Friday, April 02, 2010

Yogurt Baby Report Card

Last time I spoke of and showed you the towel-swaddled lump that was my first batch of homemade yogurt, and I figured I had better get back here with a follow-up to that project so you didn't think I was overtaken by rampant lactobacillus or something.

While Y.B. was incubating in the heating pad and towel swaddling, I was experimenting with my oven on proof setting as a possible alternative environment since my heating pad wouldn't work on low like I wanted it to. On my oven at least, all pushing the "proof" button really does is turn on the light (meaning every oven technically has some version of a "proof" setting), and that turns out to be just about exactly right for yogurt incubation. Ideal is 90-110F, and mine was running right around 100F, so I ended up abandoning the heating pad and putting the jars in the oven instead. SO much easier than trying to regulate the temperature with my flaky heating pad and a bunch of towels.

Whew. Anyway, it totally worked!! Delicious, yummy homemade yogurt!

homemade yogurt and granola
That's my typical breakfast, with a very exciting dose of freshly made olive oil/apricot/coconut granola--another one of my homemade obsession foods.

I have to be honest and say that the whole reason I wanted to start doing this whole yogurt making thing is laziness, not quality or taste or anything fun like that. It was just getting to be too much work to track down organic yogurt from a non-corporately owned label every time I needed to get a re-up (I eat plain yogurt almost every day). So it's not that homemade is necessarily any better or different than what you can buy--although it is free from stabilizers and other weirdness that some brands use. It is MUCH less expensive, however. I just checked now and I was paying $4.69 for a quart of Stonyfield (corporately owned) plain organic yogurt vs. $3.99 for a half gallon of organic 1% milk from a co-op dairy label. So that means homemade yogurt works out to be $2 a quart, or less than half the price of prepackaged. Yowza. That's a pretty decent savings for 10 minutes of effort and a an overnights' worth of lightbulb use.

If you want to try this, there are lots of methods and recipes online. There's just four very basic steps and no special equipment is required other than a thermometer.

heating the milk to 185F
cooling the milk to 110F
innoculating the milk with a spoonful of yogurt

It needs to incubate for several hours or overnight, but the actual prep time is just a few minutes. I used the double boiler method for heating the milk but next time I don't think I'll bother. And as I said, I eat plain yogurt so I left mine as is. If you want to add sweetener or fruit or something you can do that either before or after incubation. I said there's not much difference between homemade and storebought plain, but I can imagine adding homemade preserves or fresh or frozen fruit would be a huge improvement in taste vs. the flavored/sweetened supermarket varieties.


Cool! Now grab the ice cream maker and whip up some frozen yogurt. Mmmmmm.
Hey Splatgirl - glad it turned out. You inspired me and after dogwalking I will sit down to my own bowl of homemade yogurt. Never thought to use my oven before.
As for gardening, try planting things in shifts (say days or up to a week apart), that way you might not get a harvest all at once. And if that doesn't about a canning party?
Best wishes,
I use my crockpot (on low) to heat the milk, then when it cools back down I stir in the starter and put the whole crockpot - lid, base, and all, turned off and unplugged - into the oven with the oven light on. It maintains the needed temp for several hours with no blankets or heating pads needed.
it's even easier to make kefir all you need to do is locate some culture which is easy enough to do but it's way easier than making yogurt
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