As part of my never-ending quest for healthy, yummy, easy food, I have been making yogurt again. Way easier and less time-consuming than bread. Or even power bars! I've been wanting to gather all my randomly gathered info into one place, hence this Most(ly) Thorough Guide.
Ok, here we go! Before you start, make sure your hands and tools are very clean, and VERY well rinsed after any soap contact. If you lick your finger, wash it. If you lick the spoon, get a fresh one. Your saliva breaks down the bacteria we're using here to yogue our yogurt. No saliva contact!
Read this entire post, plus maybe spend an hour googling before you start. Wrap your mind around the process and you'll save yourself a lot of grief.
BTW: dairy yogurt is much easier and more forgiving to make than non-dairy. Yogurt is one of the few dairy products I would choose to eat even if I could. A main caveat for dairy yogurt: do NOT use ultra-pasteurized milk! (I.e. the crappy 'organic' milk at your big-box and possibly regular grocery store is probably going to be ultra-pateurized. Read labels!)
You have 2 options for starting your dairy-free yogurt:
1- buy a small cup of plain, additive-free greek yogurt (jar/ cup should and must say "live, active cultures" on the label) from the store (very little actual casein or lactose will remain at the end of the culturing process, so if your sensitivity is not extreme, this should work ok. If your allergy is extreme, use option 2 below.)
2- purchase a non-dairy yogurt starter. Cultures for Health (google them, my links are YES still down?) sells one for a very good price.
The batches I've been making use greek yogurt as the inoculator. The kids are fine with it, but I'm having digestive issues, so I'm going to be ordering from Cultures for Health later this week.
Why greek yogurt? Greek yogurt will produce a thicker yogurt than regular yogurt. Non-dairy yogurts tend to be thin, so anything that helps to thicken it is good.
On to the milk: you can use soy or coconut milk for best results. Rice and almond will not get very thick, but would be fine for using in smoothies. I have the best luck with soy milk that has coconut oil added. (1-4 ounces per quart). Fat increases the thickness, creaminess, and overall deliciousness of any yogurt. You could also do a can of coconut milk and 3c soy milk. Soy yogurt can get quite sour in an unpleasant way. Coconut milk gets tangy in a good way, but if left to long will also get sour. My perfect combo is the soy with coconut oil added. Can't beat protein and good fat combined!
ALSO: don't add honey to your milk. Honey is antibacterial and can interfere with the bacterial action. It is best and most reliable to add nothing to your milk. But I do sometimes add stevia and/ or a drizzle of agave or a Spoon of maple sugar. Again, for most reliable results, culture your milk plain and sweeten or flavor afterwards!
A word on soy: unfermented soy can interfere with thyroid function. I have a pretty serious thyroid problem. Unfortunately soy is the only milk sub with the same high protein content. But turn your soy into yogurt and bypass the issue! (See Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition by Marilyn Shannon.) Perfect for a dairy-free pregnancy.
Preheat your milk. This really helps! Use a non-stick pan for sanity's sake. Bring milk to a low boil and hold it there for up to 1/2 hour. The longer you heat, the thicker the yogurt. Cool your pan first,
Let milk cool to 110 degrees. You can use a thermometer, but mine broke many months ago, so somewhere I read that 110 degrees is when you can just barely hold your finger in the milk.
Did you lick your finger? I did. Wash 'em up!
Once your milk is at the right temperature, it is important to work quickly. Remove 1 Tablespoon per pint into a glass and add 1 teaspoon of room temperature yogurt and whisk well. Reincorporate into the milk by stirring well.
Why so little yogurt? I've seen recommendations for up to 1 Tablespoon of yogurt per quart of milk, but adding too much inoculator (the term for your yogurt or prepackaged yogurt culture) will make your yogurt watery. The inoculator is bacteria that 'eats' your milk to produce yogurt. Each bacterium needs space to spread out and chow down. Crowding the bacteria prevents your yogurt from setting up well.
Now pour into your yogurt maker (lucky you) or into your preheated crockpot (then turn it off and wrap your crockpot in two big towels), or pour into a big jar and place in a preheated cooler (my current set-up).
That's it. Come back in 6 hours and check. It is congealed? If not, leave it another hour or 2. 8 hours is usually quite sufficient.
Today I did add some very hot water to my cooler after 6 hours because things had cooled down too much. A yogurt maker keeps things at a steady 110 degrees. But usually the crock pot or cooler method works fine. Don't check on the yogurt too often, too much jostling can ruin a batch and it will never thicken.
I do still want this yogurt maker, but for now, my Squincher is doing just fine. The auto shut-off is so enticing though!
Can you say "YUM!"???
Nice and thick.
Troubles? Try looking around at Cultures for Health. Lots of good info over there!
Also, remember that you might not get a really good gel every time. If your yogurt comes out thin, pour it in a cup and drink it. Fewer dishes to wash, anyway.
Happy culturing! Do let me know if you try yogue-ing with these directions.
"Remember, men need laughter sometimes more than food."
~Anna Fellows Johnston