By Lois Maassen, guest blogger, fellow foodie, and friend
[Editor’s note: My friend, Lois, and I have frequent conversations about food. So when she told me how easy it is to make yogurt–which I had heard from my friends Julie and Carolyn as well–I asked her to write a blog post about it, not only so I can learn to do it myself, but also to share with my Life Is Fare audience. To her point, it’s a great way to keep those plastic yogurt containers out of your recycling bin or the landfill. Plus, nothing’s better than food made from scratch!]
I have to credit two friends with getting me to embark on the yogurt adventure. Julie started it with a post on her blog, Skinny Daily. When I read her description, I knew I could do it. And I was annoyed with the number of plastic containers I was recycling after eating yogurt for breakfast every morning.
I saw just one obstacle: I don’t have a pilot light in my oven, and we keep our house cold in the winter. We use hot water bottles instead of heating pads. If there were a warm corner in the house, I’d be filling it up with my own self.
I mentioned this problem to my friend Kay. She told me about her wonderful Salton yogurt maker, which she’d had for years. Instead of the row of fussy little cups that I remembered from yogurt makers of my youth, it had a one-quart container. And, serendipitously, she found one the next week at the mission thrift shop, while looking for a crockpot for her daughter.
No excuses! When Kay gave me the yogurt maker, I knew I had to try it. And I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and how reliable the process is.
This is what you need: Milk, yogurt with live active cultures for starter, and a way to keep the yogurt warm—for me, Kay’s gift of a yogurt maker. That simple. I use Greek yogurt because that’s what I like to eat, but you can use any plain yogurt.
Step one is to heat a quart of whole milk to 185 to 190 degrees, stirring occasionally. While it’s heating, plug in the yogurt maker so it’s warming up and ready. Some people recommend adding a half-cup of powdered milk at this point, to make the yogurt more nutritious and a little thicker. I’ve got bad family-camping-trip memories—well, good camping trips, but I can taste powdered milk a mile away. I’ve tried yogurt with and without, and vastly prefer it without.
Once you’ve heated the milk, you need to cool it—to 105 to 115 degrees. When I want to do this quickly, I set the pan in a sink full of cold water. If you keep stirring it, it cools pretty quickly.
When it’s cool (so it won’t kill the cultures), pour about a third of the milk and whisk in a half cup of your starter yogurt—so it gets well-mixed. Add the rest of the milk, and then pour the whole mixture into the yogurt maker—or whatever’s going to keep it warm for hours and hours.
Then walk away. (The process up to this point takes about 20 minutes, but I’m a kitchen putzer. Maybe you can do it faster.) The longer the yogurt sits, the more tart the flavor. I’ve settled on about seven hours for my yogurt.
I’ve always popped it in the fridge before stressing about whether it’s thick enough. This is what it looks like when I scoop it out in the morning.
And this is what it looks like topped by my homemade granola and frozen berries (sometimes I use jam or preserves).
It’s a fabulous breakfast—even better when I can use fresh local fruit from the farmer’s market!