Monday, June 30, 2008

What to do to "rescue" yogurt that doesn't turn out.

Sometimes yogurt doesn't turn out.

You reach into the warm oven in the morning and instead of firm tangy yogurt you have warm milk. Oops. It happens to everyone once in a while.

Before you throw away all that milk, here are a few things to try to fix it.

The problem is always either temperature or culture.

If your culture is/was dead, nothing you can do will make your milk turn into yogurt. You need to get a new starter and begin again.

Usually though the problem is one of temperature and is easy to fix. If your yogurt didn't turn out, you either put the culture in when it was too hot and killed it, which isn't likely if you were using a thermometer carefully, or, that it cooled off too fast before the yogurt could thicken.

The latter is almost always the case, and is relatively simple to fix.

Put your yogurt back into a pot with a thermometer. Stand over it like a hawk and make sure to remove it from heat the instant the thermometer reads 110-115F. Any warmer an you will kill your culture. (If you have more that's not a problem, but if you are like me and use the last of your former batch to start the next one, you probably don't any more culture handy.)

Pour the warm again milk back into the storage containers and put it back in the warm oven. If you have a digital temperature control and can set the oven to 110F do so and leave it on. Check on the yogurt in 4 hours.

If you have an older oven, set it to the lowest possible setting, just when the light comes on, and turn it off once the light goes off. In two hours check the inside of the oven to see how warm it is. If it's starting to feel cool, turn it back on again for a few minutes to warm back up. Be sure to turn it off after a few minutes. You don't want to kill the culture or cook the yogurt.

Most times this will do the trick and closer attention to temperature will help your yogurt work the second time around. If it doesn't work get a new starter and use this batch as buttermilk in recipes. I wouldn't try it a third time.

If you find that your oven just doesn't stay warm enough long enough here are a few alternate ways to incubate yogurt.

Alternate Methods of Incubation for Yogurt

Alternate Methods of Incubation for Yogurt

Here are a few variations in method for Making Yogurt. Using the oven is the easiest method for me. No mess, no fuss, no special equipment. But if your oven doesn't stay warm long enough to incubate yogurt you may want to try another method.

1.)You could use a cooler and hot water bottles or a heat packs. Put your yogurt jars in the cooler with the heat packs or water bottles. Close firmly. You can even put a thermometer in the cooler to help you monitor the temperature inside. This method would work well if you were camping as well and wanted to make yogurt. Or live somewhere without electricity.

2.) Speaking of camping and living without electricity...I've always been fascinated by this technique though I've not tried it. If you happen to have pack goats, which people have in South America I hear, and one of them is a milking goat, which would only make sense if they are accompanying you on a long trek, here is how you would make yogurt. At night, after milking the pack goat you would add culture to the still warm fresh milk, put it in a jar, put the jar in you sleeping bag at the foot and you body heat should keep it warm all night. In the morning you have yogurt for breakfast. One day I really want to try that one.

3.)I've successfully incubated yogurt in a sink full of warm water. Just make sure the jars are sealed tight. Use a thermometer and start with water slightly warmer than 110F because it will cool quickly. I used this method when I've had to run out of the house for a long time, usually over night, and for various reasons I started yogurt but didn't have time to finish it. The water incubates it long enough for the yogurt to set, and then continues to cool and eventually acts as a bit of refrigeration for the yogurt, keeping it fresh until I can return home and put it in the fridge. I also left the tiny window over my sink open so the water would cool at night. This wouldn't work in a heat wave however.

4.)You can purchase a yogurt maker. Most of these are a bucket lined with Styrofoam and a fancy label, but you can set them on you counter top and they do work. Others are fancier and have a heat source and places for bottles to rest. I don't personally think they are worth the expense but they may be helpful for some.

5.) My friend from Iran used to wrap her yogurt in a blanket and set it on her kitchen counter for the day. She probably still does.

I think you get the idea. Insulate, keep warm. If the oven method isn't working for you, you may find success with one of the other methods listed. Good luck.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making Yogurt-How to make Yogurt at Home

Okay, here's the thing you need to know about yogurt. It's really really easy. I tell you this at the beginning, before you read all about getting a thermometer and temperatures and bacterial process and all, because I was intimidated by yogurt for years. I would read the directions, in numerous books, and then put them down and relegate yogurt making to the someday when I have a lot of time to figure it out category in my head. I don't want you to do the same thing. So I'll say it again, making yogurt is simple.

Now, I'll probably be very long winded about making yogurt because I like to understand WHY things work. "Why mommy? Why?" I'm not that different from my 6 year old after all. "But why mommy? Why shouldn't I pee on my little sister in the bathtub? She's laughing."

Ahem.

Moving on.

Here's the other thing you need to know about yogurt. You will save a lot of money making it yourself. Say one gallon of milk is $3. One quart of good quality yogurt is usually $3-4 minimum. That means if you are buying yogurt you are paying $12-16 per gallon. If you make a gallon of yogurt guess how much it costs? That's right, $3, give or take the price of a gallon of milk. If you like yogurt, you really want to know how to make it yourself.

The first thing you will need is a pot large enough to hold the amount of yogurt you want to make. I don't recommend trying to do more than a gallon at a time. It takes too long to heat and burns on the bottom, and too long to cool. But you can start with less. You will have exactly as much yogurt as milk that you start with so you will need containers to hold them. My personal preference is glass mason jars. They seal nicely, don't leak, don't leech dioxins when they are warmed and look pretty. I went through a lot of plastic containers before I caught on. But you can use whatever you want. Really. It doesn't even need a lid. The picky among us may want a wire sieve, but that's completely optional.

So for you who like it laid out all neat and tidy instead of lost in the narrative, here's your list.

Equipment
Large Stock Pot or Sauce Pan (Heavy bottomed is best.)
Candy thermometer (Can be found in the baking section of every grocery store chain in North America I think. But I'll tell you what to do if you haven't got one too. Yogurt makers have been going by feel for centuries.)
Storage Containers
Wire Sieve
Whisk or spoon for stirring

(See that jar with a bit of yogurt in the bottom? That's
from my last batch, to use to start this one.)

Ingredients
Milk (Whole, Skim, and every thing in between. Personally I think whole milk tastes better and makes creamier yogurt, but low fat will work just as well.)
1 tbsp of your favorite brand of plain unsweetened yogurt, as long as it reads on the side, "Active bacterial cultures".

And please tell me that your favorite yogurt doesn't have gelatin or cornstarch in it, because those people who make that slop don't know how to make yogurt. Well, they probably do, but they're cheating you into thinking that it's creamier with additives. Anyway, you could go out and buy a yogurt starter like yo-gourmet or the like, but it's a whole lot simpler to just use some yogurt you already have. Their instructions are way to complex in my opinion, though that's how I started.

Yogurt is a simple bacterial process, just like bread. You introduce the bacteria to the milk, get it nice and cozy so that the bacteria thrive and they eat their way through all of the lactose and in turn give you yogurt. Before you get all grossed out by that, consider that you have a lot of bacteria and microorganisms in your body right now and you want the stuff in yogurt in you, because it's good for you, and then the bad bacteria has less space to run around and eventually almost moves out altogether complaining about over crowding. So that's why you need a little bit of yogurt from somewhere else. It already has live bacteria in it for you to add to the milk.

The rest is just all about temperature. You get the milk hot enough to pasteurize it so that the only thing alive in it is the bacteria you want to grow and nothing else. Then you get it cool enough to not kill the bacteria and then keep it warm enough that they stay active until they have spread through out the yogurt. Got that? Good. Here we go.

Method

Pour the milk into the pot. Set the heat beneath the pot to medium/medium high. (There are those who will tell you that you should put it on low and stir constantly to keep from burning but those people don't make yogurt that often I don't think. Higher heat warms it faster before the stuff on the bottom starts to stick and burn.) Put the thermometer in the milk, it should have a clip for the side of the pot, and stay close by stirring from time to time.

The hardest part about making yogurt is keeping the milk from burning. It takes so long to heat up that you have usually forgotten that you have anything on the stove and you have gone off to fold laundry or have a shower or something. If you get at all engrossed in movies, do not try to watch one while making yogurt. You will forget about it until it's boiling over the top and burnt on the bottom. Oh wait, that's just me? Never mind. Magazines are good. Yogurt making is a good time to read a magazine. On a chair or stool in the kitchen. Next to your milk. So you don't forget.

Watch your yogurt, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 180F, or 80C. If you have no thermometer, stand over it and watch until the outside edges are bubbling vigorously and there is a lot of steam coming off the milk.

Here's for the list people.

Method

Preheat oven to 110F. Or just set it on the lowest possible setting just when the light comes on, no more. Heat milk to 180F, 80C. Remove immediately from heat. Allow to cool to between 110-115F, about 54C. (Or if you have no thermometer, until you can hold your pinkie finger in the milk for a full 10 seconds without it burning.) Skim the skin off the top. Add the tbsp of yogurt. Stir together. Pour into storage containers. Place storage containers in the warmed oven. Turn the oven off. Wait 4 to 8 hours before opening. When the milk stays firm when the container is tilted remove from oven and place in fridge.

making yogurt

There you're done. That wasn't so hard was it?

Oh the sieve? That's for people who want a very smooth yogurt. You can pour the milk through it into the storage containers to catch any lumps.

NOTES:
I don't usually bother sterilizing my equipment. But I do try to get it very clean, rinsing in very hot water and soap just before I use it all. I don't want anything that isn't healthy bacteria growing in my milk.

Be sure to save a little bit of this batch of yogurt to use for starting your next batch.

For breakfast pair it with Muesli.

See also,

Alternate Methods of Incubation


How to "Rescue" Yogurt that Doesn't Turn Out

Greek Style Yogurt, and Making Yogurt Cheese

Monday, June 16, 2008

How to make Muesli

Basic Muesli Recipe

5 cups rolled oats (Not instant)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds ( I haven't put these in in a while)
1/2 cup millet
1 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1 cup dried fruit, (anything you want, we like dried apples and raisins, cranberries, candied orange peels, or a berry mix.)
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg

(For an optional but absolutely wonderful ingredient addition, it does add a bit of sugar, chop up some crystallized ginger and add it in, mmm, mmm, good.)


Mix together and store in an airtight container or keep in a bag in the fridge. To serve add fresh plain yogurt, stir together and eat. (quantities depend on individual preference.) Or you can use it as a cereal with milk, soy milk, etc. The longer you let it sit, the softer it gets. You can add fresh fruit also; berries, kiwi, mangoes, whatever your imagination can come up with.

There are as many different ways to make muesli as there are people, you can add other grains, avoid sour ones, you can add more nuts, less nuts, different kinds of nuts, seeds, coconut, fruit, spices, etc. Experiment until you find one that your family loves.

Yogurt can get expensive to buy so I have a secret for you; it's super simple to make and way cheaper. I used to be afraid of it, and waited a long time to try, and then wondered why I had because it's so simple. Instructions for how to make yogurt coming soon.
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