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Monday, October 25, 2010

Zero waste challenge: Yogurt made easy

Homemade yogurt and mother
© L. Kathryn Grace

We're pitching the plastic yogurt tubs at last


Finally! No more plastic yogurt tubs coming into the house. I know, this may seem a little odd after extolling the (relative) virtues of the Stonyfield multipacks made from corn the other day, but it was in researching that post that I found the first easy recipe for delicious (and hopefully no-fail) yogurt.

For months I've experimented with various homemade yogurt schemes, with more and less success. Mostly less. Today, near perfect yogurt, super easy, no mess, no fuss, and no special equipment.

Sure, here in the Bay Area we can buy the very mild St. Benoit yogurt in returnable glass jars--when we can get it. Cost is about the same as a quart of raw milk, but it's not always available. About half the time we have to choose between not having yogurt on hand or buying it in plastic tubs. What's more, St. Benoit is made from pasteurized, albeit local, organic milk. We wanted to take advantage of the raw milk available to us from locally-pastured cows, and I like my yogurt on the tangy side, something St. Benoit doesn't do.

I needed a dependable homemade yogurt alternative, one I could share with others trying to reduce their plastic use as well. So when Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish included her homemade yogurt recipe in her post about Stonyfield Farms new PLA cups the other day, I decided to give it a try.

Greek or plain yogurt, it's all good


Beth got her recipe from Melanie Rinner of Bean Sprouts, whose method is for Greek yogurt, but the culturing process is the same either way. Because the yogurt I had on hand was almost a week old, I used a commercial culture I bought a while back as a backup. The brand is Yogourmet. They expect you to use it in their yogurt maker, which I did not want to buy. It's made of plastic.

For a year or two now, I've hunted for an incubator like the one I had when my babies were little--a stainless steel tub that held six pints, or three quart jars, and kept an even temperature perfect for culturing yogurt. Nowhere to be found. All yogurt makers I found on the market are made of plastic, even the versions clad in stainless steel to match your trendy kitchen decor.

Sans easy-to-use maker, I experimented with the cooler-covered-in-blankets method. Every time, the yogurt turned out runny. Fine if you like Kefir-style, drinkable yogurt, but we prefer a creamy, custardy texture. Plus, this is a time-consuming process. I didn't like the bulky mess in my bedroom, which was the only place in the house with room for the container to sit undisturbed.

Cooler with yogurt-filled jars in warm water bath
© L. Kathryn Grace

Cooler covered in three layers of blankets
© L. Kathryn Grace

Yesterday, thanks to Beth and Melanie, I finally found the right combination of culture and method. What's more, it's easy-peasy. Incubate in a thermos, transfer to glass jars when the yogurt is the consistency you like, refrigerate to chill, and enjoy.

Worked like magic. I heated the milk to barely boiling, cooled it to just under 122 degrees F, stirred in the yogurt culture according to instructions, and poured it all into my faithful stainless steel, wide mouth Stanley thermos. Eight hours later, I popped the lid to check, and we had beautiful, creamy yogurt at exactly the texture we like.

I scooped the yogurt into two glass jars, one to save the mother culture for the next batch, the other to eat, and popped them into the refrigerator to chill. The transfer from thermos to jar for chilling did change the consistency. Disturbing the yogurt before it is chilled causes it to curdle a bit.

Next morning, we couldn't wait to strain for Greek yogurt. We gobbled nearly the whole pint for breakfast. The taste is marvelous--tangy, with a hint of citrus.This is the first yogurt I have ever enjoyed straight from the jar with no honey, no fruit, no sweetener of any kind. Delicious! Today I'll pick up more raw milk and make another batch. I'll let you know how it goes.

That's my conscious living tip for the day, part of our personal household zero waste challenge. What are you up to this week? Do you make your own yogurt? Have you found an easy recipe you like? I invite you to share it here or post a link to your recipe page.
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  Disclosure:  If you follow the Amazon link above and purchase something, it is possible I will earn a few pennies. What a thrill that would be.
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We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

10 comments:

kario said...

How cool! I'd love to do this. Maybe I'll try this weekend. Thanks for doing all the research for us.

Hayden said...

Great timing, because it keeps me from bragging that my method always works, since today it did not. But then, I took shortcuts and didn't follow the plan.

Here's the plan. Heat 2 qts milk to 180. Mix in 1/2 c to 1 c dried milk (for thicker texture w/o pectin). Pour it into my handy 3 qt pyrex bowl w/ pouring spout and lid. Allow temp to drop to 110. Meanwhile... heat oven to 110. Stir 4-5 T of yogurt into milk with a wire whisk, cover, put in oven. Turn off oven, turn on oven light. 4-12 hours later, move it to fridge. The longer it brews, the tangier it gets. I like mine mild.

Today I made all kinds of 'compromises' and the end result was --- runny yogurt.

Hayden said...

HAH! I lacked faith! Left it in oven overnight w/ only the light on, and it firmed up beautifully.

Somewhere I read that after 4 hours it doesn't get thicker, only tarter. That source was dead wrong.

Starter used was my last batch...

Star

Hayden said...

Here are a list of the "compromises" I made yesterday on my way to yogurt:
heated only to 160
dropped to 112
didn't preheat oven
had only 3 T of starter instead of 5

Oven not preheated and too little starter is probably why it didn't set quickly. Law of multiplying bacteria says they should keep multiplying as long as they have food - and they did. Flavor is mild. I know tang does develop if you keep it longer in the fridge - and most commercial yogurt isn't "fresh" like homemade is. Kathryn, do you think that might be part of the dif? Just the freshness? Or have you tried 'aging' it and that doesn't work?

Deb Shucka said...

Wow. I am so impressed with your dedication to getting plastic out of your life. The yogurt sounds wonderful.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Plastic. Let's not get started. Plastic bag and bottles galore in town here. The women of Ladakh should be praised more.

I am so excited about this thermos idea to make yoghurt. Stainless steel, you say? I wonder if the glass one would work.

Kathryn Grace said...

Kario, I can't take credit for the research. I owe it all to Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish and Melanie Rinner of Bean Sprouts. (See links in post.) Please return and let me know how it worked for you.

Hayden, thanks for sharing your method and updates. Years ago, I too added powdered milk (the non-instant variety), but mine turned out with a chalky texture and taste I did not care for. The kids and hubby loved it, so I kept making it. This recipe gives me the custardy texture without that extra step, but may be because I like mine with more tang to it, so can give it longer to set. Re your question on getting that tang, I've always understood it had as much to do with the type of culture one uses. Until recently, I've used Nancy's organic as my culture, because I love the taste and texture of that brand. When we switched to the much milder St. Benoit, because it comes in glass jars, I decided to try some pre-packaged, dry cultures in hopes of getting the flavor I like. The Yogourmet did it for me, so I'll keep my mother going and see how it works over time.

Kathryn Grace said...

Deb, yes it is, and when the local grocer was out of the raw milk this week, I had to wait until today to make next batch. Can't wait to eat it! I think I'll be making yogurt almost daily for awhile.

Guyana, I'm pretty sure the glass type thermos will work as well. Melanie (see Bean Sprouts link in post) pictures one for her recipe. The stainless steel is what I had on hand. Sorry to hear about the plastic pollution you face there. Perhaps someone is working to clean it up and just needs a helping word or two on a local blog (friendly hint).

Hayden said...

Interesting.
These days I use Stonyfield's Oikos because it's the only one I can find locally that doesn't have pectin or anything else I don't want, in it. Their standard product as sold here has pectin. In the carton it has a sharp tang. Used as culture it produces a mild yogurt. Don't know why or what the influences are.

Oikos has only organic milk plus 5 active cultures, S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L Acidophilus, L Bifidus and L Casel. Don't know if that info is useful.

For my taste, I don't detect anything chalky in my finished product, but doesn't mean you wouldn't. I use Bob's Red Mill dried milk, which is ugly to mix in, but reasonably reliable brand in health terms.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I haven't ventured into making my own yogurt yet, but we keep talking about doing it...although in the context of adding goats to the farm! :P Would be fun to try making it though, even without the goats for now. It sounds like yours turned out divinely, and using a thermos seems simple, but I never would have thought of it. Great post!

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