24 January 2011

Making Yogurt

A couple weeks ago I noticed that a large amount of the recycling consisted of these little guys:

So, I started thinking about it. What's in there anyway? I've heard that fat-free things are often sweetened to make them taste better. What makes it berry? Is it real berries? So many yogurts these days are made with artificial sweeteners, which I'm really suspicious of (not this one). Is the plastic leaching into the yogurt, etc. Is this something I can do? Can I make this better?

I remember as a kid my mom had a yogurt maker, so I started shopping. I looked around locally and found nothing. I guess people don't do this any more, only crazy people like me. I did a little research on making yogurt without yogurt makers but for some reason I feel that propagating bacteria should be done properly at a stable temperature. I looked online and found a few. The first had a single container to make the yogurt in a larger quantity. It was plastic. Okay, so I would be heating milk and bacteria in a plastic container, repeatedly, never being able to disinfect by boiling... no thank you. The next one came with seven glass jars, but also a larger lid that can be used for an optional large jar or your own jars. I didn't particularly want to have to find a place to store this extra lid and the price convinced me to keep looking. I finally came across this one at Home Depot.ca.

It was a decent price and only took a couple of days to get here.

So for a couple of days we ate up the yogurt we had in the fridge, and then bought some milk, powdered skim milk and plain yogurt as a starter. Organic would be nice. It would also be nice if the yogurt and milk didn't come in plastic. One step at a time, right? The store where I bought the groceries didn't sell organic milk or organic plain yogurt either. The only plain yogurt they had was this:

It was large, instead of a single serving that I was looking for, but it will do. It was pretty fresh, with no preservatives or gelatin added, however I have no idea what kind of bacteria I'm propagating. I'd feel more comfortable if I knew. Apparently I can use the yogurt I make as a starter two or three times before it's too weak, only then will I have to buy more.

So, following directions I added two tablespoons of powdered milk to four cups of milk in order to make a thicker, Greek style yogurt. I put it in a saucepan and brought it close to boiling, 85-90 degrees Celcius. (The thermometer I bought to help my husband with his awesome fudge came in handy for this.)

Then to let cool to room temperature. Now I have some time now for my morning coffee. Thank goodness for my precious Keurig.

Oh Keurig, why can't your little plastic cups of goodness be recyclable? Apparently it's because if they were made of recyclable plastic, there would be more toxins released from the plastic. This is bad. I have a little reusable filter for it, which is great. I just need the motivation in the morning to fill it, empty it, refill it and empty it again. It's so easy to use the little single serving cups. This is something I could work on, but for now... mmmm... coffee.

Is 40 degrees C room temperature? I'm sure it's not. Is it good enough? I hope so. I hope I don't kill the bacteria because I'm impatient and I'm going to get this started now. I've added two tablespoons of yogurt to the milk and poured it into the little jars. My three year old could have made less mess pouring. So after wiping the jars and counter, I placed them in the yogurt maker and flipped the switch. Now to wait, and maybe clean the house.

Seven hours later (the book said 8-10) I checked the jars, to see that I did in fact have yogurt and did not kill the bacteria at 40 degrees C. I put the lids on and stuck them in the fridge to cool.

So, I decided to try the resulting yogurt after it had cooled for a few hours. Yum, really. I find it has a nice light flavour, lighter than plain yogurt that you buy. That stuff, I can't really eat plain, but this is good. So I'm looking forward to trying to use my own homemade yogurt in all sorts of different ways. With a little bit of honey, fruit and nuts, in baking, or as yogurt cheese. I'm just glad to be (nearly) rid of all of the plastic.

Update: I have done a bit more research on making yogurt, to learn that a thermos can be heated and used to make yogurt, and probiotic capsules can be used as a starter. If you freeze a 1/2 cup of yogurt as soon as it is made, you will be able to maintain the culture for months before having to start with a new one after every 2 or 3 batches.

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