Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Never Buy Yogurt Again!

This post has been a long time coming.  I tried 7 batches of yogurt before I was finally ready to post about it.  I'll be honest.  When I first read how easy it is to make yogurt at home, I was a little embarrassed that I've been buying it from the store all this time. 

All the info I've read about yogurt making touts how easy it is to do.  I apparently was blocking out the part where they say "unless you're using goat milk," which of course I am.  Apparently the different construction of the fat molecules in goat milk makes getting it to set up as yogurt much more challenging.  I've yet to succeed with goat milk.  I did eat a jar earlier this week, but it was so runny that I had to pour it over my granola.  Apparently, in Europe, they prefer a runny yogurt.  It's considered more gourmet.  Since I've grown up with my Dannon from a plastic cup, I prefer to be able to spoon my yogurt into the bowl, so I refuse to count this thickened milk as a success.

Still, I'm not giving up on making yogurt from our goat milk.  In an effort to rule out other variables, I made a batch this week with cow milk from the grocery store and had great success.  So, since I'm assuming that most of you drink cow milk, I thought I'd pass along this little blip of success on my journey toward goat milk yogurt in hopes that you may be able to take it and run with it for your own families.

Here's how you do it: 

1.  Heat 1/2 gallon of whole milk (cannot by Ultra Pasteurized -- click here to see why -- read the label.  If it comes in a jug and just says "pasteurized," you're good to go) to 180 degrees.  Stir pretty much constantly once you get to 140 degrees so that you can be sure not to scorch the milk. 

Adding a thickener is optional.  I found that the cow milk came out thick enough without it, though.  If you try it the first time and found it too thin for your liking, add 1/4 c. powdered milk next time.  Add it to the milk BEFORE heating it.

2. Once your milk has reached 180 degrees, plunge it into a sink full of ice-cold water.  Watch it closely as the temperature will drop quickly.  When it reaches 120 degrees, remove from water and act quickly with the next step.

3. Add your starter culture.  You can go one of two routes here.  The easiest thing is to add 2 Tbs. of yogurt to the milk.  Be sure that the yogurt you choose is plain and contains active cultures.  It should say on the package. 
This one says it on the back near the nutrition information.  I love this Greek yogurt, so I tried this one (in several of my attempts). You will only ever have to buy one little tub, though, since you can just reserve 2 Tbs. from a previous batch to reuse next time.

Your other starter option is to buy a powdered culture from a supplier.  I've had success with Dairy Connection's ABY-2C culture, which is similar to a Bulgarian yogurt and I'd read is a good one to use with goat milk.  Cultures for Health, which is where I order my cheesemaking supplies also has several yogurt options, including a Greek that looks yummy.  It only takes a smidgen of this culture per batch (yes, smidgen is a technical term.  I just learned this myself.  Apparently a smidgen is 1/32 of a tsp.)

Whichever culture route you go, you stir it in immediately once your milk temperature has dropped to 120.

 Then, pour it into mason jars and cap tightly. 

Submerge in a small cooler full of nearly boiling water (I just had some water heating in a big pot on the stove alongside my milk so that it would be ready for the cooler.)

The goal is to keep your yogurt at an approximate temperature of 116 degrees for 6-8 hours as it sets up.  I found that in the kitchen, the cooler did the job pretty well.  About 4 hours in, I heated a bit more water and threw it in, just to keep things warm.  If it's a hot, sunny day, you could just sit the cooler outside.

Another option would be to use a Yogatherm or something similar.  I'd read about good results with goat milk, so I forked over the $40 for this electricity-free option.  It basically just super-insulates the milk to better maintain the temperature.  It's available at either Dairy Connection or Cultures for Health (see links above).

At the end of the 6-8 hours, open it up to be sure it's thickening.  Then, refrigerate overnight. 

In the morning, enjoy a bowlful with some fresh berries and honey.  Or, at least, that's what I'd do.  :)
1/2 gallon of yogurt is a lot.  Luckily, it should keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

  Don't forget to save those 2 Tbs. for your next batch, and you'll never have to buy yogurt again!

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