Yogourt, yogurt, yoghurt!

Nothing’s more nourishing than a bowlful of warm yogourt.  Yes, warm yogourt.  Fresh from the oven.  Where you incubated the yogourt.

There are many similarities between bread-baking and cheese-making:  in yogourt-making the similarities are most striking.  To make yogourt, yogourt culture is added to milk, much like yeast is added to bread dough.  The cultured milk is then allowed to ferment in a warm place, again just like rising dough, until the milk sets into yogourt.  And the home oven, which has given birth to many buns, is the perfect place to keep that milk warm.

You need yogourt to make yogourt.    The culture in the yogourt curd is added to fresh, warm milk, and there it comes to life.  In the warm, sweet, delicious milk, the culture transforms the lactose sugars into lactic acid.  As the acid levels rise to a certain threshold, the soured milk suddenly sets.  The milk has become yogourt.

Lactobacillus bacteria are what make this magic happen.  There are other bacteria that help make the yogourt set a luscious curd: laboratory-raised Streptococcus thermophilus (a close relative to strep) is the most commonly used.  Others are often added to improve the yogourt’s flavour, or its probiotic nature.

To get yogourt culture, simply buy some yogourt with live, active cultures at the corner grocer.   You can use this culture to start your first batch.  When you have some of your own homemade yogourt, you can use your own yogourt to start future batches.  Just keep a little bit of the yogourt as a mother culture in the refrigerator until you are ready to make more.

Here’s the simple method: ——————————————–

1. Warm the milk.

Heat a litre or more of milk in a pot to 110 degrees farenheight (42 degrees C).  You can use a thermometer to gauge the temperature, or try the sticking your finger in the hot milk measurement: if you can keep your finger there for ten seconds before pain sets in, the milk is at about the right temperature! This measurement is surprisingly objective: all human flesh burns at 115 degreesF and you will feel pain in much less than ten seconds when you submerge your finger in milk that is that hot.

2. Add yogourt culture and stir.

Add about a quarter cup of yogourt for every litre of milk you are using.  Smooth it out with a small amount of warmed milk before adding it to the pot.  Alternatively, you can use a prescribed amount of freeze-dried yogourt cultures available at cheese supply shops.  Stir the yogourt in well.

3. Incubate for 4 to 6 hours

Ladle or pour the cultured milk into a large jar or two, and close with a lid.  Place the jars in a warm spot and be sure they stay warm until the milk sets.  Here are some techniques that work to keep the jars warm:

find one that works for you!

A: Use a warm water bath: Place the yogourt jar in a BIG pot filled with hot water just at 110F. Be sure that the water stays hot by occasionally heating it on the stove.

B: Place the yogourt jar in an oven with the light on.  Be sure to place it right up next to the lightbulb so that the yogourt will absorb as much warmth as possible.

C: wrap the jar in blankets and leave it in a ray of sun for the day.  So long as the yogourt’s in the sun it will stay quite hot.

D: yogourt makers help to keep the temperature of the milk just right, but do you really need another kitchen appliance?

After 4 to six hours the milk will set into yogourt.  The time to set may vary from batch to batch depending on the freshness and activity of the yogourt culture, the amount of culture that you use, and the temperature you incubate the milk at.   When the yogourt is ready, keep it in the fridge to stop it from souring excessively.  Or, turn it into dream cheese!

Now to complicate things a little bit: ——————————–

Store-bought yogourt cultures are challenging to keep at home.  Many home yogourt makers find that if they keep their own yogourt to make more, that their yogourt tends to degrade in quality over time. What they are witnessing is the cultures themselves degrading.  That’s because commercial yogourt cultures are raised in laboratories under strict sterile conditions.  When you try to cultivate them at home under less strict conditions, your home yogourt culture will be subject to invasion by wild cultures.  These wild bacteria will make your yogourt less appetizing: it won’t be as thick, and it may have a more sour flavour.  Essentially your yogourt will turn into cultured buttermilk.

There are two ways to avoid this eventuality:  find a traditional yogourt culture, or turn your kitchen into a sterile laboratory.

In order to keep the conditions clean enough for lab-raised bacteria you’ll need to do the following:

1. Sterilize all your equipment in boiling water: pots, spoons, ladles and jars.

2. Pasteurize your milk:- pasteurized milk bought at the grocery store will need to be pasteurized AGAIN!  That’s because foreign bacteria will have already established themselves in the milk.  Be sure to let the milk cool to 110F before adding your yogourt culture.

3. Be very careful about the incubation temperature.  The streptococcus cultures that thicken up yogourt like very hot temperatures.  Any less than 110degreesF, and the streptococcus will not grow.

To find a traditional yogourt culture, try sourcing Villi, or, my favourite, KEFIR GRAINS…Though these yogourts may not have the texture you’ve come to expect from yogourt, they are SO much easier to keep, and have other advantages over yogourt: for instance, kefir is mildly alcoholic and considerably more probiotic than laboratory raised cultures due to its wild nature…

%d bloggers like this: