A special request

The Milkmaid-Vermeer 1658

The Milkmaid-Vermeer 1658

The lovely Reemski has put in a special request for a tutorial on how to make your own yoghurt. Following on from my bizarro-milk yoghurt disaster a while ago, I have been a little quiet on the DIY dairy products of late. Time to break the drought.

When I was growing up, my only experience of yoghurt was my father’s homemade, unflavoured variety. Which was, quite frankly, awful. Sorry Dad. Very sour with a thin appearance, runny texture  and an almost coarse mouth-feel. Plerk. But that was the early 80s, there was obviously no internet to refer to for troubleshooting such things or for finding a choice of recipes quickly and easily. So if it wasn’t in your local library-no dice.  And it wasn’t as though all of our friends were as into home-making everything as we were, so there wasn’t really anyone to ask. And I also think my dad rather liked his mouth-puckeringly, eye-squintingly sour yoghurt, so why would he change it?

I must confess that despite this early experience I am still a devotee of plain, unflavoured, unsweetened yoghurt rather than the flavoured ones you can buy. I like to add my own honey or fruit, or use it in cooking. I like the way that you can taste the milk in plain yoghurt. And I have since learned a few things about making your own yoghurt so I am able to get a result that I find more enjoyable than the yoghurt of my childhood. It is also a lot cheaper than buying it from the shops!

Firstly a few milky terms:

Raw milk is milk as it comes, straight from the animal. Well, it might have been bottled or refrigerated but it has been through none of the processes detailed below. In Australia there are some legal issues involved with the commercial sale of raw milk due to safety concerns (such as tuberculosis) especially if you know nothing of the health of the animals that the milk comes from. I am not going to enter the debate about raw milk here. It is very unlikely that you will have access to this anyway-just a little general knowledge for you all.

Pasteurisation refers to the process of heating milk to kill many (but not all) organisms-including pathogens- that are living in it. This is done for consumer safety and also to extend shelf life, as these organisms will make milk go off faster. In the milk that you buy from the supermarket pasteurisation may have been done in one of a number of ways, such as LTLT (low temperature, long time: around 63 degrees C for 30 min)-this is most common for supermarket milk at the moment, I think. HTST (high temperature, short time: around 72 degrees C for 15 sec) is another, newer method from what I can gather, and is believed by some to preserve more of the flavour and nutritional benefits of the milk. UHT milk is heated at very high temperatures which kills even more of the microorganisms within and results in the much longer shelf life with no refrigeration that UHT milk  has.* These milks are no good for cheese or yoghurt making  as heating milk to very high temperatures changes some of the proteins within, which in turn affects the curd formation or setting process. So no HTST (I believe A2 is one brand in Australia?) or UHT millk for cheese or yoghurt please.

Homogenisation is the process which changes the size of the fat globules (mmm) in the milk, making them smaller and more uniform in size, which means they distribute more evenly throughout the milk and in full fat milk, means you don’t get the layer of cream rising to the top. Which is kind of sad because it was a treat to get that from the top of the milk bottle when we went to visit my non-skim milk-drinking grandparents. But I digress.

A couple of general rules about yoghurt making:

1) you need milk with no tricky things added to it/done to it. This means no additions such as Omega 3, or extra calcium or vitamins. Lactose reduced milk is a no-no too. These things can all have an effect on the work of the bacteria that will be transforming your milk into yoghurt. And I am afraid that this method is for animal milk only-you will have to try something different for soy milk or any other vegan options. The enzymes here will only work with lactose, the sugars found in animal milk. You will get the best results with the methods below if you use cows milk. Goat, sheep etc has different lactose content, so you will have to experiment with proportions of starter to milk to get the results that you want.

2) use glass or stainless steel utensils, measuring cups etc if you can when making cheese or yoghurt. You need to make sure that after you heat your milk to kill the organisms living in there, that the only ones you put back are the yoghurt cultures you want, not extras of mould or whatever else that may be living invisibly on the surface if your wooden spoon or old plastic measuring cup. Make sure you wash your utensils, saucepan etc in very hot water with a little detergent and then give them a very hot rinse of plain water before you use it. Your yoghurt will be more likely to turn out the way you expect it to, and will last longer. And not make you sick. Bonus!

3) you need some way to keep the yoghurt warm for at least 8-10 hours while the cultures do their thing and make the yoghurt set. You can use a thermos if you have a jar that will fit in there. Or a small esky with warm water in it. Or wrap your jar in a towel and put it in a warm spot like the top of your water heater-but make sure it is not too hot-you don’t want to kill off the good bacteria while they do their thing. I have a commercial yoghurt maker (Easiyo) that I use the jar and thermosy-type container of, but just not their yoghurt mix. I got it from the supermarket-it wasn’t too expensive…

4) greek yoghurt used as a starter culture will not beget greek yoghurt in the making. Sorry. Greek yoghurt has a lot of extra cream added to it I believe. That’s why it is so freaking nice/fattening. 😦 From what I can tell it is also drained to get rid of much of the whey, leaving the curd. That would mean it is half way to making labne, or farmhouse cheese! For that, add some salt to taste, strain in the fridge in a colander lined with a clean tea towel for a few hours. The longer it drains, the more solid it will become.

5) VERY IMPORTANT: the longer you leave yoghurt to set before you put it in the fridge, the sourer it will become. If you like sour, fine. If you don’t-forget ye yoghurt not. Seriously. This is something to remember.

6) it isn’t fast-you need to allow at least 8-10 hours for the yoghurt to set. It is the perfect thing to do after dinner, so you will have fresh yoghurt for brekkie.

7) if you use some of your last batch of yoghurt as the starter for your next batch, over time your yoghurt will become runnier and runnier and eventually you will need to start again with some new store-bought yoghurt or purchased yoghurt culture starter.

So what you need is:

-milk (duh) full cream or skim, your choice

-powdered milk, recipes generally call for skim, even with full cream milk

-starter culture (you can buy specific yoghurt starter cultures online or you can use a small amount of commercially prepared yoghurt-or some from your previous batch, once you have started yourself up!)

-saucepan large enough for your milk

-a milk or candy thermometer depending on which method you use (maybe at your supermarket, or try a good cooking supplies shop. Mine was only about $12 AUD)

-container for the yoghurt-a one-litre glass jar with a lid or similar vessel is good

-something to insulate your yoghurt pot-see  3) above

So after that lengthy introduction, the process is really quite simple. Here are a few methods below

Method 1 (from NMAA Cooks, 2nd ed. 1975)

4 cups cold water

2 cups skim milk powder

3.5 cups boiling water

1 cup plain yoghurt (choose one you like the flavour/texture of)

Whisk cold water and skim milk in a large bowl to dissolve powder. Add boiling water then yoghurt, whisk again.

Pour into your setting jar and then put that jar into it’s thermos/flask/cosy/incubator, leave for 18 hrs* til set.

* I would check it after 9-10 hrs by pressing the top with a spoon to see if it is set. It all depends on how warm you are able to keep it-yours might set sooner, and if you see the lesson above-the longer you leave it after it has set, the sourer it will become. And if you leave it too long after that, it will go off.

Method 2 (from Green Living Australia)

1 litre milk

1/3 cup powdered milk

1/100 sachet yoghurt starter culture (I have also added 1 cup of my last batch of yoghurt instead)

Mix the milk and powdered milk in a stainless steel pot, heat it to 90 degrees C and leave it at that temperature for 10 mins

Let the milk temp drop to 40 degrees C-you can speed this up by stirring the pot in a sink of cold water

Once the milk is at 40 degrees C, add your starter culture and mix well to ensure even distribution

Pour milk into your setting jar and put the jar into the thermos/esky/whatever, maintain the milk at 40 degrees C for 8-12 hours

Remember that if at first you don’t succeed, try,try again-with a different yoghurt as a starter and/or with a different method to keep the yoghurt warm while it sets. You’ll figure out what works best for you.

And there you have it. It may seem like a bit of a pain in the neck to begin with, but the more you do it, the faster it will seem and you might just end up making your own yoghurt all the time!

* one place you can read more about this if that floats your boat.

UPDATE: The day after I posted this I did some research on what other home yoghurt-makers are saying about making greek yoghurt, and I found this post on a blog I hadn’t seen before-The Real Food Revolution. The post here might come in handy for you if you find that your yoghurt has not set!


~ by Little Red Hen on May 24, 2009.

One Response to “A special request”

  1. Ah, bless you St Cakes! I’m determined to try and make my own. Just give me a weekend free! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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