A little while ago I posted my recipe for granola and all the reasons I prefer something else for breakfast over cereal. Basically it comes down to health and bang for your buck. Most cereals are not very filling. Whereas a bowl of yoghurt and granola will keep you going for while. Personally, I make my yoghurt unsweetened. We have lots of jam preserves so people can flavor as they wish. And I’ve been enjoying experimenting all the ways I can use it. Everything from muffins to mixing it up with some balsamic and sundried tomatoes as a “mayo” for a steak sandwich. I’ve also used it as a cream for butter chicken.
The idea of making yoghurt used to intimidate me quite a bit. Any time you’re talking about heating and semi-fermenting milk products, well… it can get scary. What we’re doing is trying to grow good bacteria. But of course you can’t just tell the bacteria that you only want the good ones to grow. So, it made me nervous for a while. What I have come to discover is that yoghurt is actually fairly forgiving. I’ve accidentally heated it to 200F, even 210Fish and quickly stirred it down, lowered the heat and it still set properly. It can incubate for 5 hours, it can incubate for 9. I’ve left it going all night and I’m sure delayed putting it into the fridge for a bit. The measurements I use are rough estimates. And it always seems to turn out just fine!
Cost-wise, homemade is a lot cheaper than store bought. I use whole milk, which here in Canada is about $5/gallon. And use about 1/2 gallon to make roughly 7 cups of yoghurt. A good quality brand at my local store is about $10+ for the same amount. Plus you have the benefit of homemade, which is worth a lot in my opinion. The time investment isn’t too bad, although you will want to be near the stove as it heats and holds to maintain the temperature. The more I’ve been making it the more I’m able to set my stove exactly right and it requires less and less fiddling to keep it in that 170-180F sweet spot. Nowadays I’ve gotten it down where I can make a batch of yoghurt and a batch of granola at the same time. Sometimes if I’m feeling really ambitious I can add in some bread as well!
There are methods to make it that don’t involve a yoghurt maker, but I’ve never tried them. This method is what I use with my Euro Cuisine incubator, and I have to say, I -love- it.
It came with little jars, which I do sometimes use. But more often lately I make it in a large pyrex. I prefer quite thick yoghurt (Greek style), and so after incubating I pour through a muslin/cheesecloth to drain some of the whey before storing in a hermetic jar in the fridge. That step is extra, you can make perfectly good tasty yoghurt without it) and just something I personally prefer.
Another method regarding thick yoghurt, more in the commercial style, involves letting the yoghurt simmer at 170-180 for 20-30 minutes. There are many other methods to increase the thickness of the finished product, but having tried several of them, it’s the only one that consistently works for me. Again, this step isn’t entirely necessary and is just something that I personally do because that’s how I like it!
The longer you let it incubate for (mine has a little timer dial on the front) the more tart and thick it will be. Also, the less lactose the yoghurt will contain. As someone who is lactose intolerant, I tend to go for quite long incubation times, 8-9 hrs typically. But it can vary person to person, to play around with how tart and thick you like yours.
Regarding the milk and starter yoghurt:
There’s a lot of debate about raw vs pasteurized, etc that I won’t get into here. Don’t use ULTRA High Pasteurized (UHP) because you won’t have quite the same results. It’s been heated so high already that the process won’t work. The brand of milk I use is Dairyland and I haven’t had a problem with it. But just check your labels, sometimes it’s called UHT (ultra high temp).
As for the starter yoghurt. We use it to give the milk an inoculation of good/healthy bacteria so it cultures the way we want. You can lose leftover yoghurt from a previous batch as the starter, or buy a small amount of commercially prepared. Just make sure it is unsweetened/unflavored, and contains live bacteria cultures. Astro Balkan style is my personal favorite.