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Making yogurt even easier

May 6, 2014

Yogurt, hmmm.  I’ve gone from avoiding yogurt my whole life because of the tangy taste, to making it an essential part of my daily diet for these last three years.  It is a great way to get more calcium and protein.  I’m sold on the probiotic effect on my digestive system, too.  It makes my stomach feel calm virtually all the time.   Furthermore, I’ve concluded that making it myself from skim milk, in quart (liter)-sized batches, is the only way to go.

At first it was a challenge to keep enough, but not too much, prepared yogurt on hand. But then the process became a well-settled part of my food prep routine.  It helped that I discovered a couple of tricks to cut an hour, and my least favorite step, out of the yogurt-making process.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (or 1 liter) skim milk
  • 1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt with active cultures, to use as the ‘starter’.  (Check for ‘active cultures’ somewhere on the label.)

Steps:

1.  Pour the skim milk into a microwavable container.

2.  Stir in the non-fat powdered milk.

Yogurt ingredients

3.  Microwave the milk until almost boiling.  (This takes 5 minutes in my microwave. Occasionally mine has actually started to boil.  It doesn’t ruin the batch but it boils over, so I have to clean my microwave.)

4.  Let the milk cool until lukewarm.  This takes about an hour in my kitchen.  This is my least favorite step, but it is necessary.  If the milk is too hot when you add the yogurt starter, it will kill the active cultures.  However, if you don’t want to wait out the cooling process, you can do my alternate method. 

(*alternate Step 4*)  Freeze your yogurt starter ahead of time, in 1/2 cup portions.  Then, instead of waiting for the hot milk to cool, put one of the frozen starter packets directly into the hot milk when it comes out of the microwave.  This method has worked for me every time.  It eliminates the annoying hour-long cooling process.  The frozen yogurt cools the milk to just the right temperature, while the hot milk thaws the yogurt.

Frozen yogurt starter

5.  Once the milk has cooled to the right temperature (or with the alternate method, once the yogurt has completely thawed in the warm milk), gently stir the yogurt starter into the milk, and then set the mixture in the yogurt maker and leave it plugged in for 4 to 8 hours.

Yogurt mixture

Yogurt making

Sometimes it is hard to tell how set the yogurt is.  I spooned a small amount here to test the consistency.  If not as thick as you want it, give it more time.  The picture below was taken at 4 hours.

Set yogurt

6.  Once the yogurt has set to your liking, chill it in the frig.  When chilled, it will be thicker on the bottom, with some liquid on top.  Stir it up and then remove 1/2 cup from the batch, to freeze as the starter for your next batch.  I label the starter according to its generation from the original store-bought starter.

Yogurt starter

Is the powdered milk a necessary ingredient?

No, but they say it adds more solids to the finished product.  I think that’s true.  It also boosts the calcium and protein content.

Yogurt not set after 4 hours?

Give it another 4 hours.  If it still isn’t set, stir in another 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (room temperature), and give it a few more hours.  I’ve probably had fewer than 5 batches ever, that didn’t set the first time.  Of those few rogue batches, I’ve never had one that didn’t set using the follow-up steps.  You will be successful.

How do I use the yogurt?

Mainly in smoothies, which I make ahead in pitcher-sized quantities.

Strawberry Smoothie

 On yogurt makers:

It’s true you don’t need to buy one; certainly not an expensive one.  I spent less than $20 on mine, because I caught it on special.   Also, I held out for a yogurt maker that does the quart-sized batch.  The makers that come with individual serving cups look unnecessarily tedious to me.

Until I broke down and acquired a yogurt maker, I used a metal enamel bowl (such as the large one in this set), and an inexpensive candle warmer.  That setup worked great.  This is not the candle warmer’s intended use, so if you try it, make sure you do it safely.

Yogurt equipment

Are you partial to “Greek” yogurt?

I make that too.  In other words, I occasionally strain a batch of fresh yogurt and keep it on hand for use in place of some of the sour cream or mayonnaise in certain recipes.  Straining it then means doing something with the whey (aka liquid protein) that’s drained off.  You can dispose of it (bad), or find a use for it in other foods (good).  Stay tuned…

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