Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Homemade Greek Honey-Vanilla Yogurt

I've been making homemade yogurt for a while, and even though there are loads of recipes/methods online already, I thought I'd add mine anyway.  This is for all my friends who have asked about my yogurt making!!

Non-fat Greek yogurt is a wonderful food to have while losing weight.  The 'Greek" part means that the extra whey has been strained off, resulting in a thicker and creamier yogurt.  Most of us have tasted regular non-fat yogurt at some point, and it is easy to recognize the non-fat taste.  Acidic and tart, and not at all yummy.  When the yogurt is strained, the acidic whey is removed and the milk solids are condensed, resulting in much better flavor!  Because it is condensed, Greek yogurt also has 2x more protein than regular, helping you to feel fuller for longer, so you can eat less food!  It's a win-win!  My other favorite power-food for dieting is 2% cottage cheese (which I can't make...yet...) 16g of protein in only 90 cals!!  I'll give the nutritional info for my Greek Yogurt at the bottom of the recipe.

Don't let all the steps scare you!  Yogurt is a lot of hurry up and wait.  20 minutes of work... wait an hour... 5 minutes of work... wait 12 hours...  A stay at home mom will have no trouble, and a working person can do it, you'll just have to fit the steps into your schedule.

 Also, here is the price breakdown
24oz tub of name-brand Greek yogurt ($3.50) / 6 servings = $0.59 per serving
1 gallon skim milk ($2.75) / 16 servings = $0.17 per serving
(the first batch requires a small tub of store bought yogurt, but after that you save your own!)

1/3 the cost!  I do add honey and vanilla, which makes the price go up a bit, but I think I have room to wiggle with that price!!

Homemade Strained Honey-Vanilla Yogurt

To Make Yogurt:

1 gallon skim/non-fat milk
1 container plain, non-fat Oikos yogurt (Brand makes a difference!  See notes in the recipe.)

To Stir In:

1/3 C honey (raw & local is best!)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Equipment needed:

6 Qt. pot
10 qt pot
Heat-proof rubber spatula
Cooking Thermometer (not candy making)
Large cooler (large enough to hold your pots, one at a time)
High-Quality Cheesecloth (or 4ish layers of store-bought cheesecloth OR very thin, large kitchen towel - not terry cloth)
2-3 XL rubber bands
8 C measuring mixing bowl (like the PC batter bowl)
2-3 empty 1qt. yogurt containers OR canning jars OR Tupperware, for storage

1. Pour the entire gallon of milk into the 6qt pot.  Heat over med-high heat, stirring every few minutes and scraping bottom with rubber spatula until temperature reaches 180 degrees F.  This will take appx. 20 minutes.  This sterilizes the milk, just in case there are hostile bacteria that missed the pasteurization process, or were introduced during bottling.  Stir to keep the bottom from scorching - heat may be lowered if you are likely to be distracted while heating ;-)

(note - if your milk does scorch, taste it.  As long as it tastes fine, your yogurt will be fine.  Just don't scrape up the scorched bits during the remaining steps.  If your milk tastes burnt, it's up to you whether you are OK with the flavor, or if you need to start over)

2. Cool the milk to 125 degrees F. This can be done quickly or slowly.  If you remove the pot from the heat, it could take an hour to cool, depending of the temperature of your house.  To cool quickly, fill a large bowl with ice water, place in the sink, and set the milk-pot inside.  Stir frequently and temp until you get 125.  This could be as short as 10-15 minutes, or less.

3. WHILE MILK IS COOLING Prepare your cooler.  It is convenient to place it near a door, or in a bathtub you won't need for about 12-24 hours.  Place about 2 gallons of hot water in the cooler.  Check the temp of your faucet - if it's close to 120, that will be fine.  If not, you may need to boil a small pot of water to add to make the cooler water reach 120ish.  You will only need to check this first time - next time you make yogurt you will know how hot your water is, and how much boiling water you needed to add.  My hot tap water is fine at 117.

4. When milk has reached 125, scrape your Oikos yogurt into a medium mixing bowl and add 2 cups of the warm milk.  Whisk well to remove lumps, then whisk all into the pot of warm milk.  I use Oikos because it has no additives - additives cause grainy batches of yogurt.  You can experiment with other brands, but Oikos is safe to make good yogurt.

5. Place the lid on your pot, and place it in your cooler of hot water.  The level of the water should be about the same level as the yogurt, if not top it up - and make a note of how much water you will need next time.

6. Leave the yogurt, undisturbed, for about 12 hours.  This time is relative, anything over 6 hours will be fine, but the longer it sits the more firm it will become, and the more yogurt you get for your trouble!  I find it perfect to make my yogurt after dinner and have it done when I wake up in the morning.

7. After 12ish hours, you will find an entire gallon of non-fat, plain yogurt!  If you like "regular" yogurt (not strained) then your work here is done!  The yogurt will look like a solid mass with some yellow-ish liquid floating on and around it.  This is the whey, and it is the water-part of the milk - the yogurt starter converts most of the milk solids into more yogurt, and this is what is left.  It is quite healthy and mild.  If you are going to eat your yogurt here, just whisk the whey into your yogurt.  You'll need to stir it when serving, as it will separate again.

8. If you want to make strained yogurt, you need to chill the yogurt first.  If you have room in the fridge, great!  If not, dump out the warm water from the cooler, add cold water and ice, and put the pot back in for 3-4 hours.

9. Now prepare your larger pot.  Place your cheesecloth over the pot and secure around with 2-3 large rubber bands.  Let the cloth dip down into the pot about 4", to hold the yogurt.  Use the spatula to scrape your cooled yogurt into the cloth, watching to make sure you don't overflow!  You may need to adjust your cloth up or down.  You want to yogurt to be all the way up to the rim, so there is lots of room for the extra whey to drip down without the yogurt sitting in it.  You'll get around 2" of whey at the end, so make sure there is room.

9. Refrigerate for 3 hours while draining - if there is not room in your fridge, put it back in your cold cooler with more ice water.

10. After 3ish hours (set a timer - I always forget to check it!) look at your yogurt.  The sides should have curled in, away from the cloth, and the middle should be sunken from draining.  Perfect!  Search google for ideas of what to do with your whey, but DO NOT pour it down the drain if you have SEPTIC!!  Very harmful to the tank and the bacteria doing their job.  I feed it to my chickens, or just pour it in the yard.

(note here:  if you continue to drain the yogurt, while refrigerated, for many more hours, you will get yogurt cheese!  It can be used like cream cheese in cooking and spreading.  Search google for recipes and uses.  It is much lower calorie than regular cream cheese because it was made from non-fat milk, not cream.  I have not done this myself, but I do know it works.  Not sure about flavor and melting ability, but I'm pretty sure if you made it flavored (garlic powder and chives?  Crushed pineapple or strawberries?) and added a bit of sweetener or salt, that it would be pretty amazing!)

11. Scoop the yogurt into an 8C measuring-mixing bowl.  If you don't have one, you'll need to measure the yogurt as you remove it from the cloth.  You want 8C total - if your yogurt has drained too much, just add the right amount of whey back into the yogurt and whisk, to get 8C. (this is not so important if you aren't worried about the calories per serving and getting exactly 8C of yogurt.  However, if you do drain it too much it will be quite thick and gloppy, and more like thin cream cheese.  Just add whey and whisk until you like the consistency)

12. Before adding your flavorings, remove 6-8 oz. of plain yogurt to a small container, cover and place in the fridge for your next yogurt starter!!  Label with masking tape, "Oikos Starter x1" meaning this was the first saved starter.  Use this to make your next batch.  Next time save and label, "Oikos Starter x2", etc.  After 5-6 batches, you may notice the quality going down - grainey, loose, etc. - the culture is just getting too old to properly convert the milk.  At that point, I go buy a new cup of starter.  If your quality is still good, keep saving!

13. Now whisk in 1/3C honey and 1 tablespoon vanilla.  You're done!  Place in storage containers and place in your fridge.

This recipe can be doubled (if you have big enough pots!) or cut in half (if you don't have many mouths to feed) but yogurt keeps for several weeks in the fridge, and I hate to do all this work for one measly half-batch of yogurt!

Once you've done this a few times, you'll find that it really fits nicely with other household tasks - most of the time is spent waiting, not doing active work on the yogurt, so even though it takes 2 days to complete it is not that much work.  And all the pots and bowls and large and very easy to clean, so no filling up the dishwasher, or spending hours cleaning the kitchen.

Happy Yogurt Making!!

Nutritional Info:

1/2 C greek yogurt (including the honey)

109 calories, 0.2g fat, 5mg cholesterol, 18g carbs, 9.3g protein

(if you eat the yogurt PRE-STRAINED you can eat 1C for the above totals)

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