Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yogurt do's and don'ts

My yogurt making usually goes swimmingly. It's not rocket science; in fact it's super easy to do. We're talking about 15 minutes hands on time, 4-8 hours hands off time (go to work, go to school, go to bed, whatever) and, voila, yogurt!

All you need is:
  • about 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt
  • 2 quarts of milk (any kind will do; I usually use 2%)
  • a (preferably) nonstick pot*
  • a whisk
Optional stuff (but it's nice to have):
  • a medium to large bowl (to move the hot milk to so it cools down more quickly)
  • a thermometer (you can judge the temperature using your finger, but this makes me more comfortable and confident)
  • dried milk
  • 2 quart size yogurt containers (from back when you didn't know you could make your own)
Really optional stuff:
  • cheesecloth or (clean) old t-shirt (if you want to make Greek yogurt or something that approximates it)
  • mix-ins (honey, vanilla, berries, sugar, fruit, etc)
Here's what you do:
  1. take your milk and yogurt out of the fridge (it's good to let your yogurt warm up a bit)
  2. pour the milk into the pot and put it on a medium burner
  3. stir occasionally (with the whisk or something that is safe for nonstick pots if you're using one)
  4. check the temperature after a few minutes and continue doing so until it reaches somewhere between 120◦-140◦ - I usually aim for 125◦.
  5. take the pot off the burner - pour the milk into a separate bowl if using
  6. leave it alone to cool down to about 115◦ (5-15 minutes) - if you are not using a thermometer the milk will be at the correct temperature when you can stick your finger in and not have to pull it out immediately (or so I'm told, I did it once and it worked...but then I got my thermometer back from the friend I'd loaned it to)
  7. when the proper temperature is reached whisk** in the yogurt - go ahead and mix in a few tablespoons of dry milk at this point too (it makes the yogurt a little thicker)
  8. cover that puppy up - I cover it with aluminum foil and then wrap it in towels to kind of incubate the yogurt - then I usually put it in the oven or microwave or somewhere out of the way.
  9. after 4-8 hours you'll see that a miracle has occurred - uncover the bowl and there it is, a bowl of yogurt
  10. pour it into the yogurt containers (or whatever you will keep it in) and put it in the fridge
  11. DONE!
If you want to make a thicker (Greek style) yogurt strain it using a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth or the t-shirt. The time on this varies; you'll have to play with it. The results range from slightly thicker yogurt to labna (almost cream cheese consistency).

Here are the 2 main don'ts 
  1. do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, forget to whisk or at least stir the yogurt + milk mixture 
  2. do NOT forget to leave the yogurt + milk mixture out - DON'T put it in the fridge
You may not like it at first if you've never had plain yogurt. It's a bit more runny and definitely has more of a bite to it than the stuff you buy at the store, but it's also cheaper (by about half, even if you buy nice/organic milk) and customizable. I love it, and I hope you will too!

*I don't generally love nonstick cookware, however, when heating up milk it's kind of a godsend. It's easy to let milk get too hot and scald; if it burns onto the bottom of your pot there is NO way it is coming off...ever. Well, it will, but it takes a lot of work! I've soaked pots for 3 days and it's still nearly impossible to get off. Use nonstick and it peels right off.

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