Make Your Own Yogurt

by Kay Bodily

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    Want to try a nutritious, versatile food? Make your own yogurt! Did you know it can be a drink, mixed with fruit for a dessert, set in jello, and used in place of sour cream in stroganoff, sauces, chip dips, and fruit salads? It’s not hard to make at home and the flavor can be varied from very mild to quite strong. This is an advantage over commercial yogurt.

    Yogurt is a cultured milk product made with enriched milk to which a yogurt culture or start has been added, The milk has to be concentrated from 1/2 to 2/3 of its original volume. For this reason powdered milk is added when making yogurt at home. The milk with culture added is then kept at a temperature of 100 to 120 degrees for about three hours.

    There are several ways of keeping the yogurt at the correct temperature. One of the easiest is a commercial dry yogurt maker available at most health food stores. However, I made my own yogurt maker and find it very satisfactory and inexpensive. You can make it by mounting a light socket on a 3/8-inch thick board that is about 4 1/2 inches in diameter, and using a 25 watt light bulb in the socket. (Be very careful with the wiring of your yogurt maker and have an experienced person help.) The light socket and bulb is then placed inside a three-pound shortening can with the opened end up. The covered pan containing jars of the yogurt mixture is placed on the open end of the can. (Decorate your yogurt maker as you wish.)

    You can also put the yogurt mixture over a heat register, pilot light, or an oven-vented hot plate while using the oven. In using these methods you will have to test the temperature by setting a covered pan of warm water over the heat source for several hours, checking the temperature periodically to make sure you can maintain the needed 100 to 120 degrees.

    The following are two yogurt recipes, one using fresh, raw milk enriched with powdered milk and the other using all powdered milk.

    Yogurt (fresh milk)

    4 cups fresh, raw milk

    1/2 cup non-instant powdered milk

    1 teaspoon yogurt (unflavored)

    Boil fresh, raw milk in a saucepan for a few seconds (180 degrees). Cool until warm (100 degrees). Stir in powdered milk. Thoroughly mix a little warm milk with one teaspoon yogurt; then add to the rest of the warm milk and stir well. Empty mixture into jars or glasses and let stand in yogurt maker at a temperature of 100 to 120 degrees until set (about three hours). Chill immediately.

    Powdered milk, canned milk, or pasteurized milk can be substituted for fresh, raw milk and need not be boiled because it has already had the bacteria that keeps yogurt from setting up killed during the processing. Have milk at a temperature of 100 degrees before adding yogurt start.

    Yogurt (powdered milk)

    2 2/3 cups water (100 degrees)

    1 scant cup non-instant powdered milk

    1 teaspoon yogurt (unflavored)

    Pour water in the blender and turn on low speed; add powdered milk slowly. Blend until smooth. Put yogurt in and blend a few seconds. (This whole process can be done by hand, but be sure you beat all the lumps out.) Pour into jars or glasses. Place jars in pan with warm water up to their necks. Cover pan with lid. Set on yogurt maker or any place that can be kept at a temperature of 100 to 120 degrees. Check at the end of three hours to see if it has set up. If not, check every twenty minutes until set. Chill immediately when set.

    In using powdered milk, whether it be instant or non-instant, reconstitute it just a little short of being double in strength. Use one teaspoon yogurt start for every three cups of doubly reconstituted milk. Using this guideline you can make as much or as little as you want.

    Tips for Beginners

    In the above recipes be sure you use plain, commercial yogurt for the start or use yogurt from your last batch (it shouldn’t be more than a week old). Also, a pure yogurt culture can be obtained from health food stores. Most authorities recommend that you get a fresh start every month or two.

    Yogurt will keep in the refrigerator for a week or longer. You should make it at least once a week to keep your start fresh.

    The longer your yogurt sets in the refrigerator the more pronounced the flavor becomes.

    The lower the temperature, the longer the yogurt takes to set. Between 115 and 120 degrees will produce yogurt in about three hours.

    When using commercial dry yogurt makers, the setting-up time is about eight hours. (Follow their instructions.)

    If yogurt is bubbly and starts to separate, yogurt has set in yogurt maker too long.

    When adding any flavoring to yogurt, stir lightly, because the more you stir it, the thinner it becomes.

    If yogurt doesn’t set up properly, check the following: (1) yogurt was disturbed or stirred while setting; (2) yogurt maker was not plugged in or there was a power shortage while it was setting; (3) yogurt start was added to hot instead of warm milk; (4) temperature was too hot (kills yogurt bacteria) or too cool (causes ordinary sour milk bacteria to develop). Temperature must remain between 100 and 120 degrees; (5) yogurt start was too old or was inactive for some other reason; (6) jars or other equipment were not clean; (7) fresh, raw milk was not boiled.

    Uses for Yogurt

    The following are a few suggestions for using yogurt:

    Flavored Yogurts. You can use jams, honey and vanilla, maple syrup, molasses, etc., for flavoring. It should always be added after the yogurt is set.

    Gourmet Dressings. Just add individually preferred herbs and spices.

    Yogurt with Fruit. Use fresh, canned, dried, or strained fruit in plain yogurt.

    Chip Dips. Yogurt can be used in place of sour cream in any chip dip recipe.

    Buttermilk-like Drink. Mix equal parts yogurt and water; blend in blender or beat by hand. This will replace buttermilk in any recipe.

    Baked Potato Dressing. Use plain or add bacon chips, baco-cips, chives, or onions to yogurt and use in place of sour cream. Yogurt will replace sour cream in most recipes.

    Cream Sauces. Yogurt is very good on vegetables such as asparagus, string beans, broccoli, and cauliflower. It is also good in stroganoff. (If you heat it, never boil or heat over 120 degrees as it kills the bacteria beneficial to health.)

    Yogurt in Jello. Add one cup yogurt to a three-ounce package of partially set jello. Leave out one-fourth cup of the water when setting the jello. Drained, crushed pineapple can be added. Lime, orange, and lemon jellos are especially good with yogurt added.

    Yogurt Popsicles. Mix two cups yogurt, one small can frozen orange juice, and two teaspoons vanilla together until smooth. Pour into paper cups and insert tongue depressors or other sticks. Freeze until firm. (Idea borrowed from Let’s Cook It Right by Adele Davis.)

    At first you might forget to use yogurt freely, but in time you’ll find yourself using it every day. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, do try again. Have fun, happy, and healthy eating.

    Illustrated by Cheryl Zurcher