Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."
How to Make Yogurt at Home
In Peru, yogurt is thin and drinkable. This style of yogurt is also common in Sweden, where drinkable yogurts like Filmjölk and Piima are popular. When we moved to Peru, I missed thick, creamy yogurt that can be eaten with a spoon. So I started making my own.
Not only is yogurt easy to make at home, but I also prefer the texture and flavor over commercial yogurts. There are many strains, each with its own beneficial bacteria that contribute to a unique flavor and consistency. These bacteria promote better digestion and colon health. Sometimes, even those who suffer from mild lactose intolerance can enjoy yogurt because the cultures consume most of the lactose during fermentation. Kefir is a drinkable product similar to yogurt; it's also made from bacteria and yeasts that ferment the milk.
There are two types of yogurt cultures: thermophilic and mesophilic. Mesophilic yogurts can be cultured at room temperature whereas thermophilic yogurts require a warmer temperature to incubate. This article deals with thermophilic yogurt cultures.
Tips Before Beginning
We are fortunate enough to have access to fresh, organic milk here in Peru. But you can also use high quality pasteurized milk. If using fresh milk, I recommend boiling the milk for 20-30 minutes. Boiling denatures milk proteins, kills foreign bacteria and evaporates some of the moisture, resulting in thicker, creamier yogurt. This method also works with pasteurized milk.
After adding the gelatin, you need to cool the milk to at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you can introduce the yogurt culture and keep it warm for fermentation. There are many methods to maintain a constant temperature for thermophilic yogurt incubation. You can use a thermos, electric blanket, oven pilot light or even a crockpot to keep the yogurt warm. Because we live at high altitude and the air is dry and chilly, I find it easier to rely on a yogurt maker. I have included more information below on the machine we use. I find it is reliable and consistently produces delicious yogurt.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
7 six ounce glasses of yogurt
- 2 liters (approx. 2 quarts) fresh or pasteurized milk
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin, powdered
- 4 teaspoons yogurt culture, approximate
- Pour milk into a deep pot and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes. Avoid burning it. If using pasteurized milk, you can warm milk to room temperature and skip the step of boiling the milk and adding the gelatin.
- While the milk is boiling, add one teaspoon of powdered unflavored gelatin to about 1/4 cup of cold milk. Let the gelatin "bloom" or dissolve.
- Once I have boiled the milk, I ladle the pure milk into a control jar that I have marked with a piece of black tape. This is the uncontaminated yogurt I will use to culture the next batch of yogurt.
- Add the dissolved gelatin to the simmering milk and allow to cook for about 1 minute. Spoon the gelatinized milk into the remaining six yogurt cups.
- Cool the milk to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If using the Euro Cuisine yogurt maker, you can cool the milk to room temperature if you prefer.
- Scoop 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of yogurt (from a previous batch-the yogurt in the labeled control jar) into each jar and stir gently into the milk.
- Place the jars, without the lids, into the yogurt maker and set the timer if you own the automatic machine.
- Start checking the yogurt after 4 hours. The incubation time will depend on many factors such as the yogurt culture you are using. My yogurt is complete at 4 hours, but some take up to 8 hours. You will know the yogurt is ready when it pulls away from the jar in a solid mass and is no longer runny.
- Turn off the machine, cap the jars and allow them to cool off for an hour or two. Chill the yogurt for 4 hours before consuming.
Euro Cuisine YM100 Automatic Yogurt Maker
Euro Cuisine offers several models. We own the Euro Cuisine YM100 Automatic Maker, which is convenient for our busy lifestyle as it has an automatic timer and shutoff. The YM80 isn´t automatic, but if you are at home while making yogurt then you won´t need that feature. And it is half the price of the TM100 model.
If you prefer to make a large batch of yogurt instead of using the individual jars, you can purchase a Pyrex storage 7 cup round dish with a dark blue plastic lid. It can be found online at Amazon and at local stores such as Walmart. This Pyrex dish fits perfectly into the yogurt maker and will produce 7 cups of rich, creamy yogurt.
If you like thick Greek-style yogurt, you can pour the warm yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Within an hour or two, the whey will strain off and leave you with 400 ml of thick, protein-rich yogurt. This is a better option for those who suffer from lactose intolerance.
There are two disadvantages to this yogurt maker:
- Runs hot: It tends to run a little hot so if you find the yogurt is curdling from too much heat, you can place a tea towel between the unit and the yogurt containers. Also, cooling the milk to room temperature seems to prevent overheating of the culturing yogurt.
- Water condenses on the lid during fermentation. Remove the lid carefully so the water doesn´t drip into the yogurt jars.
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Overall, though, I am very pleased with this yogurt maker and the delicious homemade yogurt it consistently produces.
Where Can I Get the Yogurt Culture?
You can use a good brand of commercial yogurt as a starter, and it should last 10-12 batches without degrading. I invested in a great heirloom culture. It has a mild flavor, medium body, and smooth, creamy texture. I just love it. There are other thermophilic cultures available, including a thick and rich Bulgarian yogurt culture.
These heirloom cultures can be used over and over again without weakening, whereas Dannon yogurt or other commercial cultures can only be used about a dozen times before they weaken and have to be thrown out.
You need to reuse the yogurt within a week. Live cultures need to be fed regularly with lactose in order to stay strong. If you aren´t able to reculture within the week, then pour the yogurt into ice cube trays and store in the freezer until ready for use. Cultures for Health doesn´t guarantee their viability using this method, but I have never had a problem.
Can I Use Curdled Milk to Make Yogurt?
If pasteurized milk has curdled, it is spoiled and should be thrown out immediately. If fresh milk has curdled or clabbered, it can still be used in baked goods such as pancakes or muffins instead of buttermilk. However, it cannot be used to make yogurt since curdled milk has a higher pH that will kill yogurt cultures.
Flavorings for Homemade Yogurt
- Homemade or commercial fruit jams are a popular additive to yogurt.
- I enjoy natural, unsweetened yogurt served with chopped seasonal fruit. Pineapple, pears, mango, strawberries, and blueberries are some of my favorites.
- Real vanilla extract and honey are also delicious options.
- You can also try adding a little cocoa and sugar or melted chocolate to the milk at the time of inoculation. Spoon cherry preserves into the bottom of the jar before adding the hot chocolate milk, and you will have a delicious chocolate cherry dessert.
- If you want to avoid all sugars, another option is to use stevia-based sweeteners. They offer sweetness and a little flavor without sugar. In my opinion, Sweetleaf brand Stevia sweetener has the best flavor and lasts longer than other brands.
Ways to Use Yogurt
Warm Fruit Cobbler and Other Treats
- I enjoy a scoop of natural yogurt with a warm fruit cobbler or apple crisp.
- Use yogurt to make quick and easy Swiss Muesli.
- Blend yogurt with fresh fruit and pour into popsicle molds for a healthy and cool summer treat, or use it to make frozen yogurt.
Yogurt can also be used in savory dishes.
- Swirl it into soups for added creaminess without all the fat of cream.
- Use it as a substitute for mayo or sour cream, such as a baked potato topping.
- Spread thickened Greek yogurt on bagels instead of cream cheese.
- Use yogurt instead of buttermilk in cakes, pancakes or muffins for moist and tender baked goods.
Dips and Dressings
- Yogurt makes a great base for many dips and dressings and offers many more health benefits than commercially produced sour cream and mayonnaise.
- You can also add yogurt to your smoothies for extra body and protein.
- Use it in sauces such as Mediterranean tzatziki sauce.
- Mix with dill and capers for a delicious complement to salmon and other fish.