However, I have never been cutting-edge trendy. Except maybe for the 6 weeks in 7th grade when I had that hairstyle with a rattail. And then I just looked dorky.
Dude, it was 7th grade. And no, I am not going to post a picture.
Trendy or no, I do make yogurt. I eat it for breakfast most mornings, +/- granola or fruit. I use it in breads, cooking, baking, have it for dessert smothered in honey or maple syrup.
I eat a lot of it. I make a lot of it.
I have tried just about every possible way to make it, with probiotic starters, every brand of plain yogurt ever made, all kinds of dairy. Honestly? None of them were really great.
You see, I'm a little particular about what I shove in my gob first thing in the morning. I don't like watery yogurt. I don't like bitter or sour yogurt. I don't even like overly tangy yogurt. I don't like thin yogurt. Perversely, I also don't like really thick and sticky yogurt. It sounds whiney, but really, I am not looking for a challenging eat at that hour of the morning.
Sometimes, knowing what you don't like is the best way to get to where you're happy. And this last batch of yogurt, probably the hundred-ish-something-one I've made?
This one was just right.
You don't need a fancy yogurt maker. Frankly, I think the yogurt comes out better without the yogurt maker, and I've spent the last few years using an individual serving cup machine.
The trick, I think, is in the milk. Whole milk.
I'll wait while you compose yourself.
I have found that whole milk makes a better textured yogurt - it has some body, because all the goodness hasn't been strained, sieved, extracted or whatever they do to get to skim. It tastes better because the sweet and creamy is carried by the little bit of fat. It makes a yogurt that leaves me feeling more full and satisfied, which means I need to eat less, and am less grumpy when I miss out on that giant ball of hunger that shows up 2 hours after breakfast otherwise. It helps deliver fat-soluble vitamins like D, A and E, which help calcium absorption. It's good for me, and for you.
And a high-calcium diet may help lower fat intake, so it's kinda like it cancels itself out, right? Just like all the calories fall out of broken cookies. (Betcha didn't know that, did ya?)
My other secret ingredient is milk powder. I add just a little to give more body to the yogurt (remember up there, the watery yogurt issue?). And the last secret is selecting the right starter to make it sweet and tangy with narry a hint of bitterness. The only yogurt that works for me is Fage. I have tried dozens, and even if they taste fine from the pot, whatever little bacteria cultures are in there multiply into something that's just too tart for me. I only need to buy a small container (7 ounces) at the store to use as a starter every three or 4 batches, and I only buy a new starter when my own batch starts tasting a little funky, meaning the sweet and fresh cultures are turning bitter.
I did the math, and the difference in price for a year of homemade yogurt versus store bought, 6 ounce containers is like $300. Dude, that's a lot of shoes. Plus way better yogurt. A total win, in my book.
The recipe makes 10 cups of yogurt, which seems like a lot, but it makes the quantities super-simple, and it stores in the fridge for up to two weeks. With this on hand, you will find yourself using it a lot, in everything from cooking to baking to just plain eating.
My new favorite way to eat yogurt right now? With a few spoonfulls of some slightly runny homemade strawberry preserves folded in, showing off the luscious red and white streaks, with the unexpected sweet summery burst of strawberry chunks as you eat it. What a fantastic way to start the day!
Takes about 25 minutes of actual work and a further 12 hours of waiting. Makes 10 cups.
You will need clean, sterilized glass containers to hold 10 cups (I use 2-cup jam jars), a heavy pot, a thermometer, a baking sheet and dish towel.
1 gallon organic whole milk
7 ounces plain whole milk yogurt, purchased from store or reserved from a previous batch of homemade yogurt
1/2 cup organic milk powder
First, turn your oven on to 180 F, and as soon as it hits temperature, turn it off again. Put the kitchen towel on the baking sheet, and put the jars on the towel. Put this in the over and turn the oven light on. This will help maintain heat for the 12-hour culturing period.
Pour the milk into the pot and warm it up to 185 F, just as it starts to bubble but before it starts to boil. Let it cool to 100 to 110 F. I pour the hot milk into a new, cold cast-iron pot to start off fast, then whisk and check every 10 minutes. It usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes. If it forms a skin, I whisk it back in.
Don't proceed if the temperature is above 120 F, or below 90 F, or you will have a yogurt fail.
When the milk hits temperature, get the baking tray with glass containers out of the oven. The oven temp should be warm but not hot. Stick your hand in and check - if it's a nice early summer day in there, you're good. If it's an August scorcher, leave the door open a little to cool off.
Add the yogurt and milk powder to the milk and whisk until it is smooth.
The glass containers should be a little warm, but not hot to the touch. Pour the milk-milk powder-yogurt mixture in, dividing equally and leaving a little clearance at the top so you don't slosh.
Now, the hard part. Close the oven door and leave it closed for 10 to 12 hours. Leave the oven light on during this time to provide a little bit of warmth to keep the culture going. I do this overnight, so I am not tempted to peek into the oven and release that precious heat every time I walk past.
When done, cover and store in the refrigerator.
The texture firms up a little more when completely cold, but it is quite good for breakfast first thing the next morning still slightly warm.