Yogurt, Bacteria with Flavor
Yogurt happens when bacteria consume natural milk sugars (lactose) and excrete lactic acid. Yogurt has two bacteria in it… Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. They are tiny living organisms that are similar to the bacteria that we already have in our gut. It is said that these friendly bacteria are good for us because they help us keep our immune system healthy.
There are many other beneficial bacteria too, but they have to be added to the yogurt separately. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and L. Casei are examples of the probiotics that can be added for extra health benefits. Many of the yogurt brands that can be bought in the supermarket have added good bacteria such as acidophilus, but they aren’t forthcoming with how much is actually in there.
Store bought yogurt usually has added ingredients in them like pectin and gelatin so they can make them thicker and cut their production costs. I stopped buying them a long time ago. I am lucky enough to have a mom that keeps me stocked-up with her homemade yogurt. She recently acquired some Indian yogurt starter (bacteria) that knocked my socks off. It’s the best yogurt I’ve ever had. So now, I’m making it myself to relieve her of the increased demand. It’s not hard at all. Anybody can make it… although some people have special secrets to make theirs incredible.
Homemade yogurt is made with milk and a starter culture. The milk can be whole milk (makes thicker yogurt) or skim milk (makes thinner yogurt). Your yogurt will only be as good as the starter you use though. You can use any yogurt as a starter culture, but the better it is… the better yours will be. Stonyfield Organic Plain yogurt is a good starter that can be bought at the grocery store. Yoplait would probably give you less than satisfactory results. A good quality milk is a must too.
My mom makes her Indian yogurt by heating two gallons of whole milk in a pot to 200 degrees on her stove-top and keeping it there for 20 minutes. You’ll want a layer of cream to form on the top. If you like thicker yogurt, then heat it longer, up to 30 minutes. For thinner yogurt, 10 minutes. My mom cools hers down to 120 degrees and “innoculates” it with her starter culture. She “innoculates” it by adding 1 cup of the 120 degree milk to about one cup of her starter culture and mixes them together really well. It’s important that the bacteria mixes with the warm milk. Then she mixes it with the rest of her 120 degree milk. (A hand-mixer works great for this, but she insists on mixing it by hand). She puts it in jars right away and huddles them close together inside her oven. She leaves the light on in her oven for warmth, even though the oven is off. The oven can be pre-warmed to 180 degrees to make it a desirable temperature for better results, but turn it off about 15 minutes before you put your yogurt in.
She lets her yogurt “set” in her oven for 9 hours (overnight). It is left completely undisturbed. Yogurt gets more tart the longer it is left to set because acids develop. If you want a milder flavor that is less tart, the yogurt could set for 3-4 hours. After it is set, it should be refrigerated. My mom makes a lot of yogurt at one time, but it is easy to make less. The ratio is usually about 4 cups of milk to 1 tablespoon of yogurt. The measurements don’t have to be exact.
My friend Amy over at Dish on Design did an awesome blog on how to make your own yogurt. I also found a great YouTube video that shows how to make Indian yogurt in your microwave. Check it out by clicking here.
My absolute favorite way to enjoy my homemade yogurt is in a bowl with honey on it. But since I have trouble moderating myself, I have a second favorite way with fewer calories. It’s an Indian recipe called “Sweet Lassi”. I blend (with a hand-mixer) about 1.5 cups of water with a half cup of yogurt. I crush a green cardamom pod with the back of a spoon and throw the seeds into the yogurt along with some sugar. I add about half a teaspoon of rose-water and I garnish with mint. I just absolutely love this!
Homemade yogurt is so delicious and so easy, you’ll never buy it again. You won’t have to because you always save a little bit of your yogurt to use as the starter for your next batch. It is a bit of trial and error in the beginning, but once you figure out what works for you, it will work every time.
Come grow with us!