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.