February 10, 2008

La Gringa's gonna live to be 110

homemade yogurtFinished yogurt

Or maybe not. But it can't hurt to eat yogurt every day, can it?

(Well, there is the fat, cholesterol, hormones, and antibiotics, but then I am trying to turn over a new leaf and look at the bright side.)

I've been on a yogurt making kick since I received my new yogurt maker. (Thanks, Gail and Drew!)

I originally started thinking about yogurt when one of my chickens got sick. Yogurt was often recommended to help boost their protein intake and to help fight the bad bugs. Then when I started researching the skin problems Chloe the Rottweiler has, I also read that yogurt was recommended to get the balance back into her system. Someone even recommended smearing yogurt all over her skin to help with yeast problems.

However, the yogurt I find in the stores does not indicate that it has the natural cultures so I wasn't sure if it would do any good for them or not. Someone mentioned making homemade yogurt. Once I found out how easy it is to do, I was hooked on the idea.

All that is needed is milk and dried yogurt culture or some plain natural yogurt to start it with. Technically, you don't even need a yogurt maker. Keeping the mix at the proper temperature while it incubates probably isn't all that hard in a thermos or glass jar. However, I'm the kind of person who finds laundry in the washer two days later, so I had visions of finding a curdled mass of sour milk in the oven a week afterward.

Salton yogurt makerI bought the Salton yogurt maker, mostly because it was cheap (US $12) and had one quart-sized container instead of individual jars. Yogurt makers really don't do anything at all except maintain a steady 110°F or so temperature. I also bought some freeze-dried yogurt cultures. They aren't cheap but I didn't have much choice.

(Wow. Amazon is telling me this maker is now $20.54. What price do you see?)

I've been making yogurt just about every day. I used the powdered culture for the first batch and I've been using 1/2 cup of the prior yogurt to start each new batch ever since. When doing this recycling, they say that the yogurt cultures will eventually give out or be contaminated by local bacterias in the air. When that happens, I'll use another of the powdered cultures and start the cycle over again.

I also add 1/4 cup of powdered milk as the extra protein is supposed to help make firmer yogurt. Mine has been nice and firm each time. The first time I made it, the liquid separated a lot, but the animals love the whey so it was no great loss. Since the very first time, it has turned out great.

heating milk for yogurtIt is so easy to make yogurt. Those little bacteria know just what to do unless you get them too hot or too cold. The tedious part is heating the milk to almost, but not quite, boiling and then cooling it down to 110F.

Papaya yogurtI don't know if I can get used to eating plain yogurt. I've eaten it flavored with vanilla and sugar but papaya with a little sugar is outstanding and is the most lovely color. I had some papaya chunks in the freezer, so I just pull out some, puree it in the blender, and mix it in the yogurt. Yum. I've been having that for lunch every day.

The Book of YogurtI also bought The Book of Yogurt which has some really interesting sounding recipes. I'm eager to try some as we don't have sour cream here and as much as people like the similar mantequilla blanca, most times when I buy it, it goes bad almost immediately, has an off flavor, or is already bad when I buy it. Problem is that we eat all the yogurt and there is never any left for recipes.

Making yogurt cheeseI made yogurt cheese one night for baked potatoes. It was pretty good. I added salt and dried chives, and let it sit in the fridge and drain for a few hours while it got nice and thick. Chloe got the whey that drained off so there was no waste.

I haven't even gotten into mangoes, pineapple, and smoothies yet either. I'd really like to get my hands on some Stoneyfield, Brown Cow or other gourmet yogurt or Greek yogurt culture someday, but in the meantime, I'm plenty happy.

There is more information on yogurt on the internet than you could ever find the time to read. If you are interested in learning more about making yogurt, check out some of these sites.

101 Cookbooks - Homemade yogurt recipe

The Leafy Lady - The health benefits of yogurt

Joe Pastry - on yogurt (I love this blog! I like learning the science behind cooking.)

And then I ran across this:

19 easy ways to make cheese and yogurt

Who knows, maybe cheese making will be in my future, too. It doesn't sound all that hard.
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