Sunday, June 5, 2016

Foolproof homemade yogurt

I attempted to make yogurt several times last year, and it never worked. All of the recipes swore it was "incredibly easy" and "fail-proof!" but I managed to somehow mess it up. It wasn't until I read The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz (amazing book btw) that I realized my house is too cold. Many of the blogs I read seem to be located in warmer climates, so for them, setting something on the counter and allowing it to ferment is super easy and works. However I am in Maine, where you can easily use your AC and your heater in the same day- the temps aren't high enough and they aren't consistent. So I decided to make a sort of incubator using my big pasta pot, which holds in the heat well and fits several mason jars inside of it. I filled it with water that was approximately 110 degrees and used it to incubate the yogurt- and it worked perfectly!! If you have had bad luck with yogurt in the past, try this method- the consistent temperature of the homemade "incubator" creates the perfect environment for a truly fail-proof yogurt. This also works with soy milk!

You will need:

- whole milk (1/2 gallon makes 2 quarts of yogurt)
- starter yogurt at room temperature, a few tablespoons per quart (this can either be yogurt from your last batch or store bought plain yogurt)
- thermometer
- mason jars with lids (I used 2, quart sized jars)
- large pot with lid (make sure the lid fits with the jars inside of the pot)

Heat the milk over medium heat, whisking occasionally to prevent it from burning on the bottom.

Once it reaches 180 degrees, remove from the heat and pour into your mason jars. Allow to sit uncovered at room temperature until the milk reaches 120 degrees. Add a few tablespoons of your starter yogurt to each jar, gently stirring to incorporate the yogurt into the milk. Make sure you don't get impatient and add the yogurt sooner- it kills the cultures and the yogurt won't thicken.

Fill the pot with enough warm water (no warmer than 120 degrees) to cover the jars up to the neck. Put the lid on and cover the pot with a thick tea towel. Let sit for 3 hours. Remove the jars from the pot and transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

ready for the fridge!
 If you prefer thinner yogurt, you are done! If you like your yogurt thicker, wait until the yogurt is completely cool. The trick is to not stir it before putting it in the fridge. You will notice that the whey has risen to the top of the container. You can carefully pour off some of the whey or strain the yogurt. I prefer to just pour off the liquid, and voila- delicious yogurt!We love ours topped with homemade granola and fruit. And best of all, it is waste free if you buy your milk in returnable jars!

after pouring off the whey

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