Time to make yogurt -- a low-cost, high-power health food!
Try our hassle-free way to make
yogurt – and why not organic,
while you’re at it? When it's
homemade, it's nutritious,
delicious, and surprisingly
LET'S LOOK AT THE FIGURES
Buying the cheapest of six-ounce conventional yogurts will cost at least fifty cents, and it's something we should eat every day. Furthermore, this will be non-organic, will certainly have "stretchers" (non-milk ingredients) in it, and may not even have active lactobacillus cultures! (At least check that!) But buying enough for every day, for one person, would cost you $3.50 per week.
On the other hand, a half-gallon of organic milk would cost you between $3.00 and $3.50 at Wal-Mart and similar stores, and would make more than 10 six-ounce servings, all milk, all organic, high protein, and full of active cultures! In fact, considering the extra nutrition, you could cut back your daily amount to 4 ounces, if you had to, and get two weeks out of it. That would bring your weekly cost down to $1.75. You'd still be ahead on the nutrition, and save half the money!
Making yogurt is just about the easiest mini-gardening activity around. While there are various kits and electric yogurt makers available, why spend money if you don’t have to? We find this simpler and easier:
Buy one small yogurt, to get started. Get a good one -- organic, if possible, or at least very natural, with plenty of active milk cultures. (At this rate, a six-ounce container will last you six weeks.)
Take a clean quart glass jar, such as a canning jar or mayonnaise jar. Put a tablespoon of yogurt in the bottom. (This is only for the first time – for the next several batches, we just make yogurt in the same jar when it’s empty, without rinsing. Plenty of starter sticks to the walls to make a new batch.)
Keep the starter pure by using a clean spoon, and sealing the container back up tightly. (Don't lick the edge of the jar after serving -- I know it’s human nature to use “tongue-as-spatula,” but try something less bacterially active. Your starter will thank you.)
For a new batch, add a small amount of milk to the jar, then shake it up with the lid on, to dilute the starter.
Fill the jar with milk. The diluted starter will distribute itself adequately.
To make yogurt a special treat, drop only a teaspoon of jam or maple syrup in the jar with the starter. You won’t believe how it manages to flavor the whole batch.
HERE WE DEPART FROM THE COMMON WAY
Most people tend to make yogurt by warming the milk to 100 degrees first. We find this a nuisance, because we forget to watch the pot, it boils over, or we put it on low, and have to wait forever while it slowly heats. So we use the milk cold, and deal with the temperature in the next step.
Set the quart jar in a pot of water, almost as hot as your hands can stand. (110-115 degrees) The water level should be just below the jar lid. Then either wrap the pot in a bath towel in a warm place, or set it in a small cooler. What works best depends on the hot and cool spots in your house. Temperatures in our house fluctuate wildly, due to our wood stove. So we prefer to make yogurt in the cooler: It insulates it from too much heat or cold.
Lately, when we make yogurt, we've had good results from dispensing with the pot, and putting as many as 3 quart jars directly in a small cooler, filled with warm water to the jar necks. Just keep in mind that, the more jars, the warmer the water needs to be to compensate, without being hot enough to break the jars, of course.
Set out a sign to remind you to check the yogurt for doneness. (or you WILL forget it!) Depending on the temperature in your house, and the time of year, it can take from two hours to 14. We’re kind of lazy about this, but most of the time we get excellent results. Once in every five times, it turns sour, but we eat it, anyway, or make it sweeter by adding milk.
Occasionally, the wild yeast gets into it, and it doesn’t taste good. When this happens, someone DID lick the edge of the jar after they poured it out for breakfast. (It’s a mother’s job to prevent this.)
Just make the next batch with a new jar and starter. (Sometimes the process seems temperamental, and just a little mysterious, but maybe it’s only taking its cue from us.) We've recently found that adding some sugar or honey at the start tends to both control the sourness and retard the development of yeast. It also produces a super-thick, luscious product.
It is done when you can see that it has thickened. Don’t try to decide if it is thick enough – once you can see thickening, it will only get sour if you don’t take it out. You may leave it on the counter for another half hour to finish, but on no account re-heat the water! It will sour and separate. Refrigerate it, and prepare to enjoy! Eaten plain or with fruit or nuts, it is superior to what you get in the store – just wonderful!
If this method bothers you, and you want to be sure it will always turn out the same way, you can buy a yogurt maker. We don’t do this because it makes us feel harassed.
If you have a large family, and have decided that EVERYONE WILL EAT SOME DAILY FOR HEALTH, you’re going to need to make yogurt in larger quantities. Try this: Mix warm milk and cultures in the right-sized pot for your family. Place it on a heating pad (not the kind that turns itself off), on low, and cover the pot. Do this a few times, and you’ll know how to make yogurt exactly the way you like it best. Some people also use a crockpot, and others use an oven. We haven’t tried these two methods, but, basically, you have to heat the oven or crockpot on its lowest setting and then turn it OFF, wrapping the yogurt-in-pot in a towel to keep stable. You’ve got the idea, now… So go for it!
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