Mr Yogurt Welcomes You - Get The Facts You Need To Successfully Adopt Yogurt-Making As Part Of Your Life
What you read in books, magazines and on the Internet focuses on making yogurt as an event. And why would we say that? Well let's do some simple math and if that doesn't convince you then maybe looking at some of the equipment on the market will do that:
The Math: If you like yogurt, and we do, if you want to make it a regular part of your food consumption, check out the amount you need to make even if you only eat yogurt for one meal like breakfast or lunch for two people - and let's go with reasonable amounts rather than the dinky little 6 oz cups being sold for outrageous prices in the markets:
- if 2 people eat only 8 oz portions once a day, then you are looking at at least 7 lbs of yogurt or 7 pints or almost 2 quarts of the stuff each and every week. But if you really like yogurt and/or you have a larger family, we are now looking at 2 or even 3 times that amount. So this leads us to our first conclusion:
1. With few exceptions, most home yogurt making equipment requires too much work and too frequent use to make long term yogurt-making practiical.
The Equipment: now let's look at some representative equipment - Salton makes several units - 1 which makes a quart or 32 oz and 1 in which you can make 42 oz in as many as 7 of those small 6 oz cups. We use a Waring Pro Yogurt Maker and, with a minor adaptation, we make as much as a gallon of yogurt at a time and in as little as 2 hours. (The adaptation - use 4 quart wide-mouth jars in it and, with such large jars, it creates a gap between the top and bottom of the unit - we merely throw a large towel to cover it and keep the heat in the unit - it is termperature controlled). Remember this is representative equipment on the open market today. So this means if you are consuming 2 quarts of yogurt per week, you have to make it at least twice a week using some of the smaller yogurt makers - more often if you have a large family who loves yogurt. So this bolsters our contention:
2. You need to find either a yogurt maker or a method or both that doesn't require so much attention and work and can make as much as a gallon of yogurt at a time.
Holy cow, a GALLON??? Well you may not need to make that much at once. In our family, we make 3 quarts or more at a time in pint and quart jars and it works out that we are down to a regular once a week routine in making yogurt. Our problem is that everyone in our extended family also loves yogurt and we make for them also... which means we have to make even more on a weekly basis.
But what about making yogurt at home without a yogurt making machine? Well, the process of yogurt-making involves heating milk to near boiling (fortunately, if you boil cow's milk, which is what most of us get from the grocery store, it won't hurt it a bit), cooling it to a warm temperature of 110 and holding that temperature up to 8 - 12 hours. While that seems simple and some folks have a real knack of making yogurt without any special equipment, we have tried it both ways and using yogurt making equipment is far better than some of the Rube Goldberg setups some people use.
3. Use a yogurt maker if you can find one that meets your needs. The largest one readily available will make 2 quarts and the one we use, with a minor adaptation, can make as much as a gallon or more at a time.
But isn't the process of making yogurt more like voodoo art rather than a science? With all the cultures and materials available... well it seems so complicated! And don't we have to boil everything that is involved in yogurt making - I hear bacteria are involved?
Actually the process of making yogurt is extremely simple. Many grade-school children use yogurt-making as a school science project. And as long as you have cleaned everything thoroughly - use your dishwasher if you have one - you need not worry about the process at all. And as far as the bacteria, we only use the friendly kind and most of them have been around for thousands of years - 4,500 (some say 10,000 or more) years to be semi-exact
Supplies: Reading the what is under the Summary tab above, you get the idea that all you need to make yogurt is milk and culture for it. And of course for any generality, that is true. But not for long term yogurt making. Let's face it, yogurt, like the bacteria in it, is an evolving process. And what that means is that while you may be satisfied with say a Y-5 or an Activia-based culture, eating the same thing over and over again can get mentally dull so adding more supplies can enhance your yogurt experience.
- Jams, Jellies and Preserves: these supplies can mix up the tastes and textures of the yogurt you eat. For example, you can put dollops of strawberry jam on the top of the yogurt you have made and simply stir it in. Or, while you make it, you can put a dollop in the bottom of the culturing container before adding the liquid with the culture in it. Either way, a quick stir and you have an entirely new yogurt.
- Extracts: supply variety, the most used is vanilla followed by almond extract. From there you can get all forms and manner of flavors including watermelon, cotton candy and even something called salt water taffy...
- Just like the extracts which are added before the culturing process, there are some very unusal teas which can be introduced while the liquids are heating and provide a background taste for a yogurt.
- Toppings: While jams and other toast accompanyments can be considered toppings, since they are usually stirred into the yogurt after serving it. No, not the toast, the JAM. Other toppings like chocolate syrup can actually stay in place as a topping and enjoyed while the yogurt is being consumed.
- Fresh ingredients: Yes, you can use fresh fruits chopped up or sliced. And usually these are added, not during the incubation or as it is sometimes called fermentation stage, but afterwards when you serve the yogurt. If you are making parfaits, sliced peaches or chopped up strawberries mixed in go very nicely with peach and strawberry jam, respectively, as a topping.
- And of course the cultures themselves: By last count, we have 25 cultures either in our refridgerator or freezer. The one we like best is Activia... but 5 others we like also and using one of them provides variety we sometimes need.
Safety: The subject of how safe is homemade yogurt always comes up. One of the greatest safety rules is to always bring the milk mix to 190F before cooling and culturing the yogurt. That kills all bacteria, both good and bad, in the liquid.
As a general rule, we would recommend tossing any yogurt which was off color or did not have one consistent color throughout it, didn't smell right, wasn't firm, had bubbles forming in it - probably a yeast growth - had mold growing on it or, ultimately, did not taste right. Whey separation on the top is normal and may be disregarded. You can stir it in or pour it off - it is good for sauces and shakes etc.
We expect to have cultured over a hundred gallons of yogurt by the end of 2010 - and we have had no problems what-so-ever with any of it.
Here is independent information on food safety.
The tabs at the top of this website provide access to the things you need to know. We encourage you to explore before you buy and try. And if you have any equipment, you may want to consider upgrading to modernized, temperature controlled and high volume equipment that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
When we mention a commercial yogurt by name, please, understand we are neither endorsing the yogurt nor are we contemning it. Any comments regarding texture, taste and so forth are the opinions of the author. The reader must make up his or her mind as to the value of such yogurts in their own lives independently of this website and material contained within. And in most cases such commercial names are protected by copyrights and/or trademarks..
Note that the jury is still out on what benefits yogurt has, if any: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Probiotics.aspx
And a neat place to get your San Francisco Sourdough Starter is www.SourdoughBreads.com
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