Monday, July 9, 2012

Greek Yogurt

Before yogurt was made commercially, and probably still in many parts of the world, everyone made their own at home.  It is probably the most ancient form of cheese.  A young woman who married would take a starter culture from her mother's batch into her new home.  A yogurt culture, like a sourdough bread starter, could last for many generations.

Making your own yogurt at home is an economical idea if you eat a lot of it.  Depending on how thick you like it, half a gallon of milk can make between a quart and three pints of yogurt.  Even more, if you like it more like thick cream.  If you don't eat a lot of yogurt, a single batch is going to cost about as much as buying a quart in the store.

There are yogurt incubating kits that you can buy, but they aren't necessary.  All you need is an environment similar to whatever you use to make bread rise.  An oven with a proofer setting is ideal, but you can do it on the back porch in the sun if it's at least 90º out.  (And that hasn't been a problem in most of the country the past few weeks.)  That's how the ancients did it.

I did have some trouble with excessive amounts of whey separating from the curd.  That happened with both batches as I transferred them to storage containers, and why the first batch ended up as labne.  Of course, the whey is very good for you, just an odd color and tasteless.  If I were to make another batch, I would pour the freshly-inoculated mixture into sterilized half-pint containers, set those in a pan with a half-inch of water, and incubate the whole set-up.  This is what the yogurt-making kits look like.  You end up with single-serving jars that you can then pour off a touch of pooled whey, top with a lid, and place in the fridge.

1/2 gallon 2% milk
1/2 C unflavored 2% Greek yogurt with active live cultures.

1.  Heat milk to 200º, stirring frequently to avoid scorching the bottom.  Don't let it boil.

2.  Remove from heat and allow milk to cool back down to 110º.  You can either leave it out until it is cool, put it in the fridge and check it every 5 minutes, or put the pot on an ice-water bath and stir.

3.  Pour about 1 C of the warm milk into a small bowl and combine it with the starter yogurt.  When the mixture has been whisked smooth, stir it into the main pot.

4.  Either pour the mixture into single-serving jars or cover the pot, then place the mix in a warm area for 4 to 6 hours.  I can set my oven as low as 100º.  The recommended temperature is 110º.  Higher than that, and you might kill the cultures.

5.  When milk has thickened, remove from warm place.  There will be a clear, yellowish layer on top.  That's the whey.  You can pour that off and call the yogurt done.  Or, to make a thicker yogurt, pour mixture into a clean muslin cloth over a bowl and allow as much whey as you want to drain off.  About 1 cup of whey runoff will create a regular thickness of yogurt, 2 cups a thick Greek-style yogurt.  If you drain off a quart or more, you get labne, or yogurt cheese.  Cool the yogurt thoroughly before serving.  It will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.

5.  To make the next batch, set aside half a cup of the yogurt, then start the process over again.

Yield depends on moisture content

Difficulty rating :)

1 comment:

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