On Friday,  I had a wild hair and decided that it was important to make some homemade yogurt.  We don't keep milk around the house large because all the cereal gremlins are grown.  I only eat oatmeal (out of the big cardboard tube, not instant).  I have instant milk when needed for recipes, or I buy milk for a recipe where I need the full fat.

To try my hand at yogurt making,  I bought a gallon of whole milk (whole milk is recommended for newcomers).  As is my nature, I like to read lots of different things to get a broad view--best to know the pitfalls prior to beginning.  There is much on the web as to the directions for making yogurt.  Accordingly, I'll not bother with it here OTHER THAN to give you a good starting point.  Here are two great sources:
  1.  The Greatist blog entry which you can find here, and
  2.  a troubleshooting guide that you can find here at The Nourished Kitchen. 

Even with my reading and my 'planning', I had to do one complete restart (but at the milk heating stage) and a semi-redo at the incubation start. Nevertheless, the end result turned out uber fantastic. Here's some of the things that I wanted to share with you from my learning process and reading regarding why people do this. 
  • Saving money.   Let's do math (sales tax ignored)!  See image to the left.  In general you are saving almost 19% by making your own yogurt or just under $1.00. However, there is some time and effort involved, so in general it is not likely a real good return on your time.  One saves quite a bit more money by simply preparing a nutritious meal at home v. eating out.  Accordingly, I don't see saving money as a primary motivator.
  • Reducing intake of processed foods. The plain Greek Chobani yogurt that I used does not appear to have anything objectionable listed:
    •  Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk,
    •  Live and Active Cultures 
      • S. Thermophilus
      • L.  Bulgaricus
      • L. Acidophilus
      • Bifidus
      • L. Casei  
           It doesn't appear that making anything at home is helping me avoid anything objectionable for this brand.
  • Taste:  In a blind taste test, my husbando preferred the homemade yogurt.  To be clear, 
    • I used whole milk, so it had a creamier texture. 
    • The sample size of one cannot be relied upon statistically!
    • Incubation time was just 5 hours making the taste less sour.
    • (I put it in my oatmeal and it was very, very good with the addition of maple syrup).  
  • Availability of a whole fat, unctuous experience v. no-fat experience (or any calibration in between).  There are few is any product offerings in the full fat category.
Conclusions?  If you want to be able to manage taste through both incubation time (lower time = lower acidity) and the fat level, then homemade is a clear winner.  If your reasoning is to save money....well, it is true if you value your time at sweat shop prices.  But if you are like me and want to understand (and control) the process behind your food, then have a go.

I think that the most important suggestions (in the reference material above) are these:
  1. Sterilize all components. As the process is to encourage bacterial growth, best to ensure that you are tending to the propagation of the right bacteria!
  2. Watch your temperatures:  Just as with bread making, when working with yeast or bacteria, too high a temperature will kill them--too low and they go into hibernation.  When I poured my liquid (at the right temp) into a very hot mason jar it spiked the temp of my liquid to 131.  I decided to start over rather than chance it. Also, if the heat is too high on the milk, it can cause the proteins to get all googly and yield not-so-nice texture in the end product.
    • As I used my oven as an incubator, I used my digital probe inserted into the liquid, and snaked it through the closed oven door.  I had only to look at the digital dial to know exactly what the internal temp of my incubated mixture was.  You don't drive without a speedometer.  Why would you cook without a thermometer?
I hope that you'll give yogurt making a try.  Mine was so flavorful and so thick (I strained it in flour sack, and I swear it is almost cream cheese-like), I actually awoke this a.m. looking forward to enjoying it again on my oatmeal.

Now, what to do with that whey?  I'm going to make a footsoak. It is summer after all!


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