I really like this method because, unlike other methods, the yogurt is created in the same jar in which it is to be stored. There is no messy trying to pour the yogurt from one large container into a smaller one. The clean-up is close to zilch, too.
Because this yogurt is cultured using yogurt from either your past batches or good, store-brand yogurt, you WILL replace death with the life thriving in those cultures. I use either store brand or my own culture...depending on whether I REMEMBER to take the culture out of the yogurt and save it, which I often forget. (I guess I'm still pretty store-dependent.) From the store, I like to use organic, WHOLE-MILK yogurt...and if you can find it with the cream on top, so much the better! Alas, one of my favs no longer makes it with cream on the top, swears it's just as good, better even, in a homogenized state. Oh well, I guess for them, ignorance is bliss...
But moving on, try peeking at the number of live, active cultures in the yogurt you're buying. You may be surprised if you don't realize that all yogurts are not the same. I have seen as few as two and as many as six! Of course, my take on it is the more, the better...You decide what's best for you and yours. :)
If you are coming to this site without having been here before, you will possibly have fat-phobia. In a nutshell, contrary to much false information we've been fed, if it's REAL fat, not a man-made simulation, it's good for you, provided, of course, that you don't overload. But to be convinced, you'll need to go to my archives and read about fats. And if my words don't do the trick, hop on over to the Weston A. Price Foundation and get into the super-scientific nitty-gritty. Better yet, buy the book, Nourishing Traditions and get ready to make some changes.
This recipe will make an unsweetened yogurt. We do this because everyone has their own tastes for sweetness amounts. We like to add either honey or Grade B Maple Syrup for sweetness after dishing our yogurt into a single-sized serving bowl. We also love to add fresh or dried fruits, maybe some vanilla, coconut, nuts or our home-made granola-type cereal. The possibilities are limited only by taste and creativity!
|Retro Cooler Becomes 'Sauna'.|
I have adapted my 'tools' to the retro cooler I found last year. It has come in very handy for me to make a half-gallon of yogurt each week. People with larger families may want to make more, using a larger cooler and more jars of hot water. READ THROUGH the directions before starting so you can better understand what I'm talking about.
Items you will need to make your yogurt as I do:
1 Half-Gallon mason jar* of raw milk (You may use any milk, but I start with raw. I do not recommend skim or low-fat as either will have less taste, and will not be assimilated by the body as well without its fat.) Be sure the milk is at room temperature. A cold jar doesn't have to be placed in boiling water to crack...It can crack even when placed in hot water from the faucet! (Experience speaks.)
Lid for 1 Half-Gallon mason jar
4 Tablespoons plain yogurt at room temp. (2 TBS/qt.)
|Pampered Chef Spatula/Stirrer comes in handy!|
1 Qt. size mason jar (no lid)
Thick pot holders
Cooking Thermometer (Meat Thermometer with long stem or a clip-on works well.)
Long, thin ladle (Pampered Chef has a skinny one I love for this job.)
Pot large enough to hold all 3 jars at once
Cooler, tall enough and wide enough to hold all 3 jars (DO Check!!)
Wash cloth or dish cloth
Also, make sure there is room IN YOUR FREEZER for the Half-Gallon jar of yogurt. It won't stay there, but will need about an hour there to set up after cultering.
Place the wash cloth in the bottom of the large pot. It will keep the jars from clanging against the bottom when the water comes to a boil. (The bonus to this is that the cloth can even be a dirty dish rag because the procedure will sterilize it. It won't, however, remove stains.)
Fill the two empty jars (1 Qt. jar and 1 Half-Gallon jar) with water to the neck.
Place these jars into the large pot.
Place the pot w/jars on the large burner of stove.
Turn burner to 'High'.
|Jars in pot...Foamy white is just a little milk spillage.|
Place well-cleaned and rinsed thermometer into the milk jar. Many thermometers have an adjustable tab that can slide to the goal temperature. If yours has this, set it at the 180 degree mark.
At this time, also place the long stirring spatula into the pot of water, with the handle above the water line. Put the jar lid in the water at this time as well.
|Red tab is set at 180 for better visibility.|
NOTE: If the temp rises above the 180, don't panic-it won't be hurt.
When the thermometer reads 180, don't trust that the entire jar is at temperature. FIRST, stir the milk with the now-sterile ladle I told you to place in the water at the beginning of the process. THEN, re-read the thermometer to see if the temperature sticks. If it goes below 180, give it a little more heating time.
Once the milk is truly up to temp, turn the burner to 'Lo' or '1' on the dial and using a clean pot-holder, lift the jar from above, holding below the neck. Leave the thermometer and the stirrer in the jar. With the other pot-holder in the opposite hand, help balance/hold the jar, lowering it to the counter or stove-top. The second pot-holder should be under the jar at this point.
Okay. It's time for another decision. You can now either leave the jar on the counter for 2-3 hours to cool to between 105-110 degrees, NO MORE THAN 110 and NO LESS than 90, or you can take the fast route, which I always use because I know that I know that I know I will get busy and forget and have to do the heating procedure all over again if I do it the slower way. HOWEVER, some don't like the idea that water is 'wasted' when going the fast route...but I have an answer for that fal-dee-rah, too...Read on...
|Add cold water in a VERY SMALL stream!|
Be sure at least one of your sinks is cleared out.
After 5 minutes cooling time, carefully carry the jar to the empty sink.
Place a very good stopper in the sink.
Turn the cold water on, a very small stream, and allow it to slowly rise until it's up to the shoulder of the jar. If you can't stand there and wait...and it will be a bit of a wait...set the oven timer for 5-7 minutes. Check the temp and stir with each check.
|Skim 'skin' as needed.|
Okay...Back on track...the timer thing is a good thing to do anyway, because in five minute increments, you can stir the milk to equalize the temperature throughout the jar. Once the water reaches the shoulder, turn it off, stir, and check the temperature. Most likely, it will still be above the 105 degree mark, so set the timer and check again in another 5 minutes. Stir. Check temp again. Wait longer if needed.
|Temperature tab is set between 90-110. I choose 105.|
THIS is the time to be careful. What may have seemed like a long time in lowering the temperature can suddenly happen rapidly.
During THIS time, turn the burner beneath the large pot back on 'HIGH' so the water-filled jars within the pot get good and steamy-hot. Line the cooler with the towel, allowing the extra material to flow out over the top of the cooler.
You are about to give your milk a sauna and THAT is what's going to give you yogurt!
|Adding the yogurt culture.|
WHEN THE TEMPERATURE IS RIGHT:
Remove the jar from the water. Do not remove the water from the sink. (You can just add hot water to it for dish-washing!)
Remove the thermometer, leaving in the stirrer.
Add the 4 TBS. of yogurt, (this is the 'culture'), that are now at room temperature.
Stir gently and thoroughly, then remove the stirrer.
Retrieve the mason jar lid from the hot water, (I use salad or ice tongs), shake off excess water, and screw on securely to the yogurt jar. I label with a permanent marker but this is not necessary. The other two jars are to remain uncovered.
Place the yogurt jar into the cooler.
|Yogurt jar goes into cooler/sauna.|
|All jars are settled. The open ones contain steamy, hot water.|
|All jars are tucked cozily into the cooler sauna.|
Cover all with the towel edges, tucking it in nice and cuddly.
|Let the culturing begin!|
Place the lid on the cooler.
Put the cooler where it won't be disturbed.
Set your mind or your timer for 4-24 hours. The more time, the more twang...I go 6 hours, have left it as many as 8 by mistake and wasn't too put off by the extra degree of twang, but I can't imagine letting it go 24 hours!* AGAIN, however, to each his own. :)
An important note: You will not want to be taking the yogurt out of the cooler at bedtime. The process has one more step that you MUST be around to complete!
After the time is up, remove the yogurt jar from the cooler. You may open it and look at the consistency if you like. It will most likely not be exactly what you seek. Go ahead and gently stir it well. Now, place it in that special place in the freezer that you cleared out earlier just for this time.
Time it one hour.
Remove from freezer, place in fridge. Or, if you like, give it a taste, remembering that it is NOT sweetened! I like to time all this so that I can place it in the fridge just before bedtime. In the morning, it's ready for breakfast with some berries, maple syrup and nuts...at least that's the way I usually go about it.
It's a really good idea to go ahead NOW and remove 4 TBS. of the yogurt to a separate, small container to be used as the culture for your NEXT batch!
IF YOU LIKE A THICKER YOGURT (GREEK-STYLE, ANYONE?): You will need to go yet another step and strain the yogurt. I strain yogurt to make cream cheese, and have used the same method to make a thicker yogurt. Just remember, your final volume will decrease. If you don't have a fancy-shmancy yogurt strainer, you can make your own easily.
Take a clean dish towel and line a strainer that is placed over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the lined strainer. Pull the edges of the towel up and over the yogurt so the strained whey doesn't leach off the towel onto your counter. Check it every 15 minutes for thickness. (If you forget it long enough, you'll get a twangy cream cheese that mellows with time.) When it's the thickness you prefer, put it back in the jar or into another container that works better with the diminished volume.
The strained-off whey may be saved in the fridge to aid in soaking nuts or grains...Or try replacing the recommended amount of water in your bread recipes with whey. It's said to increase shelf-life, help sourdoughs to rise better, and infuse the bread with protein.
~Now, when you're ready...Have it YOUR yogurt YOUR way!
*Some say it's okay to use old mayo jars, spaghetti jars, etc. I do NOT recommend this as they are usually not as thick/strong as mason jars. This is vital if you are using the cold water method to more rapidly decrease the temperature. Jars taken from hot to cold need to be STRONG. This is also the reason why I say to put the cold water into the sink in a very slow stream.
*I have, since writing this, left my yogurt to culture overnight. It thickened to a consistency of the popular Greek-style yogurt and had an almost cheesy taste...I liked it!