This post is going to be a little different. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend who told me that occasionally an old friend comes to Canada from New Zealand. When she does she brings what sounds like a dried yogourt starter, which she then takes and makes into great yogourt. So this post is written like a kind of letter – to L.
There’s got to be a gazillion posts on the net about making yogourt. Why then should I contribute to the mess?
Well, for one thing its in keeping with the way this whole blog is turning out. Not a lot of recipes about this or that amazing dish, but lots of stuff that people don’t usually do and that you can do other neat things with – like jams, or preserves, or tomato sauce – or… yogourt. For another, I find that a lot of other yogourt recipes are more difficult than they need to be. This one is really easy – and designed for that very ubiquitous 1.3 litre bag of milk.
A lot of companies will sell you on all sorts of stuff to make yogourt with, but you don’t need any of it. Here is all you need to make 1.5 litres of great tasting yogourt:
- a bag of milk
- a cup or so of skim milk powder (instant works best)
- a cup of good quality organic plain yogourt (your starter)
What can be more challenging is the equipment. But once you have that down, you are good to go.
- a large pot and a large bowl to be used as a double boiler
- a thermometer
- 2-3 jars adding up to 1.5 litres
- 1 1 cup (250ml) mason jar.
Most important, you need to find a way to keep your yogourt incubated at about 110 degrees for about 6.5 hours. I’m lucky to have an oven with a proofing option, but if not that, then slightly heat your oven to about 120/130, turn off the oven, put the yogourt in the warmed oven insulated with a towel and the stove light bulb on. The heat from the light bulb should help to maintain the desired temperature. I’d also stick the thermometer in there – right in the middle or even in one of the jars at the beginning to ensure the temperature is holding steady between 110-118.
Temperature is everything in making yogourt. The milk needs to get up to 185 degrees to kill unwanted bacteria, and needs to incubate at the lower temperature to coagulate its proteins. Check out http://chemistry.about.com/od/foodscienceprojects/a/Yogurt-Chemistry.htm for a more complete explanation (and a recipe that’s nearly the same as this! )
Here’s what you do:
Heat up a pot of water with a bowl nestled in it – your double boiler.
Take out your starter, or if its your first time set out a cup or so of good quality organic yogourt that you really like the taste of.
Pour a bag of milk into the double boiler bowl. I prefer whole, organic milk.
Set up a thermometer – either instant read electronic or a good cooking thermometer you can clip on the edge of your bowl.
Add a little less than a cup of instant skim milk powder, and whisk this in until dissolved. Whisk frequently as the milk heats up to keep the temperature of the milk consistent.
While the milk heats up, fill a sink with cold water, and gather your jars together.
Heat up the milk in the double boiler until it hits 185 degrees.
Once the milk mixture hits 185 or so, remove the thermometer, take the bowl from the pot and gently float it in the sink filled with cold water, and turn off the heat.
Dip your jars in the ‘just gone off the boil’ hot water to sterilize them, and place them on the counter beside your cooling yogourt.
Keep whisking the milk to ensure it cools evenly. When the milk mixture cools to approximately 115 degrees, remove it from the water, mix in the yogourt starter.
Place them in a warm spot that will retain the heat at 110-120 degrees for 6 – 7 hours. The first time doing it you might wish to keep a thermometer in to ensure your plan works. This step is really the point of commercial yogourt makers. They have a machine that is designed to maintain this constant temperature. There are other devices that could do a similar job: some bread makers, or a dehydrator set to its lowest temperature would work well. I’m fortunate to have a proofing option on my oven, and I use that.
After 6 – 7 hours remove your yogourt and refrigerate. Voila! It will last up to 14 days, though my friend Paul claims much longer.
There’s a couple of other notes to add:
If it does not congeal well, and you are sure you are using a good fresh starter and good quality milk, I would add – one time only – a natural thickener like organic gelatin or agar agar. For this quantity about 2 tbs. Only do it once to get the desired consistency. Once the consistency is there, do as described above.
What I am finding is that with time, the yogourt just gets better and better. Somehow the starter seems to improve with age.
Well that’s it! It strikes me you could use S’s dried starter as your starter – it should not make a lot of difference. Changes in the taste of the yogourt are affected both by the kind of milk you use and the starter.
I look forward to hearing you have given this go!