Monday, September 5, 2011

Yogurt 101

Well, I've really jumped into this wholesome living way of life! I thought making my own bread was a huge step - but making my own yogurt is just crazy talk!!!

But yah know what - it was pretty easy and it was good! Well, once I added some honey - more on that later.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert or certainly pretend to say I have my own recipe- if you want the exact great details - check out this blog:

She gives great directions and trouble shooting tips and puts your mind at ease through the whole process. If you think you messed up, probably not.

The first things you might want to know is how it turned out. It was tart, not something I would personally enjoy "as is". It was thick but got runny as soon as I started to stir it, so stir gently to protect the bacteria you worked so hard to cultivate. But it will still be thin. You could probably strain it a bit through cheese cloth for a thicker yogurt. I compared the taste to my starter, Stonyfield Plain Yogurt, and Stonyfield was much more tart. It was easy to flavor with a little experimentation, more below.

The process: Well, check out the website but honestly, it was very easy. You need to be home during the initial warming and cooling phase. Once you set it to incubate - all the pressure is off and you can potentially forget about it without harming it. Well, within reason. You probably have all the tools needed so there's not much prep. I've also found a slow cooker recipe here: which I might try at a future date.

My biggest concern was whether my family would like it, because honestly, they're the ones who eat the yogurt, not me. My husband eats a 6 oz yogurt every day with lunch. My two oldest kids eat a lot of frozen yogurt pops and my youngest eats a 6 oz yogurt for breakfast a few days a week.

We buy organic yogurt so this was costing us $10-$11 per week. It still had alot of sugar in it. So where does homemade yogurt stand in all this? Well, I think a half gallon of whole organic milk($3.69) will get us through each week. (although time will tell. They might not always get a full 6 oz serving, but I think they'll survive. That will save us about $30 each month! Cha-ching!!

But what about all that sugar? We like it sweet, not plain. I was definitely worried about this. Most people who make their own yogurt use very non-processed forms of sweeteners(honey & maple syrup). I enjoy those two things, but possibly not in my yogurt as a prominent flavor. Okay - I would, but would my picky husband and kids? I didn't really find any recipes that used table sugar. The other main method was whole fresh or frozen berries. A fine idea - but would everyone like chunks in their yogurt? That can be an issue depending on the phase.

So we tested.

I tested table sugar + vanilla extract, honey, and sweetened fresh strawberries(w/ dissolved table sugar). I tested them all first. Then I woke up my husband and let him taste them all. Then I had my oldest taste them. The results?

Honey is an awesome sweetener!!!! I was worried because my family does not LOVE honey. I LOOOVE me some honey and thought it was great. But my daughter detests it and my husband just thinks I'm crazy. But they both thought it was great. The table sugar was not so good because it was still grainy. The vanilla didn't do much for it either, but it was a cheap vanilla. (I'm considering making my own vanilla. ~Fun Fun!!)The strawberry was okay but needed the honey to give it the sweet punch we were used to. Later tried with with some chopped frozen berries and that was good too. So I don't think I'll continue making a sweeten berry mixture once its gone. Initially I measured the sweeteners, but then I just played around until I got the right amount of sweetness. I left the original batch a little less sweet so we could add berries. If need be, we'll add more honey.

Other Uses for Yogurt:
The Kitchen Steward site gave some recommendations - and I'll just share a few of my favorites so far. I left one jar plain(until necessary) so I could use the yogurt plain if needed. I used it as a buttermilk substitute in my banana bread. This is awesome and I'm very excited that you can use this in place of buttermilk in recipes. I might actually attempt to make my own ranch dressing. I've always wanted to, because that is the one processed food item my family will not live without(Hidden Valley Ranch!) but I wasn't willing to mess around and try to make a suitable substitution unless I had organic buttermilk, which I have yet to find. And it would surely be expensive. But now it's not!

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