Archive | 4:35 pm

A New Method for Making Yogurt

21 Jul

I’ve been frustrated with how my yogurt has been coming out for the last couple of years.  I could never figure out what I was doing wrong because it used to be perfect.  I did some looking and decided the problem wasn’t me (why is that always my first thought).  It seems that it’s fairly common for the heat regulation to go wonky in the yogurt makers.  I used my thermometer and figured out it was heating the yogurt about thirty degrees hotter than it should be.  It was killing my culture.  I tossed the unit.  I did look at getting a new one, but with the likelihood that a new one wouldn’t last and the fact that it had quadrupled in cost made me decide to just find a different way to make yogurt.

I went with the oven method.  I will say, I tried this before I bought my yogurt maker and it didn’t work with my gas oven.  If you want to do it in the oven, you need an oven with a light.  I also like the electric oven because I can set the temperature I want.  I’m making a gallon at a time because the oven has the space to do that and I’m getting just under two gallons of milk per day.  I was not going to stand at the stove and stir a gallon of milk and hope I kept it from scortching.  I used my little double boiler and heated it in four parts.  It’s just as fast (or faster) as doing it all at once, and I didn’t have to stand there stirring.  I got to do dishes instead.  Fun, huh?

Turn on the oven to its lowest temperature (mine was 170º) for about ten minutes.  Then turn it off and keep the door shut. This will help heat all of the walls and get it at a nice warm temperature to begin with.  I spent my ten minutes feeding bottle kids.  At the same time I turned on the oven, I also turned on my crockpot with its dish in it to get hot.  I put my thermometer in it, and left it running until it hit 190º.  One thing that is good about doing this is that it sterilizes the pot that we’re making yogurt in.  It will get rid of any random bacteria that might be in the dish.

Using the double boiler, I heated my first quart of milk to 180º.  Most directions I read say to hold that temperature for fifteen to thirty minutes.  That’s where the pre-heating of the crock pot is useful.  I poured my first quart into the hot crock pot and put the lid on.  Then I kept heating my other three quarts of milk.

I did measure the temperature right before adding my last quart, and it was still at 175º.  I’m calling that close enough.

After going to all that work of preparing your milk and keeping it hot, you need to cool it down to 115º.  You can just let it sit, but milk holds its temperature fairly well, and that would take forever.  The best way to do it is by putting it in a sink with cold water.

I even add ice to the water.  Then stir it around.  Remember, wood holds bacteria, so you want to use stainless steel to stir.

Add your yogurt culture.  I used to packets of culture that I bought from New England Cheesemaking.  This is the first time I’ve used this culture, so I wasn’t sure how long it would need to incubate.  You can also use cultured plain yogurt.   Just make sure it’s at room temperature.  Some people say to use a cup for a gallon, but I’d say that’s pretty skimpy.  I’d probably go with a whole pint.

Anyhow, I sprinkled my culture on top of the milk and let it sit for a minute.  Then I stirred it into the milk.

At this point, you’re just putting the lid on it and setting it in the oven and turning on the light.  This will hold its temperature at the proper level.

I put mine on at about 8pm and left it all night.  When I checked it after milking, at 7am, it smelled delicious.  It was still fairly thin looking, but I put it in the refrigerator to cool.  It still seemed a bit thin, but I could strain it to make it thicker; however, I decided that it would be fine once I added fruit to it because that requires gelatin. Next time, I think I’ll leave it in the oven a couple more hours.

After it’s cool, you can put it in quart jars to keep.  Before I did that, I divided it into quarts and added fruit to it. It will stay good for quite a while in the refrigerator.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have yogurt every day now!  You don’t have to have goat milk to make homemade yogurt.  This recipe will work with any milk, but I would recommend at least a 2% milk.  Less fat means it will take longer to incubate and get thick.  The goat milk just makes it taste better. 😉