Yep, we all make mistakes. And here are some of the things to watch out for: (Remember, it's milk so you can always use it for milk if it doesn't firm up.)
- Boiling the milk. Now it could have been something else.... perhaps we got a bad culture. But we know we left the hot milk in the crockpot too long so it is totally possible that was the cause of the milk coagulating rather than culturing. Or it could have been that we used a large about of culture and because it was acidic, that could have caused the milk to coagulate. We put it in the yogurt maker and let it turn into really thick but lumpy yogurt. It's Greek Yogurt the hard way?
- Putting the culture into milk that is too hot. This is a classic and nothing happens - the culture is killed by the heat.
- Adding to much salt. All it takes is barely a pinch for each quart - we tried putting in a teaspoon full for 3 quarts and it was really, really yucky. Better none than too much.
- Forgot the sugar? We have had great luck adding a teaspoon ful of sugar for every quart - at least. And in addition, if it isn't sweet enough, you can always add some Splenda.
- Now this one depends on your taste: if you forget about the yogurt and it cultures for - let's say - 24 hours... it may be very, very sour. No harm, no foul, but sour.
- This one happened just prior to Memorial day - after putting 3 quarts of non-fat milk with 3 cups dry, powdered milk in the crock pot and setting it on warm the evening before, I awoke to find a partially congealed crock pot full of milk. It wasn't sour at all but I figure the milk had aged too long and was on the edge of souring so heating the milk on Warm just accelerated the process. I will use the milk, suitably blended in our Ninja Master Prep blender, for coffee and drinking as it tastes like plain milk even though I did try to culture it for 8 hours. Lesson learned... the older the milk, the faster to bring it to 180F.
Details of a recent blunder:
On August 2nd, 2010, I was trying out two new ideas: the first was using a new set of pint containers which look more like yogurt containers than wide-mouth quart jars. The second was trying to reduce the amount of cleanup work in using a crockpot to heat milk overnight... usually the crockpot had various areas needing a large amount of scrubbing to remove cooked on milk residues.
So I tried putting water in the crockpot around 2 individual quart wide mouth jars with the milk mixture in them. But in changing my approach to yogurt making, I left out one important step - sugar... and a pinch of salt. Overnight the non-fat milk with dry milk mixed with it came up to 190F. So i transferred it to a soup pot placed in cool water in a dish pan and waited until the temperature was under 120F. I mixed several cultures together and blended it with the milk and placed it in the new pint containers in the yogurt maker.
I waited 3 hours and no firming - this is a big problem. Another 2 hours - total of 5 - go by and still no firm yogurt. Then the panic set in. So thinking it could be either the lack of sugar and salt and/or the culture was old (it was), I blended sugar, a pinch of salt and a recently saved culture back into the batch. Then I poured it back into the containers in the yogurt maker and waitied and sure enough, it was firming up after 2 hours - I let it go another hour just in case and then put it in the fridge.
My painful lessons learned:
- if you are going to try something, only change one thing at a time.
- make sure you take all the steps needed including adding sugar and salt to the yogurt
- if things fail, don't be afraid to experiment on recovering from the failure - you can learn more about yogurt making that way.
What the experiment accomplished was:
- it validated the new method which removed the chore of cleaning the crockpot
- it showed me that you can recover from failure without having to scrap the batch
- it proved the new containers work well