Sunday, July 3, 2011

Our homemade yogurt adventure

So, I already mentioned in my bulk food post that making our own yogurt is a lot cheaper than buying it from the store. We were buying 32oz of plain (no sugar) full fat yogurt for $3 on sale and $4 not on sale. To get the most fat and what we consider the best nutrients for yogurt, we bought a half gallon of raw milk for $3.50 from a dairy farm in the next town over. That is 64oz of yogurt. Twice as much for about the same price. You could cut the price down even more if you just bought your milk from a store, but we are fine with the price of this raw milk when it is being used for yogurt. It is still quite the deal!

If you have never bought raw milk (or any milk) directly from a dairy farm like this one (if you want to know where we go, let me know and I'll tell you), I highly recommend it; it is an awesome experience. The first time I bought milk from this dairy farm, I called ahead of time and the farmer said I could come right down so he could show me where to buy the milk. When I pulled up, I walked in the barn to meet him and he popped out from behind a cow. Awesome! He was very friendly and I really appreciated being able to meet him and actually walk into the barn that my milk was coming from. Now any time I want milk, I just walk in the barn, put cash in a jar and take milk out of the refrigerator. An honor system!

So with this last purchase of raw milk, we made our first batch of yogurt. Joel says it is better than the store bought kind (Stonyfield). Because I have read that making yogurt with raw milk can result in a thinner yogurt, I was excited to find the post, Four Secrets to Thick, Creamy Yogurt Every Time on Passionate Homemaking. I figured it still might be thinner, but every little bit of advice helps! I recommend looking to her post for her tips and recipe, but here is the short of how to make it (with our pictures):

Put your half gallon of milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Slowly heat the milk on medium heat to 180 degrees or just until it boils.  Turn heat off and allow to cool to 120 degrees.

Putting the pot in a sink full of cold water helps speed up this process. If you don't want to use a thermometer, 120 degrees is just about when you can hold your finger in the milk without burning it.

When the milk reaches this point, remove one cup to another small bowl and swirl in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (or starter). It is recommended to swirl, not stir, because over beating the starter can result in runny yogurt. Add the milk and starter back to the big pot of milk and swirl it all together.

Joel found me this nice pot in a metal dumpster at work.
I love it because it is tall enough so that all the jars fit down
inside and just big enough to fit four. Talk about perfect!

Pour the mix into four 16oz jars and place in tall pot with warm tap water up to the rim of the jars. (Having some yogurt chunks show up as you are pouring is normal and apparently how you know you did it right. Just try to divide them among the containers if possible.)

You might have to replace the water a few times to try to keep it warm enough. I still need to experiment with this.

After 10-18, remove the jars and refrigerate.

Here is the finished product. I took mine out of the water at about 15 hours.

The yogurt tastes great and Joel wants me to make granola so that he can have them together instead of just using this for Noah. It wasn't as thick as I would have like it, but I have several thoughts on why that might be. I'll tell you them so that maybe you can benefit or so that you can give me some advice or hints if you have done this before.
  • I have read that some people skim the cream off the raw milk before making yogurt, and some like to keep it in the yogurt. We chose to keep the cream because it has so much good fat for Noah (whole milk from the store has about 4% milkfat and raw milk can have up to 20% if you drink it straight with the cream mixed in). I'm wondering if keeping the cream may have hindered the process a little. I have read several people's post about their raw milk yogurt and how they accept that it will just always be thin. 
  • Another possibility is that I didn't keep it warm enough long enough. We don't have a stove light, so the common suggestion of putting the the jars in the stove with the light on wouldn't work. This post that I used to make the yogurt suggested putting the jars in the warm water bath, but I left it overnight and by morning the water was just lukewarm.
Regardless of thickness, this was totally worth it. The yogurt tastes great and Noah chugged it down this morning. His morning meal is plain yogurt mixed with applesauce and oatmeal. Yum! I'll let you know how the next batch turns out and if I figure something out.

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