After eliminating processed foods, I started buying plain yogurt. Having grown up on sugary store-bought yogurt, it was a BIG change. A hard one to swallow…literally. I tried adding honey and fruit and could manage it down, but I didn’t love it, and neither did my boys. I had heard of people making yogurt before, and frankly thought they must be some kind of crazy to make something that really didn’t taste that great. But lately I’m experimenting with crazy so I figured we’d give it a try…
You really don’t need a yogurt maker, there is a crockpot method, but I kind of like having them in jars and it seemed like a yogurt maker would be more convenient, so I got this one from Cusinart for around $30. I was seriously intimidated by the thought of making yogurt and put it off for months after buying my yogurt maker. But, after getting our Magic School Bus Science Club Kit in the mail about bacteria, I figured it was now or never. After reading several websites on yogurt making, I wanted to just plunge in and do it the easiest way possible, even though it was slightly different than what the yogurt manual said.
9 hours later I removed the lid and stuck my finger in one of the jars for a taste. I was really surprised. It tasted more like whipping cream than sour cream. In fact, it was good. I put the jars in the fridge and waited impatiently for 30 to 40 minutes for it to cool more, finally just pulled it out and grabbed a spoon.
It had a slightly sweeter taste than the store-bought yogurt (I’ve tried regular and greek) and it was so creamy it reminded me of the heavenly European yogurt that I indulge in everytime I go to Germany (my first stop is always for yogurt, second for a döner and third chocolate). Earlier in the day I had pureed some strawberries, so I scooped a couple spoonfuls and mixed it in. YUM. I actually like it better warm than cold, there is still a learning curve for your tongue, but add a little maple syrup and some ripe fruit, the creaminess will overcome the bitterness.
When I came back from Germany the first time, I actually wrote Danon asking them why on earth couldn’t they sell the same yogurt here that they sell in Germany? Their Obstgarten yogurt is to die for! Now I never have to crave European yogurt again, I can just make my own. I am so excited! Joshua snuck out of his bed and saw me indulging, so I gave him a spoon and his entire face lit up when he took a bite. He said “this is the best yogurt in the world!”
There are a dozen ways you can make yogurt. After viewing several recipes and techniques, it kind of seems like you can do it however you like. Here’s how I make it with my yogurt maker.
5 cups whole milk (that’s right, full fat, and no it doesn’t have to be raw)
1-2 tablespoons plain greek or any yogurt with live active cultures
Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Everything I read indicated that boiling the milk produced a thicker yogurt, and that’s what I wanted (another reason why I recommend whole milk rather than skim or 2%). The longer you boil, the thicker it will be. I don’t have much patience so 20 minutes is my max- stir constantly once it starts to boil to prevent the milk from burning. It will be frothy and foamy (be careful it will boil over if you don’t stir it!) Some people add powdered milk, but that kind of goes against my whole non-processed foods thing, so I wanted it to thicken the “natural” way.
Remove pot from heat and let cool until warm but not hot. Stir in a cupful of warm milk with your 1 to 2 tablespoons of yogurt (after your first batch use your own yogurt as a starter), mix and then stir back into the pot. *Do not forget this step! If you just stir your cold yogurt into the hot milk it will curdle and ruin your entire batch. Trust me.
Pour into glass jars and follow the instructions of the yogurt maker (i.e. plug in and turn on). The longer you heat it, the thicker it will be. I do mine for 9 to 10 hours and it’s creamy and thick. If you wanted it extra thick like greek yogurt you’d have strain it with cheesecloth. I didn’t and I’m pretty happy with how it turns out.
I highly recommend giving this a try, plus, the kids love to help.