Thursday, July 10, 2008
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.