a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Homemade Greek Yogurt: Cheap, Simple, Delicious!

I was excited when I found Susie E's recipe for "Foolproof Crock Pot Greek Yogurt" on the "one good thing by Jillee" site.  I didn't think it could get any easier than that but
As I read her instructions I got hung up on the stated precise temperatures apparently necessary for the perfect finished product.  I got frustrated when testing my crock pots' temperatures to find they varied greatly.  I was afraid to continue but wanted to succeed so I returned to the Internet.

In my search I found what the "official" difference was between pricey regular yogurt and very pricey Greek yogurt! And several suggestions from others. Hopefully my efforts will save you effort.

After looking at other sites and their methods and reading the zillion suggestions and comments that accompanied them I found the comment that was right for me when one responded that her grandmother was from the old country, where yogurt has been made forever, and her grandmother's temperature directions were "stinging" when you put your finger in the pot for the 180-190 degree range and "comfortable" when it had dropped to the 95-115 degree range.

Using "Grandma's" temperatures ---- (and comments I found on further simplifying from others) you can make Greek Yogurt in simple steps

  • Milk 
  • 6 ounces approximately(a small tub) commercial Greek yogurt that contains live cultures
  • Powdered milk, if desired
1. Pour 8 cups of 2 percent milk and almost 2 cups of powdered milk (I don't think you need to use that much) into a large heavy pot, whisking until the dry milk was thoroughly combined.

2. Heat, over low heat, it until it "stings" your finger (which when measured with my old candy thermometer was about 185 degrees)

3. Remove pot from stove and let cool until it feels "comfortable" to your finger. (Again, as a first time precaution, I checked it with the thermometer and it was in the right range)

4. Thoroughly whisk in the commercial yogurt.

5. Pour into sterilized* jars (whatever sizes you wish, but always one small jar to hold for the "starter" for the next batch so you only have to buy the commercial product once.) *I don't have a dishwasher so I dip them in boiling water and swish them around to sterilize) and put on lids.

6. Put the jars in a small hard plastic cooler*, fill the container about half way up the jars with hot tap water, close the lid, wrap a towel around the whole thing, and let it sit for about 8 hours.  (*Others used Styrofoam or soft-sided coolers. Some put the jars in the  crock pot, others in the oven with the light on, some on heating pads, some wrapped them in blankets, and others used a combination.)

Once again, they did it simply in the old world, showing us the process is very forgiving.

I discovered :
  • Greek yogurt has greater protein than regular yogurt --- thus making it healthier.
  • The increased protein is the result of draining regular yogurt.
  • Adding powdered milk to the liquid milk further increases the protein content of the finished product.
  • The drained liquid (whey) is good to use in baking, enriching soups, etc.
  • This basic yogurt, without sweeteners or flavorings, is a good sour cream substitute, and if drained for a longer period of time---cream cheese.
I also learned:
  • It is easy to adjust the ingredients to make smaller or larger amounts.
  • It will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.
  • You keep some yogurt from each batch to use in making the next batch.
  • Any "percentage" of milk may be used -- skim, 1 or 2 percent, or whole milk, even powdered.
  • There were disagreements on the outcome when using soy, almond, goat, etc. milks. Some said ultra pasteurized milk worked while others said it didn't.  
  • If you add powdered milk the protein is increased and the product is thicker. 
  • A variety of sweeteners, natural and artificial, can be successfully used.
  • Most individuals preferred making the plain basic recipe and adding any extras to individual servings just before eating, allowing for more versatility. 
Once again, they did it simply in the old world? Apparently the actual process is very forgiving.

Most of the "quick" recipes I found call for straining the yogurt to separate the whey making the yogurt very thick. Adding powdered milk eliminates that need.  Where some indicated they poured off a lot of whey, reducing the amount of finished product, I only had about one teaspoon of whey.

When I tipped the jars I could tell the mixture had set up, so I moved them to the refrigerator to chill. Apparently different batches may not thickened/set up the same, and will continue to thicken in the frig. If, for some reason, a batch doesn't thicken, you can use it in smoothies!

I love it when I am able to recreate---usually significantly healthier and cheaper---a commercial product. Even if I don't continue to make it on  a regular basis (which is rare for me) I know I can do it when I want to -- or need to!  

I strongly feel that it is wise to learn how to be as self-sustaining as possible as insurance against a time of need. Learning how to do now, when supplies are readily available, can save experimenting and frustration when the need is there and abundance is not.

'till we eat again,
            Simply, Gail

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