Someone called me “Granola-esque” yesterday, and I’ve decided that I like that description. I am, by my own admittance, a huge believer in most things natural; food, cleaning agents, beauty products, etc. I continually try to find a more natural way to do things. However, I do love air-conditioning and indoor plumbing, so I don’t think I’ll ever be a full-fledged naturist.
Earlier this week I read an article about making yogurt at home. Here’s a link to the article I read; it’s on one of my favorite blog sites, Chickens in the Road. http://chickensintheroad.com/farm-bell-recipes/making-yogurt-using-a-dehydrator/
Yogurt dates back to 2500 BC, give or take a century. It most likely came into existence because someone left milk out in the sun for a few hours, which would have encouraged bacteria to grow. I have to wonder though, who was the first person who was brave enough to taste what would have been thought of as rancid milk? To that person, I say, “Thank you!”
This method of yogurt requires using milk (I bought organic), plain yogurt as a starter (yep, organic), heat and time.
Here are the ingredients and tools I needed.
I started out by heating the milk to between 185-195 degrees. Then I had to turn off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. Trust me; it takes much longer to cool down than it does to heat up! If the milk is hotter than 110 degrees, the heat will kill the healthy yogurt bacteria, and we don’t want that!
At this point, you add in the yogurt starter (2-3 tablespoons) and mix well. Pour it into jars, put a lid on them and transfer to your preheated dehydrator. (Luckily, I have the same brand as the one in the original article, so I felt totally safe doing this.)
Let it incubate in the dehydrator for 8-10 hours. Don’t check on it; don’t shake the jars; just leave it alone.
The next morning, I had yogurt! I was so proud. I felt so…accomplished; so…granola-esque!
It was time to experiment. I wanted to flavor my yogurts, because honestly, plain yogurt isn’t all that appealing to me. So I tried Agave Nectar. A little goes a long way. I tried some of my homemade preserves (Banana Split in a Jar), and dried apples, cinnamon and honey. They were all ok. What bothered me was the texture. It was too thin (runny) for my liking.
It was time to go out on my own and try something that wasn’t mentioned in the article; draining the yogurt.
Yogurt can have a lot of whey in it. Whey is a by-product that can be used in other ways, but left in the yogurt, it makes it runny. I wanted a thicker, creamier yogurt, so I pulled out a strainer, lined it with cheesecloth and spooned in my yogurt. I let it drain for about an hour.
I was amazed at the amount of whey that drained off. It was nearly 50% of the total volume! (I forgot to take a photo of that.) What I was left with was a yogurt with a more dense texture; much more like sour cream. Perfect!
I still have a lot of flavor experimenting to do, and I think I’ll start using yogurt in the place of store-bought sour cream in a lot of my cooking efforts. Did you know that some brands of sour cream have thickeners in them? Again – I’m aiming for more natural foods with fewer additives.
Here’s what I have so far. The avocado dip is my favorite, with the Agave Nectar a close second. I’ll let you know what I come up with for other uses and flavors.
Until then, consider the humble yogurt and its health benefits. If you don’t want to make your own, look for varieties that have live cultures in them. Happy eating!