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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Yogurt

The dairy section of my local grocery store contains at least a hundred different varieties of yogurt.  I'm thinking that this is not unique to my corner of the world.  I'll bet that your local store has a similarly large selection of yogurts.  From fat free to full fat, organic and chemical-rich, flavors varying from strawberry to chocolate to key lime.  With this endless sampling of yogurts it was a big question to answer this week, why make your own yogurt?  I can give you not one, but three reasons.

1. It's so cheap!  That's right, making your own yogurt with save you money.  This is especially true if you want organic yogurt.  Let's do the breakdown.  (All prices are taken from my local Peapod site, prices will vary by region)

1/2 gallon of organic milk - $3.69
1 single serve plain organic yogurt - $0.99
1 single serve plain organic Greek yogurt - $1.99

From my experience, a half gallon of milk will yield approximately six servings of Greek yogurt and 8 servings of regular yogurt.  If you decide to make the entire half gallon of milk into Greek yogurt, you save $8.25! 

If you decide to go the non-organic route...

1 gallon 2% milk - $3.69
1 serving plain yogurt - $0.50 (on sale this week!)
1 serving plain Greek yogurt - $1.25

Servings from 1 gallon of milk - 16 regular yogurts & 12 Greek yogurts
Savings - $4.31 (regular), $11.31 (Greek)

Put that money in your piggy bank!

2. It's so easy!  If you have a food thermometer, this is a breeze to do.  If you are without thermometer, do not worry.  You can still do this.  The hands on time for preparing this yogurt was so minimal, I was able to do several other things at the same time.  If you can put milk in a pot, the transfer it to a jar, you can make yogurt. 

If you own any of the following - an oven, a towel & a pot, a yogurt maker or a heating pad - you can make yogurt.

If you have a container of yogurt in your fridge, you can start making yogurt right now.

3. It's so delicious!  I was a little skeptical at first, thinking that my yogurt would come out all funky and I would be wasting my time.  However, once I popped open the jar of my freshly made yogurt, I was a skeptic no more.  I dipped my spoon in and tasted the fresh yogurt and active cultures and was pleased at the yogurty flavor.  More intense than most store-bought varieties, you can't get fresher than this.

The flavors options are only as limited as your imagination.  Keep it simple and drizzle on honey, sprinkle with walnuts and cinnamon.  Make it fresh and puree seasonal fruit for a topping.  Take it over the top and blend it with a little sugar and cream cheese. 

There we are, three wonderful reasons to start making your own yogurt!  I have been enjoying fresh Greek yogurt all week with my breakfast and I couldn't be happier.  Would I do it again?  I already have. 

One Year Ago: Apple Marshmallows & Apple-Cinnamon Crispy Treats

Blackberry-Lemon fat-free yogurt
A Wilde Original

For this recipe I used a yogurt starter (Source).  Basically, they are pouches of dormant bacteria cultures that wake up when you add them to the warm milk.  I thought this yogurt came out with a slightly more "yogurty" aroma. 

Also, I used a digital thermometer to be sure I had the right temperature for my little yogurt bacteria to thrive.  If you are without thermometer, 185 F is right when the milk is about to boil.  You'll see little bubble just below the surface of the milk.  DO NOT let the milk come to a boil.  115 F is slightly warm to the touch, don't let your milk fall below body temperature!

1 quart skim milk
1 tsp yogurt starter

1 can blackberries in light syrup
2 tbsp granulated sugar
zest from 1 lemon

Prepare your yogurt-making vessel.  You'll want a jar that can hold the volume of milk that you plan on converting into yogurt.  I used a 1-quart mason jar.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and sterilize your jar and lid.  Let them air dry while you prepare your yogurt.

In a 2-quart pot, heat the milk over medium low heat.  You want to slowly bring your milk up to 185 F, it should take between 30 and 45 minutes.  Don't rush the process.  Find something to keep you slightly busy.  (I set the alarm on my digital thermometer)  Once the temperature reaches 185 F, turn the heating element to low and maintain this temperature for 5 minutes. 

Remove milk from the stove and allow it to cool to 115 F.  Add your yogurt starter to the dried jar and add 1/2 cup of the warm milk.  Using a small whisk, mix the yogurt starter into the milk.  Once it is completely dissolved, add the remainder of the milk to the jar.  Place the lid on the jar and shake to distribute the yogurt cultures.

Depending on the tools you have at hand, choose your method of yogurt incubation.

Heating pad method (this is how I did it!) - Turn your heating pad to low and wrap it around your jar of yogurt.  Wrap the whole thing in a towel to keep the warmth in.  Let the yogurt sit, undisturbed for 8-10 hours.  Once this time is up, unwrap the yogurt and place it in the fridge to stop the bacterial action.

My yogurt incubator!

Oven method - Heat a large pot of water to between 90-100 F.  Place your yogurt jar in the pot and cover with a lid.  Place this pot in your oven and turn on the oven light.  Let the yogurt incubate for 8-10 hours.
Yogurt maker method - Seriously, you have a yogurt maker and haven't used it yet?  You're funny.  Follow manufacturers directions to set up and allow your yogurt to incubate overnight.

Outside method - (This method isn't apartment friendly, nor have I tried it yet.  Proceed with caution!)  Place your yogurt jar in a black plastic garbage bag.  Place the bag in the sun on a 80-85 degree day.  Let incubate for 8-10 hours.
To make the blackberry-lemon part - combine can of blackberries with 2 tbsp sugar in a small pot.  Heat over medium-low heat until the blackberries begin to break down.  Allow to bubble away for 5-10 minutes, or until the blackberries get all syrupy.  Remove from the stovetop and add lemon zest.

Divide the blackberry syrup between four 1-pint jars.  Top the blackberry syrup with your cooled yogurt.  When you're ready to enjoy, shake up the jar and enjoy!

Plain 2% Greek Yogurt
Method from DIY Delicious

I used storebought yogurt to prepare this batch.  I know it seems funny, buying yogurt to make yogurt.  However, once you make your first batch, you can use that to propogate all future batches of yogurt!  Be sure to buy yogurt that says "contains active (or live) cultures" otherwise you will make nothing but yogurt flavored milk.

1 quart 2% milk
2 tbsp yogurt with active cultures

The preparation of this yogurt is exactly the same as the batch made with yogurt starter.  Instead of adding the yogurt starter to your clean jar, you add the yogurt.  Where this recipe differs, is the Greek part.

Greek yogurt is also called "strained" yogurt, we must strain out some of the whey to get that thick and creamy yogurt.  Once your incubation period is complete. line a mesh strainer with 2-3 layers of cheesecloth.  Place the strainer over a bowl and pour the yogurt into the strainer.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Allow the yogurt to drain for 10-12 hours.

You'll wind up with a creamy, rich Greek yogurt that is perfect all on its own.  (I drizzled mine with honey, chopped up some walnuts and sprinkled on a little cinnamon)  Transfer your yogurt from the strainer to individual 4-ounce jars.

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