The first 2 batches that I made were a bust (or so I thought)-smelled like it cultured-like buttermilk, but didn't thicken at all. I had tried a crockpot method as well as using a yogurt maker we got for free from our landlords...made in the 70's. I also had tried them with skim milk and a cheap starter.
3rd time was a charm, as they say! I used whole milk this time (my husband prefers whole milk) and I used a higher quality starter yogurt.
Here's some basic instructions:
*Preface-there are several methods of making homemade yogurt. Using a cooler (sounded like a hassle), using the oven light (mine wasn't warm enough), heating pad (mine has an auto shut off so wouldn't work), and crockpot-my favorite choice!
Take your milk (nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole-whatever floats your boat. I've heard alternate milks like almond or soy work too but I've never tried. Ultra-pasteurized milk is not recommended.) and heat it until it reaches at least 180 degrees F to kill the "wrong" bacteria. Don't let it boil, stir often if doing it on the stove. I did it on the stove this time instead of in the crockpot because I didn't want to wait forever for it to heat up. *note: some recipes online say to just let it go for a certain amount of time as opposed to giving a concrete temperature...I don't like that risk. In the next step if you're just a few degrees off, you can ruin your entire attempt and I hate risking it...like I hate the idea of killing my yeast in breadmaking, or not having it warm enough to activate. Anywho, back to the topic at hand....
Let your milk cool down to lower than 115 degrees F, 110 degrees is great. Too low and your starter bacteria won't be active, too high and you killed them off! I put some ice packs wrapped in hand towels around my batch because I'm impatient. Once at 110-115 degrees, scoop a cup of it out into a bowl and add 2 Tbsp of yogurt starter per quart of milk. Gently mix it in but don't over-mix. This tempers the yogurt-remember these bacteria are alive...they're like me and getting into a blazing hot tub...they like to get used to it in stages ;) Once you've mixed the yogurt starter into the cup of milk go ahead and add it back into the rest of the milk and gently stir.
Yogurt-Spend the extra money and get the best kind you can get! I got this Fage brand-it is plain/unflavored and when you look at the ingredients, all you see is milk and bacteria-nothing else. You don't want gelatin, pectin, dried milk, or any other thickener to water down your starter. And to ensure that you have actual live bacteria you should look for this little symbol on the container certifying that it meets the standards for "Live and Active Cultures". Once you've made your own yogurt, you should be able to use a portion of it as your starter, though I've heard it can get weak over time and you'll want to buy the store bought starters every now and again. And back to the process....
Leave it 8 hours/overnight and dance for joy when you open it up and it's scoopable! You can let it stay in there longer if you want, it will get tangier. I prefer sweet yogurt so I take the crock out and put it in the fridge for a few hours. You'll notice some separation of the yogurt from the whey-no problem. Save the whey, it can be nutritious in things like smoothies. If you want thicker yogurt there are 3 methods- add extra dried milk powder to the mix from the beginning, add gelatin to thicken it up, or strain it with fine cheesecloth for a more "greek style" yogurt.
Dishing up: go to town with it-I plan to use it in homemade salad dressings and of course just eat it! Here was my first delicious serving, with frozen berries, flax seed, almonds, and a bit of honey. I've also eaten it with some homemade jelly mixed in-yum!
So back in the beginning I mentioned that I messed up with my first couple batches of yogurt. Funny story-I was using my massive quantity of failed milk to make buttermilk pancakes when I found out that 3.5 out of 5 of my little yogurt machine skim milk yogurt cups actually did set up! I must have opened one of those that didn't and assume the whole batch was a failure...very odd that some did and others in the same batch didn't...So skim milk with the cheaper yogurt start DID work....in a small quantity...If yours doesn't turned out like planned, turn it into pancakes, smoothies, or a creamy soup :) Let me know what you like on your yogurt in the comments!
|The first batch-skim yogurt, perfectly set up :)|
|Super old yogurt maker :)|