Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Super Easy Greek Style Homemade Yogurt

Okay, so I'll admit it.  I was one of those kids who used to laugh at Martha Stewart on TV for making her own crackers and such.  Now look at me making my own yogurt.  Can you see me shaking my head at myself?  But really, I'm gonna have to blame this one on my mom.  She's the one who gets the credit for teaching me how to do it when I went to spend the weekend with her some time back.  And when you see how crazy easy and cheap it is to make your own (not to mention not having all those preservatives and things you can't pronounce in there), you are going to flip out!  All you need is a bit of time and patience.

There are electric yogurt makers on the market, and you can get quite elaborate with this; but I purposefully went low-tech with the whole process so it would be accessible to everyone with common kitchen things.


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1 (4 oz) container plain Greek yogurt
    • containing Live, Active Cultures
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
Toppings of you choice (not necessary for recipe)
    • such as fresh berries, fruit, granola
Sweeteners of your choice (not necessary for recipe)
    • such as agave, honey, etc.
Step-by-step:
Heat milk to 200 degrees F.  You can either do this in the microwave (probably 12-14 minutes or so), or on the stove top over a makeshift double boiler.   You'll want to have either a digital instant read  thermometer, or a candy thermometer handy for this process.   If you are adding the vanilla bean, you can do it now, while the milk is heating so that the seeds will perfume the milk.  If you happen to forget, you can add them afterwards.  No big deal.  That works, too.  But preferentially, add them before.   *You can use a lower percentage milk (like 2%), but the yogurt will not be as creamy.
half gallon of whole milk
Split the vanilla bean and add the seeds.  Scrape them out with a knife.   Add to the milk.
Checking my temp with my digital thermometer.  Couldn't find the darn candy thermometer anywhere!
Once the milk reaches 200 degrees, cool it down to 110 degrees in an ice bath.  Careful, this doesn't take very long.  You may want to stir it around several times as the milk closest to the edges (in contact with the cold water) will obviously cool down faster than the middle.
I really tried hard to catch that 110 photo for you, but wouldn't you know, the temp jumped from 111 to 109 right before my eyes, then it 107... which proves my point.  It happens FAST!  
As soon as you hit 110, remove the milk from the ice and gently whisk in the yogurt.  Don't over beat it.  Just get it all incorporated and leave it alone.  We want all those little live cultures to do their thing in this nice warm environment, similar to letting yeast rise when you are making bread.
1 (4 oz) container plain Greek yogurt containing active, live cultures.  Make sure it says that.
Now cover the bowl in plastic wrap, then wrap the whole thing up in a couple of big towels.  We need to create a warm little oven for our cultures to turn the whole bowl of milk into one ginormous thing of yogurt.  At this point, DO NOT DISTURB the bowl!!!!  Don't let anyone near it, don't bump it, anything!!!  Set it somewhere on the counter where you can just let it sit for about 5 - 7 hours. 
 
After the 5 - 7 hours, your yogurt will most likely be soft set - like the American style yogurt.  You can stop here if this is the style you prefer.  I prefer the thicker, creamier Greek style yogurt, however.  So I am going to take this another step now and strain the yogurt for several hours.

Line a colander with a large piece of old nylon or a man's old cotton t-shirt (the old ones that have undergone many washes seem to be thinner).
Oh come on... don't you have an old slip that you don't use any more?   ;)


Place the colander over a large bowl to collect the whey and strain the yogurt in the refrigerator for several hours until thick and creamy.  I've even left it up to 8 hours overnight.  If it gets too thick, you can always add a bit of the whey back in.    So you have a fail-safe.  :)
What we are staining out is the whey, leaving a yogurt that is thicker, creamier, and with a higher protein yield per equivalent volume.  But feel free to save the whey and add back to your smoothies if you wish, as it is high in vitamin and amino acid content!  
This is the whey collected after a night in the refrigerator. About 2 cups worth in my case!
Now, after straining overnight..... we have what you may recognize!  Creamy and beautiful with all those specks of vanilla beans in there.  Remember, that was completely optional. 
Also remember, we have added no additional sweeteners to this yogurt (although you may notice that there is a slight sweetness if you have added the vanilla bean seeds).  So you may choose to top them with any number of things..... granola, fruit, berries, honey, agave syrup, etc.....!  The beauty is that it is all natural and YOU get to choose!
Another option?  You could also use the plain yogurt as a savory application (like you do with sour cream on a baked potato with the addition of chopped dill, parsley, etc).  Of course for those, you may not want the vanilla.  Ha!

I recommend storing them in 4-6 oz jars or serving containers so your family can top their own. My personal favorite combination was blueberry/granola/agave.  But so hard to choose!  :)

I hope you enjoyed this simple and delicious recipe!
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Written Method:
Heat milk to 200 degrees F.  You can either do this in the microwave (probably 12-14 minutes or so), or on the stove top over a makeshift double boiler.   You'll want to have either a digital instant read  thermometer, or a candy thermometer handy for this process.   If you are adding the vanilla bean, you can do it now, while the milk is heating so that the seeds will perfume the milk.  I'm sorry, but I sort of forgot.  So I added mine after.  Oops....  That works, too.  But preferentially, add them before.

Once the milk reaches 200 degrees, cool it down to 110 degrees in an ice bath. 
Careful, this doesn't take very long.  You may want to stir it around several times as the milk closest to the edges (in contact with the cold water) will obviously cool down faster than the middle.

As soon as you hit 110, remove the milk from the ice and gently whisk in the yogurt.  Don't over beat it.  Just get it all incorporated and leave it alone.  We want all those little live cultures to do their thing in this nice warm environment, similar to letting yeast rise when you are making bread.

Now cover the bowl in plastic wrap, then wrap the whole thing up in a couple of big towels.  We need to create a warm little oven for our cultures to turn the whole bowl of milk into one ginormous thing of yogurt.  At this point, DO NOT DISTURB the bowl!!!!  Don't let anyone near it, don't bump it, anything!!!  Set it somewhere on the counter where you can just let it sit for about 5 - 7 hours. 

After the 5 - 7 hours, your yogurt will most likely be very soft set - like the American style yogurt.  You can stop here if this is the style you prefer.  I prefer the thicker, creamier Greek style yogurt, however.  So I am going to take this another step now and strain the yogurt for several hours.  

What we are staining out is the whey, leaving a yogurt that is thicker, creamier, and with a higher protein yield per equivalent volume.  But feel free to save the whey and add back to your smoothies if you wish, as it is high in vitamin and amino acid content!  

Line a colander with a large piece of old nylon or a man's old cotton t-shirt (the old ones that have undergone many washes seem to be thinner). Place the colander over a large bowl to collect the whey and strain the yogurt in the refrigerator for several hours until thick and creamy.  I've even left it up to 8 hours overnight.  If it gets too thick, you can always add a bit of the whey back in. 

Now remember, we have added no additional sweeteners to this yogurt (although you may notice that there is a slight sweetness if you have added the vanilla bean seeds).  So you may choose to top them with any number of things..... granola, fruit, berries, honey, agave syrup, etc.....!  The beauty is that it is all natural and YOU get to choose! 

I recommend storing them in 4-6 oz jars or serving containers so your family can top their own. 

2 comments:

  1. Looks like a tasty simple recipe. About how long will the yogurt keep in the refrigerator? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It should be fine for at least a week. (Though some sources say longer.)

      Delete

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