Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Homemade Yogurt (without a machine!)

Fresh from the fridge, the yogurt is thick and creamy in its tall Mason jar.

Recently, I read the The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley for a pending book review. I'm enamored with cheese (as I've never tried to keep secret here) and naturally the idea of reading this particular book for work was a double-edged sword I decided to fall on. Happily. Call it sacrifice if you must, but ever since I raged through the two-step recipes for Creme Fraiche and Sour Cream, I've been completely sold on the concept of making dairy products myself. Of course, I don't have access to raw milks. Maybe I could have access, there's definite potential. But the one contact I have in that regard told me to drive down the road in my car with clear milk jars and ask the farmer on route 16 to fill them for me. No names, no addresses. I'm not confidant pursuing that lead and nervous that he knows I haven't followed up.

So my new policy is to buy milk from Whole Foods, where this new dairy is bringing it in fresh. If it can't be raw, at least it can be local and organic and bottled in heavy-duty glass with an adorable cow logo on the side. Or so I feel.

Yesterday, feeling all empowered by my bottles of new milk clinking together in the fridge, I embarked on the yogurt recipe. I'd wanted to try it for weeks, but, honestly, was afraid of the incubation period. See, if you have a yogurt maker, the electronic part holds the yogurt's temperature steady while the curd (that solid shape yogurt has to it) forms. Without the machine, the book offered several viable methods for curing your yogurt. I just hate wasting anything and so I was afraid to try it. But the success of my second sour cream batch buoyed me immensely, and I took a deep breath and dove in.

There's only three steps: Heat the milk. Add the yogurt starter (just a bit of store-bought yogurt with live cultures). Incubate for 6-12 hours. Last night my alarm went off at 10:30 p.m. and I padded downstairs to the mini cooler where I'd wrapped up my Mason jar of yogurt with a towel and sat it inside with two smaller jars of boiling water. Success. Again. The yogurt was thick and smooth, extra creamy. It had a slightly sweeter taste than the plain yogurt I've purchased in the store, and the texture was fluffy yogurt heaven.

Do not be afraid to try making your own yogurt. I've included extra verbiage here simply because I am wasteful that way. It is painfully easy.

I especially like it with a spoonful of homemade jam stirred in.
This one was homemade, just not by me.

Homemade Yogurt
Makes 4 cups

4 cups milk, whole or skim, your choice
1/4 cup plain yogurt with live cultures (read the label!)

Stove & heavy-bottomed saucepan
Food-safe thermometer
Cooler (small works best, but a large one will do)
Quart-sized Mason jar with screwtop and lid
Kitchen towel or hand towel
Two pint-sized Mason jars with screwtops and lids
Timer or alarm clock

To start, pour the milk into a the heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove and heat to 185º. This will take 10-20 minutes, depending on your stove (gas=faster!). Once the milk has been heated to 185º, take the pan off the burner and let it cool slightly to between 115º and 105º. While it's cooling, about 10 minutes, get your makeshift incubator ready.

Boil water and fill the two pint-sized Mason jars. Screw on the tops and place them on either side of the cooler, leaving space in the center. The idea is to keep the yogurt at a consistent temperature of about 110º for 10-12 hours. The heat allows the curds to develop and form a thick, smooth yogurt. The longer it sits at that temperature, the thicker and tangier it gets. So once you try making it and know how it works, you can experiment with the process.

Now that your milk has cooled, stir in the 1/4 cup yogurt and ladle the whole pan of hot milk into the quart Mason jar, placing the lid on tightly. Wrap the towel around the jar and place in the center of the cooler. Firmly replace the cooler's lid and your yogurt is already starting to form. Set a timer or alarm clock for 10-12 hours from now. Check your yogurt. The top should look like the top photo here. When you dig into the yogurt, it will be soft and smooth. Refrigerate and eat, reserving 1/4 cup of this yogurt to start your next batch.


Gala said...

Thank you for posting this!!

Phoo-D said...

I've been on the lookout for fresh milk too. After one milk disaster when I tried to make mozzerella I've been too nervous to try cheese again. Perhaps yogurt will ease me back into it!

Christine said...

Phoo-D, I'm pretty sure I've made that same mistake, using organic milk to try mozzarella and then crying into the sad, ricotta curds that it made. Do try again. Even the mozzarella is easy if you use regular, nonorganic milk. Good luck!

The Nira Family said...

Thank you for saying to screw the lid on, I have read at LEAST 5 other peoples blog posts about how to make yogurt and NO ONE said whether to put the lid on or not. I was getting dismayed because we are battling bugs at our house, and I did not want to try and make yogurt only to have other critters eat it first!


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