December
26 - 2009

12 Days of Christmas: Homemade Yogurt

This year I’m celebrating the holidays with a “12 Days of Christmas” series on the abundances of our kitchen and garden. Share your experiences, too, and happy holidays!

First, you might ask, why am I talking about 12 days of Christmas NOW? Doesn’t that song refer to the time before Santa’s big day? Why, no … in fact, the 12 days of Christmas are the days from Christmas until Jan. 6, Epiphany, the holiday that celebrates the Wise Men’s arrival in Bethlehem. You can read all about the Christian perspective and the possible significance of each day in the song here. But I am no Biblical scholar, so I’m going to focus on food, home and doing it yourself, cheap and green!

And so on that note …

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … one quart of yogurt, homemade!

Longtime readers will know that I wrote a long tutorial post about making yogurt more than two years ago. After writing that post, I continued to make yogurt. Gradually I experimented with more and more convoluted methods.

I bought a yogurt maker at the thrift store, the kind with individual cups that heat up in a little multi-celled plastic tub. I used various types of yogurt starters. I made yogurt with fruit (homemade jam) at the bottom. I acquired a large crock-pot slow-cooker at the thrift store, and tried fermenting the yogurt in there. I added gelatin to make it set up nicely. I monitored the temperature like a scientist.

After all this experimentation, somehow my yogurt got worse and worse. It became gooey, sort of slimey, chunky or didn’t set up at all, sometimes with a weird sourness or a clingy mouthfeel. In short, ewww. I threw in the towel and went back to purchasing yogurt.

Then, this fall, I tried to trim my grocery budget again, and I’m back to making yogurt.

I’m doing it nitty gritty, just as I described in that earlier tutorial. And I’m getting incredibly thick, creamy, delicious yogurt, not very sour, with a consistency that really holds up from jar to spoon to breakfast bowl. My four strategies that seem to work well are:

  • I started with plain Dannon yogurt. I’ve heard this has the best starter, and although I can’t vouch for “best,” it’s working great. I used Dannon in my first batch, and I’ve been using the dregs of my homemade yogurt ever since.
  • I make sure the milk does not scald or boil — just comes close.
  • I make sure the milk is cool enough not to kill the yogurt culture. I am no longer using a thermometer. I just stick my finger in and make sure it doesn’t hurt.
  • I just wrap the jar up in a towel (a full-size bath towel to get lots of coverage) and set it on the kitchen counter. I warned Mr. Cheap that it’s not misplaced laundry, there’s a jar in there, so that he won’t yank the towel off the counter and create a semi-yogurty disaster.

That’s it. Yogurt. Yum.

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