After the delicous treats of the holiday season, I am usually ready for a little abstinence to begin the new year. I don’t drink milk because it gives me digestive troubles, but yoghurt actually assists my digestion. Yoghurt insures that you live a cultured (and regular) life! I eat it with bananas or other treats, and also use it in recipes in place of buttermilk, (because I make the yoghurt myself and keep it around and I figure as long as it’s cultured it’s good…)
Yoghurt is easy to make, and I like to make it myself. It’s not really any cheaper than buying it ready made, but it’s less wasteful, since we avoid consuming lots of little plastic cups full of yoghurt. Another thing is that I buy the unpasteurized organic milk at the Farmers Market. (If you let unpasteurized milk sit around too long and go bad, you can still use it to make farmer’s cheese. If it’s pasteurized, you can only toss it.) I get the creamy whole milk, because I like it. No skim or non fat around here folks. If the yoghurt sits around in the fridge for about a week, it develops a little layer of cream at the top.
January is a great time to look in the thrift stores for kitchen stuff, because a lot of people don’t want their kitchen gifts that they think they will never use and they donate them brand new. I bought an old yoghurt maker without any containers in it at a Habitat for Humanity Restore, for a couple bucks. I found some plastic freezer containers that fit the spaces in the yoghurt maker. Four large ones and a small one are perfect for a half gallon of milk mixed with a cup of yoghurt. But you don’t even really need a yoghurt maker. You just need a warm environment. A pre-heated thermos or oven will do.
You can buy yoghurt starter. I bought a package once at Whole Foods. But that’s the most expensive option. Any plain cup of yoghurt from the supermarket that has live yoghurt cultures in it will do. You can save some of your own yoghurt from your first batch and use it as culture for your next batch, and continue like that two or three times, after which you may want to get a fresh culture again.
You will need a half gallon of milk, a cup of yoghurt, a thermometer, a whisk, five containers with lids, a warm place like a yoghurt maker, warm oven or preheated thermos.
Pour the milk into a pot on the stovetop. Place the thermometer in the milk. Bring the milk to just scalding, about 200º. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool to between 112º and 117º. Depending on the room temperature, this can take about an hour. While the milk is cooling, place your containers in a pot of water and heat to just below boiling. Or you can sanitize them in your dishwasher. Or you can just wash them very thoroughly with soap and hot water. Plug in your yoghurt maker so that it is warm and ready, (or preheat your thermose with some boiling water in it, or warm your oven by turning it on at high heat for a couple minutes and then turning it off.)
When your milk has cooled to the right temperature, spoon the cup of yoghurt into the pot and mix it into the milk with a whisk. Pour your yoghurt mixture into your clean containers, screw on the lids and keep warm for at least six hours. It will get thicker and more tart, the longer you leave it. Place the warm containers in the refrigerator and allow to cool. Enjoy your fresh delicious yoghurt.