Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How I Make Homemade Yogurt & Frozen Yogurt

Are you hungry? Did you eat a good breakfast today? This is what I've been eating lately: fresh, homemade yogurt with honey, granola, and fruit. It's a great way to start the day. I've really enjoyed learning about making yogurt at home and wanted to share some tips with you. There are lots of tutorials already out there for different methods, but I want to show you what works best for me.

The process starts with heating your milk to about 210 degrees F. I use regular whole milk because I haven't managed to find organic whole milk that isn't "ultra-pasteurized" at my local grocers. My milk is free of growth hormone though, so that's something good. For thicker yogurt, hold the milk at that 210 degrees for about 30 minutes to let some of the water evaporate out leaving you with thicker milk. This makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Yes, I'm screaming that, so don't ignore that tip.

(Yesterday, I got a stock pot just the right size so I won't have to overfill this pan anymore. I may have burned the bejeezers out of a previous pot forgetting about dinner on the stove one day, but I won't admit it. I've been making-do, but I'm happy to have my new deeper pot.)

After 30 minutes, move the pan into the sink filled with cold water (and ice if you want) to cool it to around 110 degrees. Stir now and then to help it cool faster. When it gets to about 120 or a little less, remove one cup's worth and stir in plain yogurt (either from last week's batch or store bought). I use 3 quarts of milk and 1/4 cup or so of yogurt. Pour that back into the pot and stir well. I use a glass measuring cup to do that and then I use it to fill my 3 quart jars too.

So far we have spent about 45 minutes total on this, which may seem like a lot, or too much in your opinion. But most of that is watching a pot steam, or watching a pot cool, so it gives plenty of time to get some other work done in the kitchen. You can chop dinner up and get it in the crockpot, or wash the cabinet fronts and windows, or make cookies. Everybody wins.

The rest is super easy. I sit my jars in a hot water bath (110 degrees) in an old cooler and don't touch it or move it for 8-10 hours. The water should come all the way up the jars to the same height as the yogurt, roughly. This old cooler doesn't hold the heat on it's own after about 6 hours, but I like it's size so I sit it on a heating pad and cover it with some old towels. My tap water is the magic number of 110 degrees so I can use it straight out of the tap. You don't want to stir or shake the jars at all because that is reputed to cause grainy yogurt. I don't move it and my yogurt is silky smooth so I guess that works? Also, be careful to make sure your milk has cooled to somewhere between 110-120 at most or you will kill your good bacteria.

I generally start my yogurt making around 9 am while Elena is at school. It's in the cooler (or incubator as they say) by 10 and I leave it until 7 or 8 pm. Remove the jars and put them in the fridge and that's it. With the additional step of steaming the milk for that 30 minutes, my yogurt comes out nice and thick. If you want to make Greek yogurt you will need to strain it. Pour it into a cloth lined strainer or a fancy "nutmilk bag" if you have one and let the whey drain out for 30 minutes to an hour.

You can see in the above photo how decently thick and creamy it is already, before straining. After straining for 45 minutes and adding some toppings, it looks like this:

Now if that's not tempting enough, you can also make your own frozen yogurt so easily you won't believe it. Take one quart of unstrained yogurt and stir in one cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Put it in an ice cream machine for 30 minutes or so and then pop it in your freezer for a couple of hours before serving. I have an electric Cuisinart ice cream freezer I got for $40 a long time ago. (I keep the canister part in the deep freeze ready to go so I can just fill it and put it on the machine for spontaneous ice cream making at any time.) This frozen yogurt  tastes sooooo tangy and delicious it's just amazing. Add a warm, fruit crisp and it's heaven.

It's no secret that I'm a pretty thrifty girl and love to save money. My Aldi's sells one quart of vanilla Greek yogurt for $3.69. That's super cheap compared to Chobani and other major brands that are more than $5 a quart. I buy a gallon of milk at Aldi's for $2 and I only use 3/4 of it. So I wind up with 3 quarts of regular yogurt or about 2 quarts of Greek yogurt for $1.50!!! More money to divert to the sewing budget!!!!

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. If you want to try making yogurt, I'd recommend you read lots of other tutorials too to make sure you understand the process and think about what incubation method will work for you. What do you think? Will you give it a try?

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