Friday, April 18, 2014

Homemade Yogurt and Blueberry Sauce

There has been a lot of activity in our kitchen lately! Some of it has to do with the recent remodeling projects. (That's another post for another day.) Some of it has been experimenting with a simple way to make yogurt.

"Why?" you ask.

Two reasons:

  1. We spend wa-a-a-a-ay too much money on yogurt at the grocery store. (The Bear and I can easily put away 3 cartons a day. Even with coupons and sales we spend at least $2.50 a day or $17.50 a week since he eats 2 cartons of Greek style and I eat at least 1 of whatever style we have available.
  2. Neither one of us needs the additional bovine growth hormone that I fear might be in some of the yogurt we consume. He is a man. I am a post-menopausal woman. Enough said. The only ways I know to avoid this hormone are to buy only organic - which would be wa-a-a-a-ay more expensive than what I'm spending now - and I don't want to spend a lot of money on yogurt (see #1 above); or make it myself using non-hormone injected cow's milk. Uh, I choose the latter option.
After a bit of experimentation I have come upon a nice method for making it using equipment and supplies I already had on hand, unless you count the cheese cloth that I bought because I was out of it. Oh, and 1 carton of organic plain yogurt as my starter. (Bought on sale and with a coupon.)

My equipment: a large dutch oven for heating the milk and a pressure cooker/canner for incubating a batch. Also, 2 quart-size mason jars with lids, a funnel, a wooden spoon, cheesecloth, and a candy thermometer.

Steps for making yogurt:

  • Pour 8 cups of milk into dutch oven. (That's 1/2 gallon of milk. No matter what price you pay for your milk this method will be a whole lot cheaper than buying 8 cups of yogurt!)
  • Heat your milk to 180 degrees while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Use a meat or candy thermometer for accurate measurement. My candy thermometer does a great job helping me make yogurt but it has never helped me make good candy! My holiday fudge always turns into a disaster. Or a nice fudge sauce. Depends on how you market your product. Which is why one of our family traditions includes celebrating Christmas with hot fudge sundaes. :)
  • After the milk has reached the desired temperature it needs to be taken off the burner and allowed to cool until it reaches 110 degrees. If you let it sit too long just put it back on the heat until it reaches the desired 110 degree temperature.
  • Stir 1/4 cup of cultured organic yogurt into your warm milk. I always use a wooden spoon when making ANYTHING that uses a starter (sourdough bread, friendship bread, etc.). It is probably an unnecessary precaution since the milk is heated in a stainless steel pan, but I do it anyway because somewhere in the back of my mind is the thought that metal kills live cultures. Not sure why that thought is there. Anyway. . .
  • Using a clean funnel, pour the warm cultured milk into 2 clean mason jars. Place lids on them. These lids can be reused for each batch because you will not be sealing them to the jars.

  • Place the jars on the rack in the pressure cooker/canner. As you can see, my canner holds 5 quarts but that would be a bit too much yogurt, even for The Bear and me. Actually, it would be a bit too much for my refrigerator. Now that I know how to make this quickly 2 quarts at a time is plenty.

  • Place water in the canner so that the level is about 1/2 way up the sides of the jars. Heat the water until it reaches 110 degrees. Then turn off the stove.
  • Once the proper temperature is reached, put the lid on the pressure cooker but DO NOT add the pressure gauge. The idea is to keep the cultured milk incubating, not cooking!
  • Open the pressure cooker every 2 or 3 hours to check on the temperature of the water. If it feels too cool turn the stove on "low" for a short time. DO NOT ALLOW THE WATER TEMPERATURE TO RISE TOO HIGH! If you do, it will kill your cultures. Ask me how I know.
  • Go to bed. Really. I start my yogurt about mid-afternoon and I check the water temperature two or three times, the last time being right before I retire for the night.
  • Wake up to 2 jars of fresh, creamy yogurt!
  • I always take out 1/4 cup of cultured yogurt and place it in a separate container in the refrigerator before I do anything else. This is the starter for the next batch.

Strain some of your yogurt using cheese cloth to make Greek style. The Bear likes the thicker curds of this style of yogurt. I'm not particular. 

Use the milky liquid, the whey, that results from the straining in place of buttermilk in pancake or biscuit recipes. It makes them light and fluffy!

Stir spoonfuls of homemade jam and jelly into your individual yogurt servings. I use strawberry jam, peach jam, and apple jelly. Since The Bear and I are partial to blueberry flavored yogurt I make blueberry sauce and keep it in the refrigerator near the yogurt. (Recipe below!)

Blueberry Sauce

This blueberry sauce is adapted from the Blueberry Pie Deluxe recipe found in The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. (The whole pie is excellent, too!)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or thawed blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the blueberries and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture boils, thickens, and clears. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and the lemon juice. Cool. Then refrigerate.

Place about 2 Tablespoons of the filling on top of your regular or Greek homemade yogurt. Delicious!

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (KJV)