Recently I tackled a "scary" in the area of cooking (or should I say, fermenting?). I made yogurt for the first time! I had always thought that yogurt would be SO hard to keep at the proper temperatures and such, so I never tried it. Anyone else feel that way? But now that I made it I realized how easy it really is. It's SUPER easy!
When it comes to cooking/baking/etc, we try to do mostly whole foods/homemade foods. To some people that sounds like a big chore, but to us it's normal. Sometimes I'll share the excitement of a new food I made with someone, but they'll have an excuse why THEY can't do it. There is one excuse that people give almost every time: "It would take too much time." But alas, after making yogurt, I devised a comparison to defend the pitifully small amount of time it takes to make yogurt. You ready for this?
It takes less work to make yogurt than it does to put together a stinking box of macaroni! NO JOKE!
Since I made yogurt I feel nearly invincible in the realm of food-making. I feel like I used to be such a weak food-maker, though I did know how to make so many things. But now I realize how pitifully easy it is to cook/ferment/etc anything. I also reminded myself how many "scary" things I know how to make. Cheese crackers, yeast bread, YOGURT!!, milk/water kefir, pizza pockets, poptarts, pies, chocolate chips, etc. Things don't seem so scary anymore. So give it a try! Maybe making yogurt will help alleviate your fears too!
There are plenty of recipe variations out there, but this is how I do it and it turns out great for me. I made three quarts at the time I took the pictures, but you can just make one for the first time if you want.
1. Fill clean quart jars with milk and place in a pan of water with a folded towel on the bottom of the pan. Time to give them a nice warm bath!
2. Use a meat or candy thermometer to warm the milk to 100*F. (You can use warmer temperatures in other recipe variations, but we have raw milk, so I opted for a lower temperature so I wouldn't kill all the good stuff in the raw milk and so it will become raw yogurt.)
3. Turn off the heat as soon as the milk is brought up to temperature and add 4 Tblsp plain yogurt (from the store or a previous batch).
4. Stir well with a whisk and put on lid(s).
5. Wrap jars in a thick towel and place in a cooler or other insulated container for about 8 hours. The first couple times you may want to check it at the 5 hour mark to make sure it's still warm. I usually fill a big cup with steamy-hot water from the sink at this point and wrap it in the towel to keep the temperature warm enough.
6. Place the yogurt straight into the fridge when it's done to cool it. Store in the fridge. After it's chilled, add about 1 tsp. vanilla and a big swirl of raw honey (1/4 to 1/2 cup?) to make vanilla yogurt!
--- If it cools down too much during the 8 hours, it won't thicken properly.
--- Be SURE to use clean kitchen equipment, because if bad bacteria enters the jar, the batch may be ruined. Smell it when it's finished. It should smell warm and slightly-yeasty, like plain yogurt from the store. If not, don't eat it! It may have gone bad and you could get very sick.
--- The next tip may sound a bit odd - or at least it is an odd tip to me. Place your cooler or insulated box somewhere cool (like the front porch) when you've got the yogurt in it. For some reason it seems to keep the yogurt inside warmer longer for me. Otherwise it only stays warm for 2 hours. Go figure....I don't understand it. Experiment and maybe you'll find something different ;-)
--- Homemade yogurt has a slightly different texture than commercially-made yogurt. Homemade has more...elasticity to it? It's hard to describe. You'll see what I mean ;-)
Before making homemade yogurt, I was never really a fan of eating yogurt. But now I am practically addicted to the homemade yogurt. I love it! If you've never made yogurt before, you really should try it. It's SO STINKIN' EASY!!!
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