I remember buying an electric yogurt maker a lifetime ago and being very disappointed with the results, so until recently, I never really had much interest in the process, particularly since Eugene is the home of Nancy's Yogurt, which I consider to be about the best I've ever had -- until now. I just made my third batch, and each successive one (made with a bit of the previous as a starter) is better.
Before I left Eugene I read an article in the NY times online that made the process sound easy and delicious. Now that I have more time and less money, I decided to give it a try. I started with Nancy's, then I took the extra step of draining the whey from the finished yogurt and that produced something that to me, is just short of ethereal. It's not only thicker, it lacks the tartness that I didn't enjoy in yogurt. It's pretty damned close to a good whipped cream, or a less-tart sour cream, or a good creme fraiche. This stuff is so good that it should not be defiled with fruit or any other flavor additive, because they simply can't measure up. Eat your fruit separately.
If you want the whole article, follow the link above. I'm just going to give you the basic recipe and steps. You can choose any kind of milk you wish -- I use whole milk and would use organic if I could still afford to buy it. Start with a plain version of your favorite yogurt to get the ball rolling.
First, heat the fresh milk to 180-190 degrees, or to the point that it's steaming and beginning to form bubbles. This is what it looks like. Be sure to use medium-high heat and stir frequently, or you'll have burned milk.
Stir in the starter -- for each quart of milk use 2 tablespoons of yogurt, preferably from your last batch, but you've got to start somewhere. Thin the yogurt with a little of the milk, to make it blend more evenly.
Pour the mixture into a container -- mine always has this foamy surface -- and put it someplace warm until it sets, usually about 4 hours. If your home is warm, you can just cover and wrap and let it sit undisturbed until you have yogurt. My home isn't warm, so I put it into my oven with the light on, which surprisingly enough maintains the heat very well. It probably isn't necessary, but I turn my oven on for a few minutes so it can start out with a little heat. When it's yogurt, put it into the refrigerator, uncovered, until it's cold. At this point, it's ready to eat but after trying the next step once, I doubt that I'll ever make yogurt without draining it.
For thick, rich, creamy, to-die-for Greek-style yogurt, place the finished yogurt into a strainer, with or without cheesecloth (my first batch was a little thin and yours may be, too. In that case, use the cheesecloth), and return to the refrigerator to drain, which will happen surprisingly quickly. This photo represents about half the batch, or about one quart. I don't have a larger strainer. You can see how thick it already is, and each successive batch seems to be thicker and thicker.
From the above batch, this is what drained out -- exactly 8 ounces of whey, which contains riboflavin and lactic acids. Don't throw this away -- it's not a bad drink and is healthy. I use it to wash down my vitamins, or add a little sweetener and just guzzle it.
The resulting yogurt doesn't last very long around here -- which is why I've begun starting with a half gallon of milk. The first batch, one quart, didn't last long at all. Remember to save out enough of your batch to use as a starter for your next batch. Supposedly -- and so far my experience confirms -- it just gets better as the starter gets older.
Lots of steps here -- but really, there's not much work involved. Most of the time is spent fermenting, cooling, and draining -- no action on your part required here. Mother Nature does it all. Enjoy!
Ingredients for above batch
1/2 gallon milk
4 tbsp starter, admittedly for me these are heaping tbsp of my drained, thick yogurt which no doubt has a concentrated number of those lovely bacteria.
A work in progress
4 months ago