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Getting cultured

For my first trick, I decided to do something that anyone can do, and that almost everyone loves. Pretty cool, huh? I say almost everyone because there are a select few who choose to be difficult and refuse to admit that they, in fact, could love this one particular thing. You know who you are. Either that, or they’re lactose intolerant. But that’s hardly an excuse.

I’m talkin’ YOGURT y’all! -insert fake Southern accent for effect-

That’s right. Yogurt. -or yoghurt OR yoghourt for those looking to broaden their dairy spelling repertoire…you’re welcome- Calcium, protein AND tiny live creatures all in one concoction?! Yes please.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, and have zero good excuse for not trying it before. Now, most people who are trying out something for the first time may play it safe and make a small batch to see if they know what they’re doing. Those people, they’re smart. Boring, even. I like to think I’m adventurous. So, upon deciding how much yogurt to make for my very first batch I threw caution to the wind and opted for a reasonable half gallon. Because, WHO DOESN’T NEED A HALF GALLON OF YOGURT IN THEIR HOUSE AT ALL TIMES?! That’s what I thought. No one. See my next post for the best way to give yogurt as gifts. Just kidding. Kinda.

The magical elves behind Google threw this little number at me when I searched for yogurt recipes, so I went with it. Step-by-step directions with minimal supplies. They know me so well.

Join me on my yogurt-making adventure:

The first step with making anything cooking related is to have a kitchen. Duh. The reason I bring this up, though, is because of the size of my kitchen — It’s about equivalent to a nice walk-in pantry.

My Kitchen

My Kitchen

Stove. Sink. That’s it. Literally. Zero counter space. No dishwasher, garbage disposal, and barely room for a coffee pot -which is most certainly a necessity: what else would I drink with my granola and homemade yogurt?!- But I do have one. So on to Step 2.

This is essentially what I did: Boil water in a pot. Easy enough. -dad, stop laughing.- Pour a half gallon of milk into a smaller pot (however much milk you start with should be how much yogurt you will make). Put milk pot into water pot creating a double boiler. Raise milk to 185°F and keep at that temp for 30 mins stirring constantly. After 30 mins, put milk pot in an ice bath to cool it down to 110°F, stirring occasionally. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of plain yougurt in cooled milk, stir, and you’re done! Almost.

Materials

Materials

Heated Milk

Heated Milk

Cooling Milk

Cooling Milk

Adding Yogurt

Adding Yogurt

It needs be covered and sit for 7 hours on a heating pad at medium temp. Well, I don’t have a heating pad, so I got those creative juices flowing and…Voilà! Cookie sheet + bath towel + stove = heating pad. Right?

Heating Pad

Heating Pad

WRONG.

Heating Pad Aftermath

Heating Pad Aftermath

Not only did it ruin the towel, which just happened to be my roommates, it also ruined my cookie sheet and kept the milk mixture too hot. -at least in retrospect I think that’s what happened-

Yogurt?

Yogurt?

After 7 hours, the milk mixture is supposed to be thicker and smell, well, like yogurt. Mine was not. But, I figured maybe it would thicken in the refrigerator over night. Oh, wishful thinking, you silly bastard.

 

I practically skipped to my refrigerator this morning, looking forward to a delicious breakfast with my homemade yogurt. With a watering mouth and a hopeful heart, I opened my container to examine the delicousness.

Deliciousness fail. Despite all my finger crossing, the yogurt did not thicken up over night. It stayed the consistency of milk with a faint yogurt smell. That’s right, ladies and gents, I successfully made 7-hour sour milk. Please try to contain your shock and awe, applause, rolling of the eyes, laughter or any Ginger references. Just kidding. I welcome all of these.

Yogurt Fail

Yogurt Fail

After putting back together my shattered ego, I’m going to try a different recipe sometime this week. I will be a yogurt-making virtuoso. You just wait. Update to follow.

Until then, these are some key lessons to take away from this experience:

  1. Do try to make yogurt
  2. Don’t make your own ‘heating pad’
  3. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t
  4. Just to reiterate, DO NOT put towels on the stove insert common sense jokes here
  5. If you get confused about what not to do, re-read this post

If anyone has any tips, tricks or good recipes, please leave a comment. For now, I’m going to enjoy a nice bowl of cereal with milk….oh wait.

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10 thoughts on “Getting cultured

  1. Oh Mel! Sweet, sweet Mel….You are too much! I’m dying over here! You’ve got a knack for words and hilarious happenings 😉 I cannot wait to follow along on your adventures!!! 🙂

  2. Yeah, this post reminds me of some of my many kitchen failures over the years. I’ve never been brave enough to blog about any of them though. I think my favorite line was “Oh, wishful thinking, you silly bastard.” LMAO!

  3. Hi Melissa! Plain yogurt was a major component of my boys’ early “solid food,” so I made my own. I used wide-mouth quart jars for ease of clean up. I also skipped the whole stove-top component (I am lazy and also hate standing by the stove stirring). You can heat the milk in the microwave as long as you stir thoroughly and regularly (otherwise it’ll boil over, so do it in small increments and watch it, but you’ll be done in seven or eight minutes, rather than the eternity of a watched pot that isn’t supposed to boil, but somehow does anyway and leaves a horrible mess on your pan). Get it up to 185 (again, stir thoroughly to make sure it’s really 185, not just some places). Cool to something under 120 (yogurt likes to stay between 90 and 120). You can do this on the counter (cover loosely so flies don’t land in it and come back in an hour) or an ice bath (wouldn’t do it with a glass jar unless it’s pyrex; I killed a regular canning jar with a room temp water bath). It’s easier to add your starter if you add some of the milk to the starter to thin it. Stir that gently and then stir gently into the milk. Incubate at 90-120 for 4-24 hours. Cooler and shorter incubation will give you a sweeter yogurt; longer/hotter tends to be more tart (but more aged/digested so easier for people with lactose issues, I think?). For incubating, I sealed said wide-mouth jar, and put it in a drink cooler (one of those cylindrical igloo things, maybe 2-qt? It’s what I had around and worked so nicely with the quart jars) with 120ish-degree water. The water will cool, but not typically below 90, so your yogurt keeps perking. I usually incubated about 4 hours (if you’re going longer then you’d want to check your water temp and pour the rest of your boiling water from the cup of tea you just made in there to raise the temp back over 90 at some point). Avoid moving it much while it’s incubating. It will thicken some in the fridge, but not a lot, so you can usually tell right away if you’ve been successful. Higher-fat milk makes thicker yogurt; I’ve tried to use skim, but haven’t gotten it to thicken well. Once you have a decent batch of yogurt, pull out a few spoonsful into a separate container, and you can use that to start your next batch. Of course, after making yogurt for years, I had complete failure on my most recent batch, so a) doing this while also cooking dinner is probably not a good idea and b) sometimes the yogurt gods are just unkind . . .

  4. Just noticed that you’d used fat-free milk. I haven’t had great success with that–some people add gelatin or other thickeners to make that work, but it’s hard to get it to thicken well on its own . . .

  5. Glad you didn’t have to call the fire department! I made lots of yoghurt when my boys were little. The secret to it setting up successfully (in my opinion) is your starter that you add. If I recall I also used evaporated milk. Good luck! Homemade is really yummy. Not as tart as store bought.

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