Thursday, July 10, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

Why bother with homemade yogurt? Let me start by saying that nothing compares with a good homemade yogurt: the luxurious creaminess, subtle tartness, natural sweetness, and perfect texture. I grew up eating excellent yogurt and fromage-frais (a thick creamy cheese eaten as a yogurt). The United States has quite a variety of yogurts as well. They come in mainly little plastic containers, with an array of flavors, sweeteners and ingredients.

My kids stopped eating yogurt when they realized that some of their favorite brands (and we are not talking brands marketed to kids here which are often the worst offenders) contained gelatin and other objectionable ingredients. Now, we are not vegetarians but the idea of animal collagen in their yogurt grossed them out. What exactly is gelatin made out of? Gelatin comes from a protein which is extracted from animal bones (pork, cows, horses), skins and intestines.

Add the fact that all those little containers add up to huge amount of plastic waste on our landfills and a decision was made to purchase our very own, shiny yogurt maker.

My first attempts were not that great. I followed the recipe on the instruction manual included with my machine which yielded mediocre, overly tart results. After some investigation I came up with my own recipe which includes:

42 oz of pasteurized 1% fat organic milk warmed to 113F (verify with a food thermometer). I take 1/2 cup of the warm milk out and mix to it:
5 tablespoons of nonfat organic milk powder
1 packet of yogurt culture (available at natural food stores and some supermarkets)

Then I combine that 1/2 cup back with the rest of the warm milk and whisk well. I divide the mixture into my glass jars for incubation. I like to leave it in the machine for 8 hours (however, every machine is different so you will have to play around with yours or follow the manufacturer's instructions).

I also learned the hard way that it pays to sterilize everything that will touch the yogurt mixture in a pot of boiling water just before making it (be careful with this process because it is so easy to burn yourself). Missing this step could cause the culture to die out. Also, making sure that the milk is at the right temperature is important for the same reason as sterilization.

I make soy milk yogurt as well, which taste like nothing I have purchased on the grocery store shelves (and I have tried probably every brand available at my local Wholefoods). It's wonderful, thick, creamy and almost as rich as a custard. The best recipe I have found for soy yogurt is on a vegan website: Bryanna's Vegan Feast

I use dairy and soy milk yogurts as dessert, snacks, and for salad dressings. My kids love them because they get to flavor their own with jams, lemon curd, berries, agave nectar or other natural sweeteners-- and they don't have to think about animal collagen as they savor every teaspoon. There's no doubt in my mind that making yogurt at home is well worth my time and effort.


Is it Me? said...

Alexa thank you for visiting my page it's really nice when other people look at your blog! as for the home made yogurt, my husband and I sailed around the world and on the boat I always made my own yogurt, as in some of the countries we stopped at had only very highly sweetened and artificial stuff. I didn't have a machine and after putting it in the jars I would wrap it in a blanket and put it to bed in our spare cabin until the next morning. It was always delicious and creamy for breakfast.

Alexa said...

Hi Peta,
Your trip sounds like an amazing experience! There are so many ways to develop yogurt culture. My aunt in France use to just leave her jars overnight on top of her little oven. Once you have tasted homemade yogurt it's so hard to go back to the store-bought variety. Isn't it?

Steffi said...

Hey Alexa!
Thanks for stopping by my blog! Your photos look so tasty. Especially this yogurt with the blueberries. I think I also have to try making my own! I´m curious if that tastes different. Oh, and the light is nice on the photo with the jam in the next entry.

Tartelette said...

My yogurt maker broke so like your aut I make mine with the oven and the pilot on. Works like a charm! And you're right about the benefits of homemade, so much better for our bodies!

Alexa said...

Hi Tartelette,

I still want to try your recipe (and canelle's) recipe for fromage frais et petits suisses. It's on my to do list for this week. I can't wait!

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