Thursday, May 16, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

Aaron gets these ideas in his head every so often about things I should learn to make or do because they would increase our quality of life. They tend to be really annoying things that I think are going to take FOREVER. So far? I think everyone of them has been a keeper.

Back at Thanksgiving we were at his Grandma's place and his Aunt Cara had brought some homemade yogurt. It was AMAZING! I got the recipe, dutifully made it, have adjusted it and now wouldn't go back to store bought. We like our yogurt pretty mellow- you can adjust the tartness by incubating the yogurt for longer or shorter periods of time. Anyway, the recipe as I make it (Aunt Cara makes hers in the crock pot, but my crock pot didn't get the yogurt hot enough plus it was a whole day affair and I'm too impatient for that!):

Tools and ingredients:
- 4 cups milk to 1/4 cup storebought plain greek yogurt with live active cultures (I use a gallon of milk and one cup yogurt)
- pot big enough for milk with a good seal
- oven:)
- food thermometer
- flour sack cloth (mine are 36"x36"), Aunt Cara uses a thick cheesecloth and my mother an old pillowcase:P (Cara gave me thick cheesecloth but um, I ruined it by accident and couldn't find anything thick enough that was labeled cheesecloth and the flour sack cloth works great!)
- strainer
- something to whip the yogurt (hand mixer, wisk, kitchen aide....)

1. Heat milk to 180 degrees stirring often to ensure bottom doesn't scorch.
2. Cool milk to 115-120 degrees. (I aim for closer to 120 degrees.)
3. Remove one cup of milk and gently mix yogurt starter into it.

4. Mix results of above step into pot of hot milk.
5. Put lid on pot.
6. Put pot in oven, close oven door and turn oven light on (this ensures the oven temperature stays around 115-120 degrees).
7. Incubate for 5 hours for a milder yogurt or overnight for a more sour yogurt (if you are making leban you would incubate for longer).
8. Put pot in fridge to cool until it's cool (a couple hours or even days if you forget about it:P)
9. Set strainer up over a bowl to catch the whey. Layer the strainer with the cloth and pour yogurt into the cloth.
10. Leave till desired thickness. For sure strain until the yogurt falls off the cloth, if your yogurt is still sticking to the sides then you haven't strained it enough. If you want it thicker use a spatula to mix the yogurt while it's in the cloth.
11. Whip yogurt, this keeps the yogurt from separating.
12. Set aside enough of this plain yogurt to make your next batch, I buy a new starter from the store every 5 or so batches because Cara told me too:)
13. Put yogurt in fridge and enjoy! When I make a gallon worth of milk (16 cups) I get about nine cups of yogurt that is the consistency somewhere between regular yogurt and greek yogurt. (See Variations and Serving ideas.)

Hints and Info:
If your yogurt isn't turning out there's about a million things that could be going wrong here's some ideas for fixing: Try wrapping your pot in towels while incubating, especially if the seal on your pot isn't great. Use an oven thermometer to make sure the oven is holding at the right temperature. Google a different recipe- maybe the slow cooker version would be better for you?!

My absolute favorite way of eating yogurt is with home made granola and strawberries. It's so yummy we eat it for desert! I will post my granola recipe once it's better:) Today is about attempt number 157 (and Aaron still says it's "chewy"). We also eat it with Lebanese and Indian dishes. Aaron mixes jam into it, we've tried vanilla extract (ok but didn't improve it that much!), we haven't tried honey but that is supposed to be good. It's great in smoothies (although kefir is better!!). Aunt Cara adds a bit of vanilla pudding mix when whipping it and it is AMAZING...... but we're avoiding pudding mix:) It's great for transitioning kids from store bought yogurt to plain, just slowly decrease the amount you add every couple of times!