Before I began making yogurt, I read all I could about it. I wanted to know about the science behind the process and I checked out several “How To’s” on making yogurt without a machine. I would like to share some of what I’ve learned. I plan to break it down into several posts, otherwise I would probably lose you before I got down to the instructions on how to make your own yogurt.
In this first installment, I want to cover reasons why I make yogurt and why I do so without a Yogurt Maker.
What is it that prompted me to make yogurt? To some people, I guess it might seem a bit crazy, a little over the top. Why go to the bother of making your own yogurt, when there are so many varieties that are readily available on store shelves. Commercially prepared brands that advertise they are good for you with their “probiotic added”.
The answer to what prompted me to start making yogurt is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is, I view food differently these days. I’ve experienced a shift in my beliefs about food in general. March 1st, 2012, marked the first anniversary of my having been Gluten Free. I think that making yogurt shows a strong belief in myself and in my ability to achieve wellness through natural, wholesome, nourishing foods, and not through various supplements and pills.
The more complicated answer includes each level of wellness that I have hit this past year. I think I have a better understanding of what is being “fed” to us when it comes to commercially produced food. One step after the other has brought me a point in my Wellness Journey where I can see past the flashy labels that try to convince me that “probiotic added” is what makes one commercial yogurt superior to another. Is that flashy label not a cover for the fact that a natural health food, was altered to the point where they have to “add” the probiotic back in? How many of those added probiotic survive the trip to the store shelves? There’s nothing on those labels telling you that the healthy probiotic die when exposed to temperatures over 130 F. Nothing telling you the good bacteria naturally start to die off once they run out of protein to feed on.
The yogurt you buy at the supermarket may have a best before date that’s a month away and it might taste okay but after spending a few weeks on the shelf, the nourishment will have been long gone before you even get it home.
Another consideration for me, is the added sweeteners. As someone who does battle with an insatiable sweet tooth, its best not to get me started about the highly refined sweeteners that we are constantly bombarded with in commercially produced foods these days! Don’t believe its all that bad? Just take a walk down the cereal isle at your local supermarket. Original Cheerios contain only one gram of sugar per serving, the other flavoured varieties contain between six and 11 grams of sugar. I mean come on, do our kids really need chocolate flavoured Cheerios for breakfast?
Some commercial brands of yogurt can contain more than 30 grams of sugar per serving. That is as much if not more than some soft drinks or soda pops. Why so much? It’s strictly a matter of taste. Lactose can account for up to 12 grams of sugar in plain yogurt and then they add flavouring. I find it disturbing that many of the flavoured brands, sweetened with fruit concentrate or high fructose corn syrup are marketed for kids. Also disturbing, was to learn that the yogurt that often has highest sugar content, are low-fat or fat-free. Why? Taste. After all, sugar is fat-free!
Oh no, I knew I shouldn’t get started on a discussion about highly refined sugars being added to our “health food”. It’s only after a hospitalization at the beginning of the year that I began to realize what an incredibly negative impact sweeteners can have on our health. It’s a sensitive subject for me.
If you’re not going to make your own yogurt, I strongly suggest you read the nutrition information on the labels before you buy your favourite brand.
Sensitivities aside, the fact is, once I tasted the yummy creaminess of my own fresh homemade yogurt and I discovered how frugal and easy it was to make, I was hooked. In addition to being nutritious, full of proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and good fats, homemade yogurt tastes surprisingly better than commercial brands, even when you eat it plain without any added flavours or sweeteners. In our household, I use it in place of sour cream and have even used it in place of cream cheese in a few recipes.
There is satisfaction in making something from scratch and I like having total control over the ingredients. I like a thick Greek style yogurt, so I use milk or cream with a higher milk fat content. I don’t need any of the artificial thickeners you find in commercial yogurt. After a bit of trial and error, the starter I settled on was a plain organic yogurt. One that doesn’t have any extra added ingredients. I control the environment and length of time I allow the yogurt to process. I always make sure my equipment has been sanitized and I allow my yogurt to incubate for a full 24 hours, as recommended for the SCD Diet. In comparison, commercial yogurt is generally only fermented for about 4 hours.
Once you’ve worked out a system, making your own yogurt, even without a machine is pretty darned easy! It took me a few try’s before I felt comfortable enough to set it and forget it but that is basically what I do now.
Even if you have a yogurt making machine, you have to scald the milk first. Now scalding the milk is pretty basic. Pour the milk into a heavy bottom pot and heat it to at least 180°F, which is almost a soft boiling point. I found out the hard way that a heavy bottom pot is essential. When I scalded the milk in one of my old thin bottom pots, the milk stuck to the bottom of the pan. It left a very thick film on the bottom and the milk had a slight burnt smell.
If I’m going to continue to make yogurt, why don’t I get a machine? Well, around here, most Yogurt machines cost $50 and up. There are machines that come with six or seven little jars but I ruled them out because of the volume of yogurt I make. At up to 3 liters per week, I would be making yogurt every other day. I saw one Yogurt maker online that came with an extra tall lid so you could put quart sized jars in it. I ruled that one out because I couldn’t find a Canadian supplier and customer reviews on Amazon.com said that the heat was too high. At above 130°F, the good probiotic bacteria die off, leaving you with yogurt that may taste alright but is lacking in good bacteria.
The Yogurt machine I came the closest to buying, was one that came with a 2 quart container or tub. I liked that one, because I wouldn’t have to fuss with a bunch of little jars. I could make a good sized batch of yogurt each time. At a cost of almost $70 I figured I would wait for the Yogurt machine to go on sale but by the time it did, I had already worked out a system using a heating pad and towels. I was comfortable enough to basically set it and forget it. Spending that kind of money on a single use appliance just didn’t make sense to me anymore.
Look at my silly cat! In one of my early yogurt making attempts, I left my set up unattended for a few minutes and came back to find my cat Ben “helping” me make yogurt. Apparently, a heating pad, plus towels and warm jars of yogurt, equals the perfect cat bed.
With that image, I will leave you to contemplate whether you would like to try your hand at making yogurt. I will be back in a day or two with the next installment in this series.
Recipes with homemade yogurt:
- Caramelized French Onion Dip
- Creamy Potato Salad w/ Surprise Ingredient
- Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
- GF Chicken Enchiladas With Green Chile White Sauce
For a text listing of my gluten free recipes, click here.
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