Saturday, 25 October 2008

Against all odds, I made yogurt!

Ever since I tried my hand at lactofermentation by making some kimchi, I've been wanting to try making yogurt. The yogurt I buy in the store just doesn't taste the same as I remember when I was younger: it has a shallow taste, it's not very creamy, and it seems frothed or whipped or something.

I know other people have made yogurt, but the instructions I've read all make it seem like such an ordeal. I mentioned this to one of my colleages at work, and she said that her mother used to just let the mixture of the milk and starter yogurt sit on the counter overnight - this sounded more like my kind of method!

So, last night I added my little plastic container of plain starter yogurt to about two cups of milk. I put the mixture in my little stainless steel kettle (that I bought for 50 cents at a garage sale!), set it on the counter, and went to bed.

This morning, the mixture was, well...a mixture of milk and yogurt. Time to go to Plan B. First I had to find a Plan B though. Eventually, after doing some internet searching I found what seemed like a relatively easy method. And then I modified it - a little on purpose and a little by accident.

I heated the mixture up on the stove top until it was 43C/109F. Later, I read in the instructions a little further down that it should have been heated to 200F first. But I didn't read that until I had already put the container into the pre-heated oven to let it incubate, as per "Method A" in the instructions. Apparently one is supposed to keep track of the oven temperature and keep it at 100F by turning the oven on and off as necessary. But, when I went looking for my oven thermometre I couldn't find it. So I just turned the oven on and off as I saw fit.

After about an hour of this I wanted to see what was happening. I tried taking the lid off of the container and the glass and metal lid insert promptly came apart and fell into the pre-yogurt! I fished it out of there with a fork, put some tin foil on lid instead, and put the whole thing back in the oven. The mixture was thickening nicely, so dropping the lid parts in there was kind of disappointing.

After another hour, I decided that the yogurt was not likely to be fit for human consumption, and also I wanted to bake some bran muffins, and I needed the oven for that. So in a moment of creativity, or desperation or something I heated up my two wheat-filled heating pads in the microwave and nestled the little kettle full of pre-yogurt in between them, right in the microwave itself. And I let it sit like that for another two hours.

Then the moment arrived: I took the tin foil-covered lid off without further incident, and lo and behold, there was yogurt! There was also some liquid whey or something, but I just poured that off since I wanted thicker yogurt anyway. I tasted the yogurt and it was good! A little tart but not too much. And then I made my favorite thing with the yogurt -- tzatziki! And in a little while, I will enjoy a delicious dinner of tzatsiki and pita bread. Mmm...that all turned out ok.

(And for anyone wondering about the kimchi - after two weeks it smells and tastes quite spicy and pungent, but it is still very, very salty. I'm not quite sure how it is supposed to taste, so for now I'm just leaving it ferment for a while longer....)


SoapBoxTech said...

After all that, I am glad to hear it worked out. And I did not know, before, that tzatsiki was made from yogurt. Seems like maybe I like yogurt for something after all.


Heather @ SGF said...

Good for you! I was excited the first time I made yogurt too. You'll be a pro before you know it :)

Theresa said...

Soapbox, me too! The tzatsiki I make is a delicious mixture of yogurt, grated cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a little salt - delicious! I got the recipe out of a Frugal Gourmet cookbook many years ago and it has become one of my favorites.

Thanks Heather - I think I should definitely be able to streamline the process somewhat next time! And now I can make it as thick as I want it and in whatever size batch I want too, instead of having to buy a huge tub of 'baltic style' yogurt at the store and having part of it spoil if I forget about it in the fridge. This two cup amount is just perfect for a couple day's worth of tzatsiki.

Jesse said...

And if you want it really thick and creamy, then you can dollop it into a couple of coffee filters (one inside the other) in a sieve and hang it over a bowl to let more whey drip out for an hour or two.

I'm enjoying your blog very much.

Theresa said...

Ah! Coffee filters! That is a great idea - thanks Jesse. And thanks also for stopping by and taking the time to comment :)

Green Bean said...

Woohooo!!! You did it! That's so awesome. I have to admit that it took me like 5 times before I could actually make edible yogurt.

Apple Jack Creek said...

Hey Theresa, I just made yogourt the other day from our fresh milk! Must be yogourt week in Alberta. :)

We have a gas oven with a pilot light, and inside it is the perfect temperature for yogourt making. I just put milk with a dollop of existing yogourt in a jar, put the lid on, and set it in the oven overnight ... and in the morning, voila, yogourt! I was most impressed.

You could try the overnight thing with the wheat bags again, inside the microwave: just heat the wheat bags, then nestle the pre-yogourt in them *inside* the microwave. The insulated box will help keep the warmth going longer. If, in the morning, it's still not yogourty enough, just reheat the wheat bags & leave it a bit longer.

I need to try making tzatziki - I love that stuff!

Theresa said...

Green Bean - no one was more suprised than me that it was actually edible, let alone tasty!

Apple Jack - I like how you think! I will give that method a try. I have eaten all of this batch already, so I will have to pick up another small container of plain yogurt the next time I'm at the grocery store....

Hmm...I sense a tzatsiki post coming up....

Gord H. said...

okay, theresa, you've got me thinking about making yogurt, so while i wait for my latest batch of brew to mature i'll try to find the easiest way possible.

thanks for the inspiration.


gord h.

Theresa said...

Gord, if you can make beer, you can make yogurt! Of that I am certain :)