Sunday, 13 April 2014

Adventures in homemade yoghurt

Over the last several weeks I've been experimenting with making yoghurt in a desire to satisfy my dairy cravings in a healthy manner.

I was inspired by the extremely straightforward recipe for doing so in the Nourishing Traditions recipe book which basically tells you to

  • Heat a litre of milk to 180f
  • Let it cool to 110f
  • Gently stir in about half a cup of existing yoghurt to use as a starter
  • Cover and let it sit somewhere warm overnight
  • Refrigerate and enjoy
After a quick trip to the housewares shop to buy a thermometer I gave it a go using pasteurised but non-homogenised whole milk and greek yoghurt that we had in the fridge.  

I was a bit unsure about where to leave it that would be warm enough.  I remember my mother keeping yoghurt in the hot water cupboard, but we don't have one.  After heating the milk in a saucepan and stirring in the culture, I ended up transferring it into a lidded casserole dish which I left in the oven to get warm while I pre-heated the oven to about 100C.  I then turned the oven off but left the casserole dish in overnight for the yoghurt to stay warm.

It worked okay and I thought the result was pretty good for my first try, although I seemed to make a lot of dishes. 

Homemade yoghurt is somewhat runnier than commercial yoghurt and Mr Duncan likes his yoghurt thick and creamy so I drained it in a cheesecloth-lined sieve, reserving the whey for use in other things.

Straining the yoghurt to get the whey

So far so good.

So then I tried making a second batch of yoghurt using some of my first batch as the starter.

This time I heated (and cooled) the milk in the casserole dish and put the lot in the preheated oven but the resulting "yoghurt" was too thin and drained right through the sieve/cheesecloth!

Unmitigated disaster.

I ended up churning it in the ice-cream maker with the mushed up fruit and juice of half a tin of peaches and a bit of cream, which was worthwhile.

Peach yoghurt ice-cream

I had no idea if the failure to thicken was to do with the relative thinness of the starter or if the yoghurt simply wasn't warm for long enough for the cultures to grow so I turned to Google for help.

My new way of making yoghurt follows this tutorial.

I like that the yoghurt is made in the jars it will be stored in and that there are fewer dishes.

Heating the milk
I leave the yoghurt to culture in a homemade haybox overnight.  The longer it sits, the more tangy it tastes and the more lactose is consumed by the bacteria, but if you leave it too long run the risk of the bacteria running out of lactose and dying off.  Which still makes for tangy tasting yoghurt, but without the benefit of live cultures.

My 'haybox'

My first batch made using the new method turned out nice and thick, so thick I didn't think it would drain well through the sieve and I upturned the jar over my bamboo steamer.
A straining mistake
A good plan in theory but in practice all of the whey floated to the top of the yoghurt I was trying to drain.  Then, when I tried angling the jar a little to allow some air for the whey to drain through, the weight of the lid overbalanced the whole shebang and I had yoghurt everywhere.  Gah!

I've now bought a much finer strainer as recommended at Salad In a Jar which I'll use to strain tonight's batch.

To be honest, the quality and price of yoghurt where we live in Australia doesn't really merit the effort to make my own.  It costs about $6.00 for 1 kg of good quality probiotic yoghurt (we like the Jalna and Bornhoffen brands) and nearly $6.00 for the two litres of milk I need to make that much greek-style yoghurt.  It doesn't taste any better although I do like knowing that its made with fresh, local, whole milk.

So why continue to make my own?

I have developed a taste for Fruit Kvass which I will write about in my next post...

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