The New Home Economics

Yogurt

8 Comments

My lovely friend Tracey got me a yogurt maker for my birthday about a month ago.  This is the one she got me.

I’d been wanting one for a while, since I overheard some people in line at the Co-op a few months ago raving about theirs.  Well I will go ahead and rave about mine now… it’s great!  We’re just finishing up our second batch of yogurt and I am amazed at how easy it is.  Adam would like to add: “Especially when your husband does it for you.”

The best part about it is this:  the per-ounce price is half that of regular yogurt.  We have been buying the big 32 oz. containers of either Stonyfield or Brown Cow yogurt for quite some time (Note: did you know they are one and the same company? Figures.) and we were going through 5 or 6 of them a month.  This got kinda spendy, and the other bummer about it is that Minneapolis does not recycle yogurt containers.  We keep saving them, hoping we’ll figure out something to do with them, but jeez, we have like 100 now!

Our yogurt maker came with 7 6-oz. glass jars that are re-useable.  There are two ways you can get the “culture” to make your milk into yogurt:

1) Use a 1/2 c. of commercial yogurt
2) Use some dried cultures that you can buy at some natural foods stores

The directions that came with the yogurt maker are pretty simple:

boilmilk

Bring 42 oz. of milk to a boil and boil 1 min.  Let cool until about room temp.  Apparently it is best to cool it quickly by setting your pot in a sinkful of cold water.  Stir in 1/2 c. commercial yogurt.  Ladle into the glass jars, insert into yogurt maker, and set the timer for 8-9 hours.

yogurtmaker

Then open up the yogurt maker, put on your lids, and move the containers into the fridge and chill for a while.  That’s it.  This will give you plain yogurt, which you can add fruit or honey to or just eat it plain if that’s your thing.  Here’s Adam adding a dollop to some dal for one of the kids:

yogurtanddal

So yeah, I still have to buy a small amount of commercial yogurt, until I get the nerve to try buying just the cultures.

The only confusing thing about the directions is that it said you can use 1/2 c. of your previous batch of yogurt instead of commercial, but to never do this more than one time.  (I.E., don’t keep on using your homemade stuff over and over.)  What is up with that?  Is that something that the yogurt maker manufacturer has to say for legal reasons, or does the culture somehow get watered down after a while?

The final cost breakdown:

32 oz. Brown Cow: $3.19
42 oz. homemade (with organic milk): $2.07

So the Brown Cow is $.10/oz and homemade is $.05/oz.  And I’m now a convert.  (OK, I’m easy to convert, it’s true.)

Update, 2 August 2009: several of my questions about culturing/fermenting foods were answered at a recent workshop that I attended.  Click here to read all about it.

Update, February 23, 2011: Cookus Interruptus, one of my favorite cooking blogs, has posted a really great, thorough recipe for yogurt that does not require a yogurt maker.  Check it out!  (Much better than my recipe, in my opinion.)

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8 thoughts on “Yogurt

  1. i thought the co-ops now recycled almost all the kinds of plastic that the city doesn’t recycle. or do they exclude yogurt containers?

  2. My folks have been making their own yogurt for quite a while and, as far as I know, they use a portion of one batch to make the next. I’m not 100% sure about that though. I’ll check!

  3. Christina, I didn’t know the co-op even had a recycling program. I’m going to check it out. I had no idea.

    Nav, I’d appreciate any insight into yogurt culturing that I can get!

  4. So, I did end up checking in with the parental units and they actually didn’t have much insight. They said they’ve found using store-bought yoghurt as a starter (Astro, which may probably only exists up here in Canada) results in a somewhat slimy end-product, but there doesn’t seem to be a way around it (the pro stuff must use stabilisers, I guess?). They’ve *heard* that if you re-use the same culture for long enough, the sliminess goes, but they’ve never tested it.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. If you experiment further, please blog about it!

    • Hey Nav,
      I was hoping I’d hear back from you… I’m making a mega trip to the CO-OP tomorrow and I’m hoping to see what “culture” options they have. I’ve never heard of Astro, so that must be a Canada thing. Our homemade yogurt tastes just like Brown Cow (and Brown Cow is what we have been using as the “starter”).

  5. I don’t know if you’ve found any new info yet about yogurt culturing, but I can offer you my experience…

    I’ve been making yogurt for my family (my husband & I and our four little boys) for about a year and a half. I make two gallons about every 10 days to 2 weeks. It is so good!!

    Anyway, from what I’ve read, you can use some of your homemade yogurt as a starter, but need to switch to a store-bought yogurt as a starter (or dry culture) every 4th or 5th batch. If you just keep using a little left-over yogurt for the starter, after too many repetitions you begin to lose variety in your cultures, and certain strains will take over.

    Hope this helps!

    • Hi Kimber, that is very interesting! I actually have lately just been buying a little 6 oz tub of “Cultural Revolution” yogurt that I use for each batch. It’s super convenient and still really cheap. But maybe I will try doing it just every other batch or so. It just goes so fast that it’s hard to remember to save it sometimes! Your explanation about the cultures makes a lot of sense though, so thanks!

  6. I’ve been making yogurt for a couple of years now, and I almost always use the old batch as starter. The main reasons I’ve had to switch to commercial have been human error, such as the boyfriend accidentally eating all of the previous batch or overheating the culture when making the new batch, thus killing it. As far as I know, if it keeps culturing well, you can keep it rolling. Also, you don’t have to use a yogurt maker. I make half a gallon in one big bowl at a time. After you’ve let the milk cool to 110 F or so, pour it into a bowl with yogurt starter at the bottom and put it into the oven with the oven light on. In about 8 hours, you’ll have yogurt. To get it thicker, I put a towel over it touching the surface and store it in the fridge overnight. The whey is wicked out, leaving a nice Greek-style treat.

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