26 September 2011

Yogurt, My Final Word

I've been asked about my yogurt process lots of times since my series about what I learned in my yogurt journey. I usually send people a link to a Google search of my blog and 'yogurt'. But last night, a good friend said that she always does better if she can see the process, so here it is, all pulled together into one post and with pictures!

This makes a gallon of yogurt (unstrained). I'll include variations throughout.

We start by pouring a gallon of half-n-half or heavy cream (when it's on sale) into the crockpot, set on low.

If we've forgotten to pull our starter (in this case, a small jar from our last batch that was put into the freezer) out the night before to thaw in the fridge, we place the frozen jar next to the hot crockpot to defrost.

Once the half-n-half/cream reaches between 112˚ and 120˚ (about an hour and 20 minutes for us, but your mileage may vary), we fill empty, clean jars with hot tap water to warm up (like filling a teapot with boiling water to warm up before actually making tea with a fresh infilling of boiling water and tea). While the jars warm up...

...ladle some of the hot cream/half-n-half into a measuring cup or a deep bowl.

Pour in the thawed starter.

If the starter is still very cold, the cream can be on the higher side of the temperature range. If using Yogourmet starter (one envelope works great for a gallon of yogurt; I've seen recipes that call for four envelopes for a half-gallon of yogurt -- what a waste!), store-bought, plain yogurt, or we did remember to thaw our frozen started the night before, we aim for the lower side of the temperature range.

I'd like to try a cup of plain, store-bought Greek yogurt as a starter, as I've heard it has more kinds of cultures.

Once the starter thaws, it gets thin and runny, but never fear. The cultures are fine and the yogurt should thicken without a problem. If it doesn't, it's not because of the frozen and thawed cultures. Freezing it keeps it fresher longer and you'll be able to get more batches out of each starter before it goes sour, saving money.

Whip it up until there are no lumps.

Pour back into the crockpot.

If you want to add flavoring, it can go in now. I keep ours plain so we can each flavor it individually or I can use it in Silky Buttery Chicken to marinate the meat (see the link below!).

Fill the warmed and dried jars with the cream/half-n-half and cultures mixture and put the lids on. Don't forget to wash, warm, and re-fill your starter jar!

You could probably add different flavors to each jar.

Put them under a thick bath towel or two on the counter to culture.

I used to use four quart jars plus the small jar, but we've been using our quart jars for so many other things lately that I'm running out. Once we replenish our supply, I'll go back to the four quart jars. They fit into our fridge better and my husband takes one to work for snacks there. They also hold the heat better, but the yogurt still comes out thick, even in plastic containers.

After four or five hours, it's nice and thick. Into the fridge it goes to chill.

If it hasn't thickened up after that amount of time, I'll put a heating pad under the jars under the towel and turn it on low or medium for 20 minutes to a half hour. That always seems to do the trick.

This is a good time to strain it for thicker, more Greek-like yogurt. I'm out of cheese cloth now, but want to try this in the near future. I'll try to strain it overnight in the fridge to get out all the whey.

Here it is! Nice and thick and creamy, topped with fresh blueberries.

Since I'm not baking anymore, I've been throwing the whey away, but now that I'm trying some low-carb baking, I may save it and experiment with the new recipes.


24 September 2011

Food Frustrations

One of the big changes that's taken place since I was posting more regularly is that we've gone low-carb. I've eliminated grains, and cut way down on starches and sugar. (A couple of book reviews coming up! And, no, this won't become a low-carb blog.)

I'm feeling so much better than I have in a long, long time. The volcanic acid reflux that was waking me up three or four nights each week disappeared with the grains. My wrist soreness is gone (I had a couple of weird lumps on the insides of my wrists that doctors had no ideas about and was experiencing severe pain when I typed - not so good when one has a deadline and lots of computer work to do to meet said deadline!), and my digestion is greatly improved. I have more energy and it's much easier to stop eating when I'm full (something that was nearly impossible when I was eating grains, wheat to be specific). I haven't had any incidents of hypoglycemia at all. If it's 'time to eat' and there's nothing appropriate around, it's no problem to simply wait until a more opportune moment. I've also found that my previously-thought-untameable sweet tooth has learned to heel - no more cravings for sweets. Even dark chocolates haven't been as appealing as of late.

For the most part, we're eating meat, a good amount of healthy fats, eggs (our newest batch of chickens is beginning to lay!), lots of veggies and salads with feta and olive oil and balsamic vinegar as dressing. Snacks consist of fruit (mostly berries, so far) and almonds (yum!). I'm drinking raw milk, just a little at a time a few times each week, some tea and cold-brewed coffee with a little turbinado and heavy cream, and lots of water. I also splurge every once in awhile with hard cranberry lemonade, hard cider (there's a wonderful, light, hard cider served at our local Irish Pub), or a glass of wine. I'm working to keep fresh bone broth (chicken or beef) on hand, especially when the weather cools down and I'd like something that isn't sweet to warm me up. I wish we could afford more pasture-raised meats, but with the size family we have, that's just not in the cards right now. So we focus on pastured butter

I've started trying to experiment with coconut and almond flours, but I'm not doing too well with them! I've come to the conclusion that it's better not to try to eat low-carb versions of high-carb foods for a couple of reasons. First, low-carb versions of high-carb foods that are processed foods include lots of starches to work toward the same textures. The starches, however, raise blood sugar levels too high for me with my weight-loss goals. Second, the low-carb varieties never taste as good as the real thing and they remind me how much I miss the real thing. This sets up psychological cravings, mostly for bread. (I love bread, but it doesn't love me back!)

But, my family (also doing better with no grains) does appreciate my efforts at the variety, so I'll keep trying. The problem is that I know how wheat flour behaves and how to make it do what I want. I need to find a way to learn how coconut flour and almond meal (and other nut flours and meals) work so I can not only follow others' recipes, but play around with them myself.

More on this as time goes on!


22 September 2011

I'm Back!

Yes, I know it's been forever since I've posted, but I've finally gotten through a few projects and my health is improving, which means I have more energy and more brain cells to devote to writing. I'm eager to begin again.

King's Meadow's American Culture should be shipping soon! I'll be working on Antiquity, but should be able to spread the work out over a longer period, which is good for the whole family's sanity.

I've got several books to review, results of a few kitchen experiments to report on, and some other thoughts to work through in the next few months.

Today's post is short because I'm working on posting some of the kids' first composition assignments and have a house to declutter!