Photo: litlnemo (flickr)
Yogurt is much more than a highly sweetened dessert item filled with gelatins and sugary jams. Yogurt is full of protein, calcium and other essential nutrients and contains beneficial strains of bacteria that aid in digestion.
Yogurt can be made from any type of milk, goat or cow, raw or pasteurized, even soymilk can be used. The beauty of this food, is that you control the milk, the sweetness and the level of tartness.
Many people find that after making their own yogurt, they cannot tolerate the mass produced yogurts sold in stores.
Yogurt is also a great way to get extra nutrition into children. Once made, yogurt can be made into fruit leathers, yogurt ice pops, smoothies and simply used to marinate meats or add a taste boost to other dishes. It lasts longer than liquid milk and is tolerated by the very young and old alike.
Make Your Own Yogurt
To make yogurt, you start with your choice of milk and then heat it to almost boiling. This destroys any bacteria that are present in the milk, thus making it sterile and ready to grow the good bacteria you introduce.
Homemade yogurt, especially goat milk yogurt, will have a runnier consistency than what you may be used to. You can remedy this by adding milk powder before adding culture, using cow’s milk, or simply becoming used to the more natural results.
You will then need to introduce the good bacteria into your sterile milk. This can be done with a packet of purchased yogurt bacteria, or starter. A simpler way would be to buy a good variety of yogurt that contains the live bacteria and add some of this to the sterile milk. The bacteria will continue to thrive and grow in the right conditions, resulting in delicious yogurt with little effort.
Although this author has not had luck with soymilk yogurt, many have. Simply use soymilk in place of any animal milk and continue in the same manner as above.
Yogurt Makers And Food Dehydrators
Yogurt makers are great to add to your kitchen gadgets, but really, all they are is a place to keep the temperature of the inoculated milk a steady, perfect temperature for fermenting and they aren’t really necessary.
If you do not have a yogurt maker, you can use many different things. Try pouring the warm, inoculated milk into a clean glass jar and wrapping in a bath towel in a draft free place. Once you have it set up, do not move the jar as homemade yogurt is more fragile and jostling can keep it from thickening. Many other people have had success with covering their inoculated milk and placing into an oven with the pilot light on.
One sure fire way to make great yogurt is to use a food dehydrator with a thermostat. Remove all but the bottom tray and place your covered dish of inoculated milk into the dehydrator. Keep the temperature between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit to form the best yogurt. This should take between 4 and 6 hours. Any longer and your yogurt may become too tart.
If the yogurt has pulled away from the sides slightly, it is finished. You can recover and continue to heat for longer, checking for firmness and the separation of whey, before finally removing and placing in a refrigerator to finish thickening.
If Your Yogurt Is Too Thin
Thickness is the chief complaint among those new to yogurt making. The yogurt that you are used to eating, contains added ingredients to make it thick, such as guar gum and gelatin.
These ingredients may not change the taste of the yogurt, but they are not necessary for a deliciously thick yogurt. If you find that you cannot get your yogurt thick enough, try these ideas:
- Add powdered milk to the milk before letting it ferment
- Add fermenting time to your recipe
- Chill the yogurt thoroughly before tasting
The less you dip into the finished yogurt, the thicker it will remain. Even if your yogurt is too thin for your tastes, you can always make smoothies out of it – the health benefits remain.
Finished yogurt will keep in the fridge for a week. It may continue to lose whey, creating a slightly greenish liquid layer on the top of the actual yogurt. This is delicious and can be stirred back in if desired.
Store your yogurt for longer periods, in the freezer. Once defrosted, it will not have the smoothness of freshly made, but will taste just as good. Use this for blending into recipes and no one will ever know the difference!