dairy that is over-pasteurised and stripped of these essentials, making our bodies react negatively because they're not actually getting nourishment from what we're consuming. A lot of commercial yogurts (Yoplait is one of the worst) have a long list of ingredients including artificial colors, flavors and processed sweeteners. When you make your own, you can decide what to add based on your preferences and priorities for health. 
Greek Yogurt is fairly recent trend here in the states, with sales rising from 3% in 2009 to 36% Jan. 2013, thanks to Chobani, but it is not a new method. It's made by straining regular yogurt as opposed to adding gelatin like most commercial yogurts do. The results are thicker, creamier and packed with protein. The downside is that it takes 3 pounds of yogurt to make 1 pound of Greek yogurt which means it is more expensive to produce and there is also a by-product, whey, to deal with. Chobani makes real yogurt that is actually worth a slightly higher price tag, but the staggering success of this company has also brought a lot of cheap imitations from others. That is what's happening to yogurt today and it's a subject that makes me hot under the collar. I'm trying to reign myself in so i don't go on a rant here but essentially, what happens is that a good product becomes stripped of it's virtues because it's cheaper to manufacture it with preservatives and artificial ingredients. That is really the state of the entire industrial food system, yogurt is just one of many products affected. Knowing that you can make your own means you can actively participate in your own health. Yogurt is fermented milk; fermentation is a natural preservative.

3. Satisfaction.  There's nothing like the satisfaction of a domestic triumph. It becomes an addiction and pretty soon, you'll see how things work and it gives you the ability to make more things. The fact that milk can turn into yogurt is a miracle every time.

My sister-in-law first taught me how to make yogurt. She broke it down in a simple way that made it seem very possible for me and I've learned so much just by doing this on a regular basis. One of the most important things is to be consistent and do it the same way every time. Once you're comfortable with the process then you can try different things. If you keep reading about it there are new discoveries all the time, which is part of what keeps it exciting.
It works best to make it at the same time of day every time. I do it in the evening, with the same tools and pots. The only fail i had so far is when i tried making raw milk yogurt. That is a whole other deep subject in itself that we won't get into here.


 Simple Homemade Yogurt
You will need: 
1 gallon fresh whole milk.
Raw milk with cream if you can get your hands on it. 
2 Tablespoons Yogurt with acidophilus (live cultures) to use as a starter. .
Try a plain whole milk yogurt, Dannon or Chobani for example
6 pint jars, or 4 quart jars
Thermometer

 {a good time to do some reading}

In a heavy bottom kettle, bring milk to 180 degrees on medium heat, stirring often.
Cool to 120 degrees. 
It only takes a few minutes plunged into a sink filled with cold water, stirring constantly.

Remove 1 cup of milk and whisk in 2 T. yogurt starter. Add to the rest of the milk. It may be tempting to do more starter but it's not necessary.

Pour into glass canning jars and top with lids (flats only)


Place onto a sturdy cookie sheet and tuck the jars into the oven with the oven light on. Or if you don't have a light inside you can heat the oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off before putting your jars inside.
Leave in overnight, or at least 8 hours. 

At this point, refrigerate for at least an hour before trying it, or 
pour into a colander lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. 
Strain off the whey for 15 - 30 min, the longer it goes the thicker it will be. At 2 hours or more of straining it becomes a soft Yogurt Cheese.
An immersion blender will take any lumps out that you can't get by stirring. Chill before using.
Don't forget to keep 2 tablespoons yogurt "seed" for the next batch. You can freeze if necessary.

Keep the whey to use when cooking rice or making bread in place of water, use to preserve homemade mayo, or feed it to the chickens.

It's really wonderful to serve yogurt with local maple syrup, honey, or you can also use homemade jam for a little sweetness.
  
Make a batch of granola at the same time and you have just made yourself a happy little situation to wake up to in the morning.

There are lots of ways to incubate yogurt. For further reading start with:
101 Cookbooks: Using a yogurt maker
The Blissfully Content Life: For a crockpot method

31 comments:

  1. Hee hee, I love your "two passions" in life. I can identify. :) I love making yogurt too and the miracle of it, though it's been a little while now . . . since I'm recently into my Greek yogurt as you mentioned. I will have to make my own again and just go to the bother of "greeking" it now that you have reinspired me. I love your thoughts and photography, as always! Happy Spring to you!

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    1. Yes, Shelly we do share many of the same passions! ;) You encourage me greatly!

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  2. new posts from you always make my day. :)
    and i have ALWAYS wanted to try my own yogurt. as soon as i get to it, i am coming here and letting you teach me. i am so excited.
    i LOVE your photos too- they are so charming and homey and nest-ly. :)

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    1. High praise coming from the queen of "home-y charm". I laughed at this comment because this is really what i love about you. What is that quote about a friend representing a world in ourselves? I think you'll feel very clever when you make yogurt. it's worth it for that in itself ;)

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  3. I make yogurt very similar, except I use raw milk, and only heat my milk to 110*, keeping it "raw". Then I ferment it in the oven with the light on for 24 hours (at a temp between 95-110). This is then fermented raw yogurt with even more good stuff for our guts!

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    1. Haven't had any luck making it raw yet, i'll have to try your method. it would be wonderful if i knew your name so i could credit you with the idea!

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    2. It's Junita! And I love the way this yogurt turns out, especially that thick layer of cream on top! However, like yogurt I used to make (heating it to 180*) some batches just don't turn out...so if you try it my way, don't give up the first time if it's not perfect. I make about 2 gallons a month... I love your blog and the way you eat healthy, REAL food. We do, too!

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    3. That's exciting! i'm encouraged to try it again. So glad to know you've had success with it!

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  4. You just might make me a believer...

    I've recently tried making my own yogurt and did not like it one bit. I used a "commercial" yogurt starter - Could that be why? and it was so bitter - I LOVE my vanilla...

    what would you suggest for a sweetener??

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    1. The starter makes a big difference but i can't say for sure cause i've never tried using commercial starter. It might take some time to adjust to the tartness but once you get used to it the vanilla tastes strange. Try making some with your favorite yogurt, whatever you're currently enjoying, and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 cup of sugar just before you add starter and put it into the jars. You can really flavor it any way you want!
      I prefer to drizzle with maple syrup when serving but adding sugar and vanilla will result in a flavor that is much less tart. I've also seen some add sweetened condensed milk, tho i can't say where at the moment. Keep experimenting, i think you'll love it!

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  5. Thank you! so much for the Yogurt info.. yous just looks so yummy.
    And Hey...
    I hope you don't mind.. but

    I just nominated you to receive the Liebster Award. I hope you'll accept. Here are 11 questions for you to answer and check back on my blog to see posting details..

    1. Your blog title/name? How did it come about... is there a story?
    2. Books. Who is your favorite author? What is your style?
    3. Speaking of Style. Who/what inspires you in your wardrobe selection?
    4. If you're a mom! - Any advice you could share? If you're not... What do you wish you could share?
    5. In blogging.. Do you share your Faith? Why or Why not?
    6. Collections... What is yours? Baskets? Cookbooks? - How did you get started?
    7. Do you have that one "best friend" - what makes her a great friend? Give me just two-three words.
    8. Pizza or Stromboli? Would that be homemade or "Take Out"?
    9. Camera advice...is needed. What would you recommend?
    10. And your favorite flower is...?
    11. Tell me that one idiosyncrasy you LOVE about yourself..

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  6. just the way I make yogurt too. curious what you mean by raw milk yogurt? does heating the milk make it no longer raw? I love the milk we can get around here from pastured little jersey cows, complete w/ the thick cream on top, but I've gotten away from the yogurt habit and instead, like shelly, have been buying the greek. really need to just make my own. seriously.
    btw. love your blog. I am a frequent lurker, so maybe it's time I end that habit. (the lurking), and profess my adoration publicly:-)
    Thelma

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    1. Lucky you, how fortunate to get milk from pastured jerseys! I wish for good dairy for everybody.. and world peace of course.
      Heating milk to 180, then cooling, is essentially flash-pasteurization. It produces a more consistent product because there is less chance for competing bacterias, while still maintaining a good amount of nutrients. The optimal temp for the bacteria cultures to work is around 90-110, which is why it's brought to that temp and maintained. Some people warn against raw milk yogurt because of this reason (too much chance for pathogenic bacteria, the bad cultures, to work). It's best to do your own research, it's all up to personal choice i think. I def want to try Jen's method for raw milk.
      Ps. Thanks for the professions, =) I've certainly enjoyed seeing your work as well!

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  7. Growing up, My Dad made yogurt for our family regularly. You've inspired me to talk him into a father/daughter yogurt making day! ;)

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  8. Thank you so much for this recipe! I am trying it right now....I really like having the yogurt thicken in the jars! Thank you also for the mention:). I really love your blog and enjoy visiting often.

    ~Julia

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  9. Amy,
    I love this recipe. Thanks for sharing. I posted it on my business page.
    www.lenasamishgranola.com

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  10. I've tried a few times and failed :( I am totally trying your method!
    thank you so much for posting on this!!!

    xo + blessings,
    Anne Marie

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    1. Anne Marie...this was by far THE BEST yogurt I have ever made!! I used organic whole milk {I have a raw source coming soon} and Tillamook yogurt for the starter, 3 TBS. vanilla, and stevia to taste. It was perfectly thick and I didn't even strain it. The kids thought it was store bought!

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    2. Thank you so much Amy for sharing!

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    3. That's so great! So glad to hear it turned out so well, i love your choice of flavor/sweetener.

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  11. Great post, Amy!! You are thoroughly educated on the topic and it shows :) I'm a little nervous about the straining...I used gelatin the last time but I'd like to try it this way!

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  12. I was thinking of you today, wishing to be visiting Lancaster at the same time as you... :)
    So a visit to your blog is in order in such times when I would enjoy being with you in person.
    And I was so excited to see a post on yogurt!! I have made my own yogurt for quite some time, several years, but this is by FAR the best tutorial I have ever heard or read! I will be referencing back here to adjust the recipe I use... I do it similarly but add just a bit of vanilla and stevia, as someone else mentioned. My FAVorite way of eating it is mid-summer with all the wondrous fruits - strawberries and peaches and blackberries and blueberries atop a bit of granola, drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon. It is simply TOO GOOD.

    What an inspiration you are, Amy!
    xo

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  13. Hi, Amy! Clarita sent me over here since I recently dispaired over my first yogurt making experience. Then end product was an entire gallon of milk with two little globs of commercial yogurt at the bottom. Friends let me know that I needed a thermometer, so that will be my next purchase.

    I am healing from some health problems, and Greek yogurt has become one of my staples. Your post was so informative, and I can tell you have acquired a lot of knowledge on the subject. Now I have a few more questions for you.

    I live in the city and have not, yet, found any place to buy raw milk. Will buying pasteurized milk from the store negate the health benefits of making homemade yogurt? What are my best options?

    On the commercial Greek yogurt: When I first started eating Greek yogurt I was scouring lables. Recently my local grocery store started carrying a generic brand of Greek yogurt. I was so pleased because it cost 2-3 dollars less than Chobani. I have been eating since then. After reading your post I compared labels and was horrified to see a lot of sugar in the generic brand as well as no live cultures. Would you mind talking a little more about the difference in the cheaper versions and the real stuff? I'm curious how it is made differently.

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    1. First of all, so good to hear you are healing, and looking for more ways to do that with food!
      Do start with a thermometer, it's the only way to know exactly where you're at. You should easily be able to find a simple one on your next trip to the grocery store.
      Raw milk is really key to making a thick creamy yogurt so the highest quality milk is essential to not only taste and texture but really crucial if you're hoping for any health benefits. Briefly stated, high pasteurization changes the structure of milk which is why it reacts differently. For further reading go to
      http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/ultra-pasteurized-milk
      I have nothing good to say about milk that is ultra-pasteurized, but whole, pasteurized, UN-homogenized milk will do ok. Your starter also really makes a difference so i'd make sure to buy the best yogurt you can find, or buy a starter like http://www.culturesforhealth.com/bulgarian-yogurt-starter.html
      Also i think it's important to make the best choices you can based on where you're at. Maybe you don't have raw milk from a farm but most cities have access to it at farmers markets, tho it can be very expensive. Every area has it's benefits and drawback so tap into the benefits in your city... maybe someone is making really incredible yogurt those in more rural areas don't have access to, in that case i'd say it's totally worth paying more for a product that is a "whole food". The cheap, over-processed stuff is not worth the price of your health.
      I could really do a whole new post about your last question on how the cheaper version is made differently. For a brief description here is a good article that explains some..

      http://www.progressivedairy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5538:atlanta-gets-fresh-georgia-farms-offer-sweet-dairy-products&catid=72:producers&Itemid=115
      Atlanta Fresh yogurt is excellent for the way it is produced in small batches with local milk. If you take the link to their website maybe you can find a store or market in your neighborhood. Would love to hear any further thoughts you have on the subject! all the best to you..

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  14. This is the BEST yogurt... I can't stop making it!! I also made ice cream like you said, put yogurt in freezer add maple syrup and freeze, so good!!

    Thanks mama :)

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    1. Love it Mother! wish i could come sit at your table today!

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  15. I really enjoy visiting here...looks like a yogurt recipe
    that easy to make and taste delicious. I can't wait to try it!
    I love your photos.....love the photos of your kitchen....looks
    true farmhouse....beautiful!
    Corinne

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  16. Impressive! You're right, there are some really terrible imitation yogurts out there. Keep up the good work.

    P.S. Yes, I did write the lines on my blog. Thanks for reading!

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  17. I've made yogurt only heating it to 110 degrees. I was told that heating it any warmer kills the good bacteria and you're basically pasteurizing it. Have you heard of that?

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  18. Just to say that it's lovely to hear from you again. I must revive my yogurt-making, though mine was never as temptingly thick and bubbly as yours. You have absolutely perfected it.

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  19. Hi, Amy, I am so excited to make this! My husband and I use a great deal of yogurt because we often make breakfast shakes. I'm trying to keep things as wholesome and homemade as possible, so this sounds like the perfect switch-up. We also have a fresh milk source in the next county. Thank you for posting!

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