Monday, August 27, 2012

And in the morning, I’m making yogurt!

Since I’ve been eating a serving or two of yogurt every day lately to help with some digestive issues I’ve been having, I figured it was time to try and cut costs by making my own yogurt. I found a guide that just uses a crock pot, which seemed the easiest way. I think the next step, based on my results, will be to get a thermometer so I know when is the right time to actually switch stages, instead of relying on someone else’s timing.

So here’s what I started with:
organic grass-fed whole milk
I splurged on a 1/2 gallon of organic grass-fed milk from Whole Foods, which was over $4. The cream on the top of the bottle was absolutely delicious. I would love to drink this milk on a regular basis, but I don’t have a need for it often. Maybe when I can eat sugar again (long story, for another blog post), and it’s cocoa season, I will use it :)

Here’s what I ended up with, after 5 hours for heating a cooling, and 8 hours incubation:
Note the film on top of the whey, that seemed to mix in just fine
Chunky, but delicious
The last one is the most color accurate photo. It retained the slightly yellowed color of the milk that I started with, which is totally natural. The taste is not as sweet as the plain whole-milk yogurt I used as a starter (really good yogurt, by the way), but it’s totally yogurty and edible! The texture is kind of off though. It was most thick (normal yogurt texture, in my opinion) at the bottom of the crock pot, probably the bottom half of the contents, then the next 1/4 was kind of broken up, and the last 1/4 was all whey. I could have drained/strained the whey, but I decided to mix it in and keep it with the yogurt. It’s totally fine to keep it, even separate from the yogurt, as it is a great source of protein (mix it in with a smoothie!). After the incubation part, I refrigerated overnight before stirring it or anything, so I’m not quite sure why it came out so separated. After the second night, the clumpy section is still clumpy, so I think it was some kind of heating issue.

Things that went wrong:
  • The guide I used did not say anything about a layer forming on the milk during the heating process. I mixed it in when I mixed in my starter yogurt, but apparently, it should be removed, as it doesn’t incorporate. It’s fine, but it appears in the yogurt as darker yellow pieces. I might’ve avoided it by stirring the milk occasionally during the 2 1/2 hour heating process, or heating more rapidly on the stove top.
  • The inconsistency of the texture tells me something was wrong about my heating, but I have no way of knowing what, without a thermometer. Next time, I’ll probably heat it on the stove to 185F, stirring occasionally, let it cool in a pre-warmed crock pot to 110F, then stir in my starter yogurt. I think the crock pot, wrapped in a towel for 8 hours, will hold the heat better to incubate, rather than a stock pot. My oven doesn’t have a pilot light, otherwise I could leave it wrapped up in there to retain the heat better (maybe that would still work well though?). Another method I read said to fill a cooler with 120F water, and incubate the yogurt in quart-size mason jars, and it only takes 4 hours.
  • I whisked in my starter yogurt, but some say it should be stirred in very gently, so that might also have something to do with the texture. Yogurt should be disturbed as little as possible during the creation process, but I’m not sure how much that matters before you actually start incubating.
In the end, I was able to fill two 32oz containers with the entire batch, minus the 1/2 cup I took out first to be the starter for my next batch (hopefully, it will work well enough for my next batch, but I might just buy a small container of yogurt till I get the texture right). That should last me through this week, if I can restrain myself/don’t catch a case of Michael Westen, though it’s certainly not an unhealthy habit to have.

I’ll be sure to post again if my next batch comes out better, and what I do differently!

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