Saturday, March 6, 2010

DIY dairy

I experimented with making yogurt once or twice, a few years ago, just for fun. But I never really got into the habit. Making yogurt didn’t seem that difficult, but I would have had to do it a lot, given my consumption rate; plus my favorite kind is Greek yogurt, which involves the extra step of straining the yogurt to make it nice and thick. At that time I was living in England, where I could easily get my Greek yogurt fix at even my crummy local Sainsbury’s. I went through a 500 g (1+ lb) pot a week without even trying.

Then I moved to Australia, where they sold the stuff in 1-kg (2+ lb) tubs that cost not much more than the ones half their size had in Oxford. I was in yogurt heaven, and used it in everything: pancakes and pan sauces, muffins and dips.

Then I moved here.

I should have known I was going to run into problems when I was striking out at every supermarket within a 5-mile radius of my parents’ place in Boston. To be fair, they do carry Greek yogurt; it’s just that, more often than not, it is a) sold in single-serving tubs (i.e. a total waste of money and packaging); b) only available in the fat-free variety; or c) both of the above.

The problem is, I have to have some fat in my Greek yogurt, or else it’s no good to me. That’s part of the reason I fell in love with it: a reasonable scoop of full-fat (or even 2%) Greek yogurt, with some fruit and homemade granola, kept me full all morning and still clocked in at an acceptable amount of calories. Eat the nonfat variety, on the other hand, and I was looking to nibble again in no time.

I’ve already tried four different local supermarkets. (Plus Wal-Mart, much as it pained me to do so.) No luck. So I guess it’s back down the DIY route for me.

I have found some value to those single-serving tubs, though. They’re the perfect size to use for starter.

DIY Greek yogurt
1 liter whole milk
1 150 g/5.3 oz tub Greek yogurt

Equipment note: I have found a Pyrex-type glass bowl to be the best thing to use for making yogurt, because it retains heat so well.

Heat milk just to the boiling point,* then allow to cool until you can stand to stick your finger in it for 10 seconds.**

Put the yogurt starter in a small bowl, then whisk in about a cup of the hot milk until thoroughly combined.*** Mix this back into the hot milk, whisking until it’s all mixed in and everything looks consistent.

Cover the bowl and wrap it with tea towels. Wrap it again in something made of wool, or maybe fleece if you want to be modern and high-tech. Leave in a warm place**** for about 8 hours, or overnight.

When the time is up, unwrap the bowl. All things being well, it should now have yogurt in it, and probably some whey too. Line a mesh strainer with muslin or similar and put it in a bowl. Dump the yogurt into it to drain, and put it in the refrigerator for several more hours.*****

* The microwave is ace at doing this quickly—makes for easier cleanup too.
** I suppose this would be a good place to put some temperatures in, but I never use a thermometer and this always seems to work. Basically you want the milk hot enough to cultivate the yogurt cultures, but not hot enough to kill them.
*** This is called tempering and it’s to keep everything at the right temperature (see above).
**** If I had a gas oven, I would put it in there—the pilot light would be enough warmth. Since I don’t right now, I’m putting it in the closet with the water heater.
***** I’m still experimenting with how many hours; last time I think I went past Greek yogurt into labneh territory. I’m going to start checking this week’s batch after 4 hours.


countryfriedmama said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, how I miss the ocean! There just is nothing that comes close here In The Middle.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm with you! I've lived away from the ocean for so long, and I'm still chronically homesick for it.

Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said... Best Blogger Tips

Nancy, Pete makes all our Greek yoghurt at home, and I have two suggestions. Firstly, he stirs in a heaped tablespoon of full cream milk powder, which thickens the yoghurt so you don't have to drain it. Secondly, we use UHT milk, because it's already been heated and cooled. It's at the perfect temperature for yoghurt, you just open the carton and pour it in. Not sure how easily accessible it is in Kansas though.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Celia, thanks for these suggestions! Before I did it the first time, I actually checked your blog, because I remembered that your yogurt cake recipe specified homemade Greek yogurt and I thought you might have posted about it. Will investigate UHT milk for the next batch!

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