/ Joshua Naylor / 4 am Mon, May 26 2014
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  • Easy homemade yogurt recipe

    Easy homemade yogurt recipe

    Making yogurt at home is fun, easy and satisfying, it doesn't require any specialist equipment or ingredients, and is healthier as it only contains the milk you choose to use. Joshua Naylor shows you how.

    The most important piece of equipment in yogurt making is a thermometer; though as long as it is accurate the style is not significant. I previously used a IKEA digital meat probe, am currently using a liquid filled candy thermometer and am looking forward to receiving my Supermechanical Range thermometer

    The remaining equipment can be improvised upon and altered from my method, based on what equipment you have available.

    Milk is just about the only ingredient so the type you choose plays a large role in the final product. The first batch of yogurt you make originates from a store bought, plain natural yogurt, which contains the vital microorganisms Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Bifidobacterium (aka "good" bacteria). The temperatures used below are chosen because some of the microorganisms reproduce at 45-47C and some at 37-42C so stirring the 51C milk into a room temperature bowl and starter will mean it begins at the upper temperature band and cools through the lower band allowing the starter to culture the milk with all the bacteria types. It is better to use a milk with a higher fat content -- I am currently using milk from Jersey cows which is high in fat and has the added benefit of being unhomogenized, though for the longest time I used normal full-fat / whole milk from the supermarket. Apparently raw milk makes the best yogurt though that is a bit difficult to get hold of so I haven’t tried it.

    The milk is boiled to stop or slow the reproduction of bacteria that is not wanted, and for the first batch the extended simmer has the added benefit of deoxygenating the milk (which Lactobacillus prefers) and reducing the water content which makes for a thicker and creamier yogurt -- in Middle Eastern cultures where yogurt originates from the milk is often reduced in volume by about 30%.

    Yogurt comprises of living cultures like a sourdough bread starter so don't be dismayed if you have a couple of failures, though this method is fairly reliable. I have been making it this way about once a week for the last couple of years and it has only failed once or twice, which I think I can attribute to my old thermometer breaking down and giving wildly inaccurate readings!

    I generally eat the yogurt plain but I have made it into frozen yogurt, and my wife likes it with berries and honey. Store bought yogurts have a lot of sugar and flavorings added so you may prefer it with some kind of sweetener.

    When you have eaten some the structure of the yogurt will have been altered and it will separate slightly into curds and whey. Some commercial yogurt makers prevent this by stirring milk powder into their yogurt and this can be done at home apparently.

    Alternatively you can pour off the whey, though I generally just drink it!

    A further variation is to strain the yogurt with cheese cloth and the whey will drip off -- this will leave you with a Greek style yogurt (as I am bound to say by the protected geographical origin of that name -- unless you are in Greece!).

    Apparently you can make a very rich dessert variation by using single cream in place of milk and sprinkling it with Demerara (raw) sugar, though I haven't tried this yet. Let me know how you get on in the comments section!

    [Photo of Turkish cacık, made with yoghurt and cucumber, from Wikimedia Commons.]


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    Notable Replies

    1. Speaking of asian yogurts, I'm currently in Japan where it's next to impossible to find unsweetened, unflavoured yogurt--even if it says "plain" on it. Will that still work for making the starter batch or will the sugar and other crap interfere with the process?

    2. zack says:

      A few years ago I saw a post (probably on boingboing) about how easy it was to make your own yogurt. So I started making my own yogurt. Its great when mixed with my breakfast cereal instead of milk.
      When I started I found this post on chowhound about making a thick "Fage" style yogurt. I had never heard of Fage but it sounded neat so away I went.

      Over time, I've gotten lazy.
      I no longer temper or boil the milk (as in Canada milk is pasteurized before we get it), and I don't use a double boiler anymore either. It just takes too long.
      I did invest in a nice glass Tupperware bowl with a airtight lid, as i was tired of using an old plastic yogurt bucket.

      I use my oven as a overnight incubator to keep the temperature in the right range. I changed the interior light for a 75w halogen center bulb (because they don't sell 100w incandescent anymore here), and that keeps the yogurt in the right temperature range. Although, after reading this article, i might turn the light off in the morning and let it cool down slowly in the oven so that the secondary microorganisms have a longer window to re-produce.

      anyways: here's the short recipe, scale as needed, our family goes through a lot of yogurt.

      2 litres whole milk,
      3 cups skim milk powder
      1/2 cup yogurt for starter.

      1. In a large pot, whisk together 2 liters whole milk and 3 cups skim milk powder
        • Heat on medium, (stirring often) to about 120f or 50c
        • the more you stir, the less you have to scrub the pot afterwards. if you are brave, put the burner on high and stir like mad.
        • keep a close eye on the temperature with whatever thermometer you use.
      2. Once you reach 120f/50c take the pot off the heat and immediately pour the hot milk into your yogurt container.

      3. Using a large measuring cup or similar, scoop off a cup or two of
        the milk and mix it with 1/2 cup of yogurt or 1 package powdered yogurt

        • You mix in the small container first to properly liquifty the starter yogurt, which helps to make sure the starter gets thoroughly mixed with the milk.
      4. Mix that cup or so of yogurt starter milk back into the larger container, put the whole thing in the oven, and turn on the oven light.

      5. Let it sit overnight, then in the morning, turn off the oven light
        and set the timer for an hour or two. (if you forget the yogurt in
        the oven all day, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference.)

      6. Put in fridge.

      Make sure to save the last 1/2 cup of yogurt to use to start your next batch.

      - it doesn't matter if you use sweetened yogurt as starter. It'll yogurt up just fine, however it will slightly affect the taste of your first batch (mmmm slightly strawberry....).
      - if you scoop your way down the side of the container (like you might chase a vein of marble or butterscotch in the ice cream of that name) a bunch of the whey will pool in the depression. Stir it back in if you want, or drain it off and use it for whatever

    3. Hm. I bring it up to 180º and leave it there for five minutes to pasteurize it, and then let it cool to <120º. Then I mix in some yogurt from the previous batch (about 12oz yogurt for 192oz milk) and put it in a proofing box at 115 degrees for three hours. It comes out exactly the same every time. There's nothing unpredictable about bacteria—if you are getting unpredictable outcomes, you're not controlling one or more of the variables. For me the proofing box was what made the difference—because it's thermostatically controlled, there's no variance in the temperature.

      I get good thick yogurt using this technique—actually the reason I only let it go three hours is that I like it a little less thick. When it's done there is some visible whey, but it mostly dissolves back into the yogurt during the first 12 hours in the fridge. I've never needed to add powdered milk to this. I am using very good milk from a local dairy that comes in glass bottles—the main reason I started making yogurt was to reduce my trash stream.

      I have not had good luck with yogurt starter, because it comes with added sugar, which throws off the flavor of the yogurt. Yuck. I just get some local yogurt to use as starter. If you are west of the Mississippi you can get some Straus yogurt from Whole Foods. You only need this once—afterwards you can use your own yogurt as starter. East of the Mississippi the Trader Joe's organic yogurt works. I use a local brand called Side Hill Farm, which seems to have a nicer culture than most commercial yogurt I've tried.

      This slow cooldown idea is interesting, though. I'm tempted to try this. My proofing box is collapsible, so it would be easy to take the sides off and just leave the yogurt for a while longer.

    4. Totally fine. Providing the yogurt isn't so heavily processed as to have killed off the bacteria you need flavoured/sweetened yogurts will not make any real difference to the starter culture.

      When I need a new starter culture this is what I check for:

      • When does the yogurt I'm buying expire?
        Generally I pick anything with a "best before" anywhere between a week or three weeks away. If it's less than a week, the yogurt has probably been on the shelf for too long, and the culture inside will be dying and thus might not work great^. If its longer than three weeks I tend to assume the brand of yogurt adds a lot of preservatives/or does something to steralise the product, and I'm never sure how well the culture survives these processes, I've had both successes and failures with yogurt in this category.

      • Does it claim to be "full of good bacteria?" "probiotics" "etc"?
        If it claims this one can assume it hasn't been processed to the point of killing the necessary culture, although the above still applies.

      • Will I enjoy eating what I don't use for a culture?
        You only need a tablespoon or two, may as well enjoy the rest!

      The flavouring/sweetening of the culture tends to make no difference to the final product.

      ^Interestingly I've certainly had a few dud batches that didn't really work, which I've blamed on an old batch of culture. However they've still been edible (just runny and more whey than curds); and I've then used the new less successful batch to create a normal and successful batch afterwards, so culture colonies can be restored from the brink! I like to think I've saved a decaying society of yogurt bacteria from the brink of extinction before I greedily gobble them up.

      Also, don't use/drink raw-milk. Just don't. Unless you're making speciality cheeses^ there is just no need, and you introduce the opportunity to make people sick. Raw milk is not healthier, it is potentially deadly; this is what scientific evidence says. If you are using raw milk, keep the temperature above 75*C for at least a minutes whilst stirring to kill off any potential nasties. Congratulations, you've now pasteurised your milk and you've joined the scientific community in accepting that this is better for you.

      ^Some cheese making processes do have different outcomes using unpasteurised milk. These cheeses should then be aged, which due to acids and salts within the cheese will essentially achieve the same bacterial killing outcome. If the cheese is a fresh unpasteurised cheese, I still wouldn't eat it.

    5. yeah the rubins are a rare treat that i allow myself now and then!  so good though.

      holy crud is that kimchi salty.  wow.

      note on the recipe below:  You can do napa cabbage and green onion, but i usually do bok choy, kale, daikon, and green onion.

      Basic Kimchi:
       1. Chop up veggies (bok choy, kale, daikon, and green onion)

       2. In a mixing bowl mix the following for every 6 cups chopped veg:
          - 2 Tbs Glutenous Rice Powder (optional http://goo.gl/f6ddyh doesn't contain gluten)
          - 6 Tbs Kochukaru (Korean red pepper powder http://goo.gl/7RRjGX)
          - 4 Tbs minced garlic
          - 2 Tbs minced ginger
          - 2 tsp sea salt (heaping) (not a processed kind with iodine added)
          - 1 Tbs Fish Sauce (optional, can use soy sauce or water http://goo.gl/OHeKbK)
          - 2 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar (the kind with a mother to start the culture extra fast http://goo.gl/ryVGL3)
          - Enough water to make it into a thin paste if it isn't already.

       3. Mix the chopped veggies with the paste and put in glass jars, add one piece of kimchi from a previous batch or store bought to each jar (optional: to start culture extra fast)

       4. Place jars into a dark cubbord.

       5. Once a day flip the jars upside down and shake to get the brine circulating over all the veg (or the stuff on top doesn't do as well.)

       6. In 2 weeks or so move to the fridge.  Vent the jars every now and then by cracking the lids because pressure will build up.

      You'll have some awesome homemade kimchi to enjoy. smile
      I pretty much just rough estimate everything i throw together, the recipe is very forgiving.  You can increase or decrease the salt and hot pepper and garlic and ginger to taste.  It is very forgiving as long as you are somewhat close to the recipe.  If you ever have a batch that is too salty, add more veg and pepper powder. The salt should bring out the water in the veg, but if it seems too dry after day 2 add a small amount of water.

      I hope that gets you started in the right direction! Cheers.

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