Thursday, 1 March 2012

Homemade Greek Yogurt

When I started this journey, I thought I could already cook.  Maybe I wasn't a pastry chef, but I could follow a recipe.  I could take tomato sauce from a can and add seasonings to make it better.  I could make stew without a recipe.  I could make a decent yorkshire pudding once a year.  I didn't make my own pastry--it was a chore and you could buy it ready to go!  And I didn't make my own lazagna--it came from the store in a box and if you bought the good stuff, it tasted like homemade!!

Boy, was I wrong.  I've learned so much.  If you'd have told me a year ago that I would be making my own mayo, I'd have laughed at you (and said I preferred miracle whip).

Well, nothing drives the need to learn how to do something like not being able to find what you want in the store.  I keep reading Mark Sisson explaining how raw milk is ok, and plain full-fat yogurt is delicious and good for you.  It is?  Wouldn't know.  You can't find it here.  Sure, Greek Yogurt is all the rage, it's everywhere--in fat-free and 1%, in every flavour you could imagine--except plain and full-fat.  I found a 10% fat, organic yogurt at one grocery store, but no one else carries it so I HAVE to go there,  and its $10 a carton.  That just isn't right.  It isn't fair.  I wanted plain, full-fat yogurt so badly!  The good one I occasionally picked up at the grocery store was thick enough to cut with a butter knife.  It was mildly sour, but not sharp, and it tasted dreamy with a tiny drizzle of honey and a spoonful of homemade nut butter--or coconut creme and finely chopped cherries and a handful of pecans.  Oh, now I'm drooling about it.

So  on a whim, I thought I'd try to make my own; I googled how to make yogurt.  There's a lot of info on the internet about this.  There are crock-pot versions, slow-simmer versions, no-simmer versions, Greek versions, versions that use a heating blanket, an actual yogurt-making machine version...  A whole lot overwhelming, really.  I needed simple.  I needed to hear that you can't screw it up.  So i went to the local pro--my Indian co-worker.  As most Indians do, she makes just about everything from scratch, including her own yogurt (you should taste her samosas).  And she apologises if she didn't make it from scratch.  Here's what she said, loosely translated, and with real measurements added in because we like measurements, don't we?

You will need:
  • 1/2 gallon of milk--use regular, homo or organic, but not the super-filtered kind or it might not "ferment" right
  • 2-3 tbs yogurt as a "starter"--make sure it's fresh and that it has live, active cultures, it will say active on the ingredient list
  • candy thermometer, or some kind of thermometer--I used a meat thermometer and it was fine
  • large, heavy pot
  • large casserole dish
  • a clean towel
  • empty containers to put it in when done

You start with a big, heavy-bottomed pot--I used a dutch oven.  You could use a double-boiler, I'm told, but mine wasn't nearly big enough for a 1/2 gallon.  Measure out all but 2 tbs of the milk (set aside the 2 tbs--I'll get to that in a minute) into the big pot and heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches 180 degrees.  Try not to burn it.  In JP's version, she sais "j'you boil it first."  Say it with a thick Indian accent.  If you like to forget about it, you want to stick a thermometer into it.  And if you're too lazy to hold onto a thermometer, find some rubber bands!

While the milk is heating, mix the 2 tbs milk with the 2 tbs yogurt and let it sit on the counter going warm.  it's ok.  JP said "And then, not in the pot, j'you mix in a little yogurt".

So, no candy thermometer, but I have a mini-wisk??
 When the milk reaches 180 degrees, turn off the stove and very carefully pour the hot milk into a casserole dish.  Do not cover it!  Move the thermometer into the casserole dish and then just leave it alone until it cools to 110 degrees.  This is the hardest part--I kid you not.  Mine took about 45 minutes to cool that much.  Don't stir it, don't move it.  As JP tells it "J'you just leave it until it cools, j'you know?  Until it feels like your finger"  I think she meant it feels barely warm to the touch.  I love JP.  She rises at 4 am, every day, just to cook for her family.  And if you laugh at her accent, she will hit you.  Hard.
Alright, so once its cooled enough, remove any skin that has formed.  It won't be thick yet.  It will be warm milk, nothing more.  Wisk in the milk and yogurt mixture thoroughly.  Put the lid on the dish and wrap the whole thing up tightly with a bath towel.  Put the whole thing into the cold oven.  Some people think turning on the oven light will keep the oven a bit warmer.  But do not turn on the oven.  You can't possibly set the oven low enough.  Make sure the towel isn't touching the oven light if you're going to turn it on.  I didn't want to screw my yogurt up, so I turned mine on.  In hindsight, I might have a CFL bulb in there.  But it worked anyways.  JP said, "no light.  Wrap it tightly in a towel and stick it in the oven and go to sleep.  In the morning, put it in the fridge.  Warm yogurt does not taste good."  So leave it in the oven for around 8 hours.  If you leave it longer, it will get more sour as it sits in the warm oven.  Go to bed.  Forget about it.

In the morning, take your yogurt out and upwrap it, uncover it.  It will be thick now.  Mine was.  I like mine thick, so I spooned off the little bit of whey that rose to the surface.  Spoon the yogurt into clean, empty containers and refridgerate at least 2 hours.
You should be able to fill 2 large yogurt containers with the yogurt you just made.  It will thicken more after it cools.  This is the time to add stuff, if that's what you want to do.  But adding fruit will make it spoil faster.  This stuff should stay fresh for about 2 weeks.

After cooling, mine was already thick enough to stick to the spoon.  But I like greek yogurt, aka yogurt cheese.  So the fun continues...

So, to make yogurt cheese, you take 2 coffee filters and a rubber band, you suspend the coffee filter in a clean, empty dish, and spoon the yogurt into the coffee filter.  Over about 12 hours, the water/whey will drain out of the coffee filter and pool in the bottom of the dish, leaving dense, thick, tart yogurt cheese that is a bit thicker than room-temp butter.

Traditionally, the greeks ate their yogurt drizzled with honey and crumbled nuts, maybe a bit of chopped dates.  For a real treat, try it with honey and nut butters--I used PaleOMG's coco-cashew nutbutter.  It's awesome!

1 comment:

  1. Omg! I love you! thank you for taking the absolute fear out of this for me. I have always wanted to try this but was too chicken too try and decided it was just "too much work" but being Paleo and like you finding it hard to find appropriate product here in the area, this is so totally worth it! Enjoy!