Friday, February 1, 2013

As Promised...Greek Yogurt...

The past couple of weeks have flown by...the nine to five and daily homestead chores, sometime take priority over writing.  Henny Penny rejoined her coop mates the week before this last bout of posterior biting cold.  Under cover of darkness she was taken from the chicken ICU and placed into the dark hen house with all the others.  On Sunday morning, when the hen house door was opened, out she hopped just like all the others.  None of them appeared to pay her any mind as they got down to business scratching around in the coop.  That's the beauty of chickens, if you change things in the dark, they are oblivious to the difference the next morning...Let's hope things continue to go well for her, not sure if another trip to the chicken ICU, aka MB's office, will be welcomed.

We usually make a batch of greek yogurt on the weekends.  As with most things, the quality of the ingredients is critical to making a good end product.  All of our milk is delivered fresh from the dairy, just 3 miles down the hill.  Homemade vanilla extract, local maple syrup, fruit jams and honey from our bees are used as flavoring.  Making yogurt is much easier than you would think. 

I know...I are thinking, "Yeah right...easy like puttin' socks on a rooster...".  

No does take a little bit of time and planning, but it is easy and the excellence of the end product makes it all worthwhile.

To make a batch of yogurt you will need the following:

A stainless steel (SS) pot with a thick bottom to "scald" or re-pasteurize the milk. Alternatively, a SS double boiler may be used. Do not boil the milk. This gives the milk a "cooked" flavor, and increases the probability that it will burn on the bottom or boil over. In addition to the thick bottomed pot, I use a fabulous invention called a simmer mat, pictured below.

This baby pretty much guarantees NO MORE SCORCHING!  WOOHOO!  It is available online from Lehmans and other kitchen supply sites.

You will also need the following:

A utensil of your choice to stir the milk while it is heating and cooling
A kitchen thermometer, digital or dial, with at range of at least 0 to 225 oF (-10 to 110oC)
A whisk
A ladle
A canning funnel is handy but not mandatory if you have steady hands...just saying...
A bowl or large mixing cup (2 cups or larger)
4 canning jars with lids (quart size), sterilized in boiling water or washed in a diswasher with an antibacterial cycle 
1 canning jar with lid (pint size), sterilized in boiling water or washed in a diswasher with an antibacterial cycle
1 medium sized "cooler" such as a Coleman Playmate or the old styrofoam ones, etc.
2 large bowls, 2 quart size or larger

Take 1 gallon of the freshest milk you can find...raw, whole, skim or anything in between...try not to use ultra-pasteurized milk, it will not give you reliable results and don't get me started on what the ultra high temperatures do to the proteins and the good biological denizens of milk! Pour it into your thick bottomed pot or double boiler.  Heat the milk over medium heat.  You can go to medium high if you are using the simmer mat or a double boiler.  Scald/heat the milk until the temperature is 185-195 F (85-90 C).  Again, do not boil the milk.  Stir often to minimize the skin that often forms when milk is heated.

Once it has reached temperature, take the pot and place it in your sink that has been filled with just enough cold tap water to cover the sides of the pot, but not enough to overflow into the pot.  Stir and cool the milk to 122-130 F (50 to 55 C).  The milk will cool quickly.  I generally remove the pot from the cooling water when the temperature is at 140 F (60 C).  It will continue to cool while you prepare the inoculant.

Now take the mixing bowl or the large measuring cup and ladle about 1 cup of the milk into it.  Then take 1 cup or 1 container of the freshest plain yogurt you can find and put it with the milk and whisk thoroughly.  The yogurt must have live cultures.  It should only have milk and a list of the live cultures on it...Several of the big brands are good...Dannon, Stonyfield, Oikos and Chobani...regular or greek, it doesn't matter...unfortunately, the local organic brands are not always the best to culture with, mainly because they often have been on the shelf awhile.

When you have whisked the milk and yogurt into a homogeneous mixture, inoculate your pot of scalded milk by pouring the mixture in and stirring well.

Ladle the neonatal yogurt into your sterilized jars. Put the sterilized lids on and tighten them well.  Fill the cooler with about a gallon of water that has been heated to 130 F (55 C).  Place the jars into the cooler, making sure that the water only reaches to the bottom of the lids.  Put more heated water into the cooler, if the water does not reach the bottom of the jar lids.  Because our water heater is set to 130 F, we can use hot water straight out of our tap to fill the cooler, if your water heater is set lower than this, you will have to heat the water up on the stove to get to the incubation temperature of 122 F (50 C).

Close the lid of the cooler and go away for a minimum of 3 hours...we incubate for more than 12 hours because we usually time our yogurt prepping in the late afternoon or in the evening on Saturdays.  We have let our yogurt incubate as long as 24 hours without any issues.

SO!  In 3 or more hours you will have a beautiful batch of yogurt!  You can stop here and add a couple of spoonfuls of your favorite jam, some fresh or frozen fruit, maple syrup, honey, eat it plain...whatever floats your tastebud's boat.  OR, you can keep going and turn it into thick, yummy, decadent greek yogurt!  I guarantee that if you have a dedicated yogurt hater in your household, this stuff will make them a convert with one bite!  WOW!  I made myself so hungry writing this that I had to go get some out of the fridge for myself!  Excuse me as I type with my mouth full....

Essentially, all that makes yogurt "greek" is draining some of the whey out of it.

The picture below show the draining process of the yogurt.  Two hours of draining two quarts of plain yogurt will yield 1 quart greek yogurt and 1 quart whey.

To drain yogurt, take a double thickness of butter muslin (available at kitchen stores or online, a clean, large handkerchief works well too), and line a large sieve or bowl with it.  Pour 2 quarts of the freshly made yogurt (before refrigeration is best) into the middle of the muslin.  Gather the muslin up by the corners and tie up the corners with a large rubberband, clean string, etc. to form a sack, of sorts, and suspend the sack over a bowl to catch the whey that drains out.  We suspend ours from the faucet as seen above, but I have suspended it from upper kitchen cabinets by opening the door and using a wooden spoon weighted down on one end with a pile of dishes inside the cabinet.  You can get inventive...use what is available to you in your own kitchen.

After 2 hours...don't go any longer or you will wind up with a nice batch of yogurt cheese, which is a nice substitute for cream cheese, btw...take the muslin sack down, place it in a clean bowl and untie the corners of the muslin...this is what it will look like...

Grasp the muslin by 2 adjacent corners and roll the yogurt out of the muslin into the bowl.  Scrape any remaining yogurt, that clings to the muslin, into the bowl.  Whisk the thickened yogurt to a uniform consistency, flavoring can be added now, if desired, or you can always flavor it later.  Now package your greek yogurt into jars, the size of your choice.  1/2 pint canning jars are a perfect size for  breakfast, lunch, snack or dessert.  Refrigerate.  This yogurt will stay good for 2 weeks, maybe more, ours is always eaten long before that.

And there you have it!  The best greek yogurt you have ever eaten!  Here is a picture of ours flavored with blueberry freezer jam (the best!) made by our friend LD.  It's so good we barter for it!

Now I know what you are asking...,"What in tarnation am I gonna do with this here quart of whey?"...

We use the whey as a supplement to our dog's food.  We store it in the fridge in canning jars and pour it on their dry food and they lap it right up.  It is also good for chickens, pigs or other critters you may have.  We also use the whey as an ingredient in our soap, our homemade bread, and as cooking liquid (like stock). 

If worst comes to worst, as a last resort, you could put it in the compost pile.

But, that would be should cook with it...really...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Kathryn! Really looking forward to giving this a whirl with the help of your great instructions - yum (maybe not my first try, lol but yum will happen)!

    PS Glad the feathered patient is out of the CICU :)