Thursday, June 2, 2016

Make your own Yogurt - Part 2 - Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting

Last week I posted a fairly long post about making your own yogurt. That was just Part One of what has been quite an adventure. This week, I'm going to expand with some tips, tricks and ideas for your yogurt making process! If you haven't read the original post, you can read it here. You can make yogurt on the stove top, in a yogurt maker, or even in your slow cooker (we'll be posting on that option soon). You can cook it in your oven, or a cooler, or any place warm and insulated.

Scalding the milk

Starter Cultures
During the yogurt making process you use starter cultures (as a packet or store bought or reserved yogurt). For my first starter I used store purchased yogurt. Since then, I have mostly used my own yogurt. I say mostly because I have forgotten to save yogurt once or twice, or have reverted to a new starter when I haven't found the flavor/texture as much to my liking. If you use older (less fresh) yogurt, you might find that the yogurt you make is less firm, or the flavors different - mine seems to get more tart. Tartness can be a result of an old starter, or using too much starter. If you keep forgetting to save yogurt for a starter - you can freeze some, or I've taken to separating my starter as soon as its finished straining. I put it in a small jar and hide it on a shelf!

Fruit-Syrup Topping

Yogurt Flavors
The recipe I posted originally uses both vanilla extract and sugar. I find if I add them early in the process, the yogurt is sweeter. It seems to take a tad more sugar on the back end. You can make your yogurt plain, which leaves you open to all different flavors.

Originally, I stirred in one vanilla bean per container into my yogurt. I find this really enhances the vanilla flavor - but since my children don't seem to care - I have been leaving it out lately. I use these Grade A Tahitian vanilla beans.   

You can flavor yogurt with preserves or fruit. For example - this raspberry yogurt looks delicious! Be careful how much you mix though as it can make your yogurt runny. My yogurt maker suggested putting preserve on the bottom of the jar, and pouring the milk on top - cooking the yogurt over the preserves. This would leave you with your standard "fruit-on-the-bottom" yogurt.  I have been making fruit syrup with leftover berries, and find this to be a delicious (and toddler approved) topping. Something we will also post on soon.

There are several recipes for flavoring yogurt that include adding gelatin - This allows for flavoring while maintaining the consistency. This recipe is for strawberry flavor, but works with other berries. You can even make your yogurt light and airy, like yoplait whips! 

You can, of course, add fresh fruit or homemade granola also. 

Milk in an ice-bath

Troubleshooting: Watery/Runny Yogurt
Note: Many store yogurts contain some type of thickener. Homemade yogurt may be thinner than what you are used to. Check out this article from the Kitchn on how to make thicker yogurt
  1. Too extreme temperatures: Milk was too cool while cooking or too hot when starter yogurt was added. If milk is too cool, yogurt cultures grow slower and will not be done on time. If your milk is too hot when you add the starter cultures, the starter bacteria could be killed. Make sure your thermometer is working and your temperatures are accurate. I got a new thermometer when I started making yogurt, and it's been working great: check it out.
  2. Ultra-pasteurized milk: if milk is ultra-pasteurized then it has been heated to higher temperatures than during normal pasteurization. If this is the case, too many bacteria may have been killed, inhibiting the growth process.
  3. Other types of milk: Milk with lower fat content will be thinner and tangier. Add gelatin or powdered milk before adding the starter. If you used non-dairy milk, you may need a different recipe, though many recipes state they will work with any type of milk. 
If it tastes and smells all right but is just a little thin, you can use yogurt to in a smoothie, in place of buttermilk or heavy cream in recipes, or turn it into Greek yogurt by draining out the whey until it reaches a normal consistency. 

Troubleshooting: Separated Yogurt: Culturing yogurt at too high of a temperature can cause separation into curds and whey. If the yogurt is lumpy, but not fully separated, just whisk it back together. Check your temperatures before doing the next batch. A culture that is too old can also cause it to happen. Over cultured yogurt can also taste bitter. 

Having trouble with your yogurt? Let us know! Have some great flavor options, tips or tricks - comment below!

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