Monday, January 12, 2009

Best Yogurt Ever

The key to yogurt is maintaining the right temperature.  There are plenty of tricks out there - hot pads, crock pots, dehydrators, coolers packed with hot water bottles, various configurations of home ovens - but none of them worked for me.  My yogurt was inevitably chunky and bitter, and rather than fiddle with the techniques, I'd opt for the $3.50 organic yogurt at the store.  Enter the $15 Salton yogurt maker.

For a simple job, this baby is spot on.  All you have to do is heat the milk, cool it, add a culture, and let Salton do its magic.  

Another key to making quality cultured products is to sterilize all of your equipment so that no other bacteria are competing with the cultures you want to win.  The first time I made this yogurt, I sterilized all of my tools in a 450-F oven (I was making bread at the time) and the second time I just boiled them in the same pot I used later on to heat the milk.

I started with 1 quart of fresh, whole, non-homogenized milk.  I heated it to 210-F, then set the pan in a big bowl of cold water to cool it to 110-F.  The second time around, I accidentally let the milk boil, with no noticeable damage to quality in the finished product.  I used a regular candy/deep-fry thermometer for the measurements.    In a separate bowl I mixed 3 oz of Stonyfield plain yogurt with a little of the hot milk to thin it before stirring it gently into the big pot of milk.  It is important to thin the culture with milk so that it isn't necessary to stir the milk vigorously after adding it and to ensure that it is evenly distributed.  Finally I poured the warm, cultured milk into a glass mason jar, put it in the Salton and left it for eight hours.  Then I refrigerated it for at least two hours before opening it.  

This yogurt is like pudding!  It's thick, smooth, creamy and not too tart.  It's so thick it can stand up on its own.  The 8-hour yogurt was so mild in fact that I think I will try incubating it for 10 and 12 hours in the future to get a little more tang.  There's a heavenly cap of sour cream on top that's great spread on toast, since it's basically thin cream cheese.  Or eat it straight.

I have yet to see how the yogurt performs with successive generations of cultures.  The Salton manual says that the cultures only stay strong for about five batches, but other recipes suggest they'll last forever.  I suppose it's not the worst thing to have to shell out an extra dollar for every ten quarts of yogurt - especially yogurt this good.  This yogurt doesn't need a single thing - no sweeteners, no fruit, no granola - it's perfect as is.  I can't wait to use the whey to bake bread!


Anna said...

I have this yogurt maker, too, and I agree, it's great and very inexpensive. I bought mine on Amazon for less than $20.

I've also cultured heavy cream in it, to make great yogurt cream (like sour cream/creme fraiche).

But, my son and I just tested positive for both gluten sensitivity reaction (which I had suspected) AND casein (a milk protein) sensitivity reaction, which I hadn't suspected. Oh boy, the gluten-free will be easy (we already eat low carb and nearly wheat-free in our house), but the dairy, oh boy, that will be more of a challenge. We love our raw milk, raw milk aged cheeses, and I like to make fresh cheese. Butter might be ok, because it doesn't have much, if any casein protein.

But today I learned about a non-dairy starter for making non-dairy yogurt (with coconut milk). I'm going to try this, as I also got a nifty rotary coconut grater for Christmas (my son picked this one from my wish list). These graters are very common in Southeast Asia, India, and the Pacific islands, and they grate the coconut meat out of the coconut shell haves very well (I just tried it out this weekend). One coconut makes about as much milk and grated coconut as one can of coconut milk and one small bag of finely grated coconut (I dried the leftover grated coconut meat in my toaster oven at 150°F with the door slightly ajar to lower the temp a bit.

Hope the coconut yogurt milk works.

Anna said...

Oh forgot to mention the culture (I have no affiliation with the maker).

I got this info from the newsletter.

Daily Digest of Local Forage *urp*
GOOD QUESTIONS: Non-dairy yogurt culture starter?
Posted: 13 Jan 2009 02:16 AM CST
Question: Carla, Where can I get a good yogurt starter? I want to make your coconut milk yogurt but I don't want to use a dairy starter.

Answer: I recommend GI ProStart Yogurt Culture Starter from GI ProHealth which has a combination of three well-recognized and certified probiotic strains with documented clinical effectiveness. GI ProStart yogurt starter produces a nice, creamy, dairy-free yogurt when used with alternative milks like coconut milk and can also be used with cow or goat milk.

GI ProStart has to stay refrigerated to keep the bacteria alive and you only use an 1/8 teaspoon to make two quarts of yogurt.

To get you psyched to make the coconut milk yogurt or any other probiotic-containing food (like sauerkraut), here are some benefits for you to consider.

Good bacteria make vitamins our bodies need and utilize such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, A and K.
Good bacteria produce essential fatty acids
Good bacteria digest lactose
Good bacteria regulates peristalsis and bowel movements
Good bacteria digests protein into amino acids
Good bacteria produce antibiotics and antifungals which prevent colonization and growth of bad bacteria and yeast/fungus
Good bacteria support the immune system and increase the number of immune cells.
Good bacteria balance intestinal pH.
Good bacteria break down bacterial toxins
Good bacteria have anti-tumor and anti-cancer effects.
Good bacteria protects us against environmental toxins like mercury, pesticides, pollution and radiation
Good bacteria break down and rebuild hormones
Good bacteria help normalize serum cholesterol and triglycerides

Deborah said...

Thanks for the info! That coconut grater sounds really cool. Coconut yogurt sounds delicious! And the oil doesn't separate and harden on top? I guess it wouldn't if the consistency is thick enough.

Anna said...

Having only grated one coconut and made one batch of coconut milk so far (haven't made coconut yogurt yet), I can say the coconut milk does separate more than canned when sitting in the fridge. The coconut "cream" at the top hardens a lot due to it's high coconut fat content.

Will be interesting to see what it does as yogurt.

Canned coconut milk most commonly has an emulisfier ingredient, which reduces separation and adds thickness. Some brands have perservatives, too. But I'd rather have just coconut and water in my coconut milk. And I'm not so sure about those plastic linings in cans now. They can leach endocrine-disrupting BPA chemicals, so I'm trying to find ways to avoid canned foods.

Julie said...

I have the salton yogurt maker, but mine seems to get too hot. You seem to have had good results, maybe I should give it another try.

Deborah said...

Anna - I also avoid canned coconut milk because of the issues with BPA and additives. I've been mixing coconut cream concentrate with water to replace coconut milk for cooking, but I'm pretty sure it would separate right out if I put it in the refrigerator. I do know that it's possible to ferment coconut water with a kefir culture, but haven't tried it myself. So it sounds like the challenge now is to find a safe emulsifier to keep the oil in suspension, because that coconut milk yogurt just sounds too good.

Julie - How hot is too hot? As in fire hazard hot? Mine does seem very warm when I take the jar out, but the yogurt is just the right consistency so I know it's not too hot for the bacteria. I wonder if it would help to put it in a cooler place? Have you tried running it with a thermometer in the jar?

Anna said...

You can see the same grater I have, in action, on this You Tube video. It doesn't take two people to use it, but I can see how it might be easier and go faster with two. They also seemed to grate right up to the brown coconut skin, which put a lot of brown in their grated coconut meat, but I was able to avoid this for the most part (I picked a few bits out).

Also, I had a heck of a time trying to open the coconut to begin with. I have a meat cleaver and either I'm weak or they have a better cleaver. Mine dented the coconut, but didn't cut it. Turns out, it worked better to tap the coconut around a "hemisphere" with the broad back of the cleaver, the opposite edge from the blade. It split right open.

I drained the water inside with openings made with a phillips head screwdriver poked into the three "eyes" on the top. One needs to be able to allow air in or the fluid will not flow out very fast. It doesn't taste as good as water from a young (immature) white coconut, so I discarded it.

Remember the Alamode said...

Hi Deborah and thanks for your comment to my comment. By too hot I mean too hot for the bacteria to thrive in. I'll try again though. I am tempted to go back to the archaic method in the 1980's-wrapping the jar of milk/culture in a comforter and then putting it in a styrofoam chest. That was a winner.

Christine said...

I've heard that you can replenish the culture by mixing in some storebought yogurt.

Deborah said...

Christine- After about a month of successive batches from the same starter, my yogurt was turning out too sour. I tried using less starter and incubating it for less time, but with the same result. Last week I just started over with a brand new culture from the store and that batch came out like heaven all over again! So I would say a batch of yogurt can be successfully re-cultured for about a month before it needs to be replenished with storebought starter.

Alamode- Maybe if I want to make more than one batch at a time, or if this yogurt maker stops working, I'll try the comforter-in-a-cooler method. That's bizarre that your yogurt maker runs too hot!