Sunday, February 8, 2009

Homemade Yoghurt

No, I haven't returned to the chicken topic yet. I'm keeping my readers hanging in suspense - "So what DO free-range chickens eat, I'm just dying to know?"

I feel that I must keep my blog current - in other words, when I've tried to cook something interesting, I'll post an update about it. I'll fill in with the more classic, timeless entries on other days.

So, I'm still trying to use up milk, as you know. I thought I'd try yoghurt. Why? A few reasons

  • My son likes yoghurt - unsweetened yoghurt mixed with fruit or applesauce and sprinkled sneakily with wheat germ. I know someday he'll discover sweetened yoghurt, but until then he's getting the sour stuff.
  • We go through quite a bit of yoghurt and I feel guilty about the containers. I'm trying to reduce my container purchases in general and yoghurt has been one of the last to go. These are especially unethical because while they are recyclable, I'm ashamed to say that I don't recycle them. I know, I'll probably go to hell for that. Here is the dilemma. Plastic tubs are the only container that can't be recycled curbside, which means that I would have to make a special trip to the recycling center across town to drop them off. I tried for a long time to save them, but the reality is that I never make it there. It seems crazy to make one special trip just to drop off yoghurt containers. I don't understand why Type 1 plastic bottles are picked up for recycling but Type 1 plastic tubs aren't. I would like to do a blog on the mystery behind this, but that seems a little off topic. Oh, and the lids aren't recyclable at all. What's with that? Bottles are an easy shape, tubs are a harder shape, and lids are just an impossible shape to melt down?? For a while, I saved tubs to use for freezing chicken stock. That alleviated my guilt for about 2 months, but if I save any more then I'm just denying the inevitable fact that they'll someday go in the trash. After all, I'll probably never make 8 quarts of chicken stock at any one time. Hmm, this rant is probably worthy of its own paragraph and not a mere bullet point. I'm sure my sister of the successful piecrust (also a writer) will correct me on this.
  • Third reason for making yoghurt (in case you've forgotten the subject of the list) - it doesn't matter if I blow it because I've got a lot of milk to get rid of.

I looked up a few recipes, and they're all basically the same. Bring a quart of full fat milk just to a boil. Let it cool to about 1200F, then stir in 2 Tbs of yoghurt. Leave it in a bowl, covered with a towel, at a warm, but not hot, temperature (85 to 1200F) until it sets, usually 10-16 hours. Refrigerate as soon as it sets or it will turn sour.

That sounded pretty simple. Except that I had to plan out my timing. In order not to have too much yoghurt sitting in the fridge, I wanted to have just a little bit left in my last store purchased container.

As luck would have it, my husband did the grocery shopping on the weekend before the big experiment, and he bought ... the WRONG kind of yoghurt.

What is the wrong kind of yoghurt, you might ask? Every yoghurt has different cultures and therefore tastes slightly different. My yoghurt will (I hope) taste like the yoghurt I choose as the starter.

For the last, I don't know how many, million weeks, we've bought Straus Family Creamery European Style Organic Plain Whole Milk Yoghurt. It's thick, creamy, not too sour, a little sweet. The texture is wonderful. It's not local and the cows aren't pastured (please see the comments section where I was set straight on this incorrect statement!), I'm ashamed to say, but I buy it anyway because it is just the best. This is another reason why I want to make my own.

On this particular week, my husband did not buy this yoghurt, but instead bought Horizon Whole Milk Plain Yoghurt, which I just do not like. I find the texture weird and quite tangy. What to do, what to do.

I decided to proceed anyway. At least I'd save myself a container for one week.

It was actually pretty easy. I just had one mix up, I started at about 2pm, which meant that I should start checking it's progress at midnight. I did consider for one moment that it might be worth getting up in the middle of the night to check, but that seemed extreme for yoghurt that might not even taste good. All in all, it sat for about 18 hours. I put it in the warming drawer of our oven on the lowest temperature with the door slightly ajar. Unfortunately I accidentally turned it off before going to bed, so I think it cooled down to about 60 overnight. That might have been a good thing given how long I left it out.

When I checked it in the morning, I could not believe it, it had set perfectly. And guess what, it tasted exactly like Horizon yoghurt, not that nice, but edible. For some reason, my husband is scared to eat it, but my baby and I have been eating it for 2 days now and haven't gotten sick yet. Given my success rate lately, I'll call that a winner.

Next week, I'll have to sacrifice one more plastic container to see if I can replicate the Straus flavor. And I may try making ricotta as well!

2 Responses:

Anonymous said...

Hi There,
Just a quick clarification from us here at Straus....we do raise our cows on pasture. The cows are on pasture from Spring to Fall. During the rainy wintery months, they are in our barn with individual beds made of rice hulls. Check out our website for more info! Thanks for being a Fan!

boulderhomecook said...

Wow, I'm sorry, I'm embarassed to say that I completely overlooked the Farm Practices entry on the Straus FAQ. The website is very open and detailed about exactly how the cows live and are fed, and it does sound very humane. I'm still a little puzzled by the description of the cows' diet. Obviously there are many out there that subscribe to the theory that they should be 100% grass fed, e.g. Jo Robinson in the essay Super Healthy Milk, yet the Straus website says that, "While most people think that cows eat only grass, it is just a part of an overall nutritional program designed to keep the cows healthy and happy." I will not pretend to know more about the diet of dairy cows than professionals, but I would like to have some resolution to the question of whether cows should be 100% grass fed or whether that is just an uninformed opinion and why.

Anyway, thanks for the clarification, and sorry I wasn't more thorough.