I love yogurt, just to eat and to bake with. Mostly to eat, with raspberries and honey. I can’t have refined sugar so buying yogurt is out (and I don’t like the “extra’s” they add).
Homemade yogurt seems to be the “new” thing, when really it’s been around for centuries. Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, most often made with cow’s milk. Notably the most popular cultured/fermented food for it’s health aspects. Now more than ever. Probiotics are getting lots of press lately and yogurt has a few.
Probiotic are good bacteria that help maintain the microflora in the intestines. There are 400 different strains of probiotic bacteria in your digestive track. The most populous strain is Lactobacillus acidophilus or lactic acid. This strain is found in yogurt and is probably best recognized today (even if people don’t actually know what it is, kinda like antioxidants, I’ll tell you about those later). Surprisingly people with a lactose allergy can usually tolerate homemade yogurt because as it ferments the good bacteria eats the lactose leaving it almost lactose free.
Without a healthy balance of bacteria in your system, trouble digesting is the first of the problems you can have. Yogurt is usually recommended to people who are taking antibiotics. This is done because antibiotics do just that, they kill bacteria and not just the bad bacteria but the good stuff too. (I wish my doctor would have told me this. I learned the hard way and on my own) Probiotics help protect the body from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Colon Cancer, Skin irritations and some mental disorders. Long story short, you need good bacteria.
This is where homemade yogurt comes into play. Most recipes I’ve seen are pretty close to the same; milk and plain yogurt. I do things a little different.
The whey is the yellow jar in the picture above.
Don’t throw the whey! It makes great bread just use it in place of water or milk in your favorite bread recipe.
To keep the milk at the desired temp for hours people say to fill mason jars with warm water and place them and your milk in a cooler and check the temp every so often and exchange the cool jars with warm ones. Another method is lining a cooler with a blanket and put your yogurt in it. I find both to be a pain in the ass. I do everything in the crock pot. Warm the milk, let it cool, add the yogurt, then place the lid back on it and put it in the oven with the oven light on. Done! No changing water jars, no fussing with coolers and blankets and it stays the perfect temp.
You need the bit of plain yogurt for the probiotics to start the fermentation process. Most commercial yogurts list 2-4 different strains of probiotic. Kefir is another fermented dairy product it’s thinner than yogurt and thicker than cream and sometimes slightly fizzy. Kefir generally averages 12 different strains of probiotic depending on the brand. I use plain kefir instead of plain yogurt as my starter. It turns out great!
If left to ferment longer than 12 hours you will end up with sour cream, which is equally good. This being said your yogurt is unsweetened. I prefer adding honey to my individual serving, you can sweeten the whole batch if you like. Once you have made one batch you can use a little of what you made to start the next batch.
Less is more too. Adding more plain yogurt (or kefir) will not give you super probiotic yogurt. Too much starter will actually give your yogurt a more tart or sour taste. It won’t hurt you but it’s just not as good.
The only thermometer I have is a candy thermometer and it’s not worth the space it takes in the cupboard. General rule of thumb I go by it to heat to 180 you want it to be starting to steam and a film will develop on top. To cool to 110, I use my finger, it should be a little warmer than body temp. Be sure to wash your hand before testing the temperature as you do not want to introduce bad bacteria to your yogurt.
Happy yogurt making! (It also makes great frozen yogurt too 😉 )