Most of the time I'm a fiend when it comes to cooking gadgets or machines. A do-dad or a whatchamacallit that I'll only use a few times in my entire life? Yes please!! Luckily (for my wallet) my thrifty nature prevents me from fully indulging in my desires, but that doesn't mean my inner 2 year old doesn't come out when I walk into Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma.
Me want that... and that and that and that and that and ohhhh, ohhhhh I must have THAT!!
But there are a few times I'll completely shun all fancy equipment and resort to my minimalist and traditionalist nature. Those times almost always include when I'm making Assyrian/traditional dishes. Like yogurt.
Making yogurt may seem a little daunting, but it's quite simple. It can be basically broken down into a few steps:
1. "Pasteurize" the milk: Heat it up to a sufficient temperature (boiling) to kill all the bacteria in it.
2. Slightly cool the milk: You do this so that the bacteria you add in step 3 aren't instantly killed in the hot milk. But you want to make sure it's warm enough that the little buggers are happy and multiply, ~140 degrees F.
3. "Innoculate" the milk: Add your starter (i.e. store-bought yogurt with live and active cultures) to your slightly cooled milk.
4. Wrap in blankets: Immediately wrap your milk/yogurt starter and place in a draft-free place for 8-12 hours (overnight).
I'm like a kid on Christmas morning when I make yogurt: I run downstairs and peel away the blanket wrapping to reveal my delicious present waiting inside. It's just such a magical experience. You go to bed with milk and awake to yogurt!
5. Place yogurt in container and cover with a few paper towels to absorb the extra liquid and thickify your yogurt. All you have to do is ring out the paper towels every time you go to the fridge to get some yogurt and gently place them back on the surface of the yogurt. The more you squeeze the liquid out of the paper towels the thicker your yogurt will be.
The most annoying thing about making yogurt is the burnt milk that gathers at the bottom of the pan, no matter how vigilant I am about stirring or how low I seat the heat.
Ahhh well, at least it yielded an interesting photo!
Yogurt, middle eastern style
Note: this recipe can be easily scaled up. Just keep the proportions of milk : yogurt the same.
1 quart (4 cups) milk, any type (I like to use whole milk because I'm fat ass)
1/4 cup plain yogurt* (I'll sometimes refer to it as yogurt starter)
1. Pour milk in large saucepan and place over medium heat. While stirring often, bring to a low boil, being careful milk does not rise and spill over. (The larger the batch the longer this is going to take. It could be a while...) Milk should reach temperature of at least 212 degrees F.
2. Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool until lukewarm, or 135 to 140 degrees F.
3. Place yogurt in small bowl and temper it by adding some of the warm milk. Mix well. Add tempered yogurt in the saucepan of warm milk and stir to combine well.
4. Immediately pour warm milk in bowl, glass jar, plastic container or leave in your pot and cover with a lid (my preference- no extra dirty dishes). Cover the container with thick blankets and place in a draft free place (or warm oven, turned off). Allow to stand overnight, 8-12 hours, until thickened.
5. Transfer to plastic container (if you already haven't done so). Top yogurt with paper towels to absorb extra liquid. Squeeze out excess liquid and replace paper towels.
Important notes about the yogurt:
1. You MUST MUST MUST use yogurt that has live and active cultures. Otherwise you'll end up with spoiled milk the next morning. To play it safe, I like to use Dannon. You'll notice the texture/taste of your yogurt will likely change depending on what kind of yogurt starter you use.
2. You can use your homemade yogurt as a starter as well for your subsequent batches of yogurt. However, you might notice batch #2 is a bit more tart than batch #1. At a certain point it might be best to start over with the "fresh" (i.e. store bought) yogurt starter if you feel your yogurt is tasting too sour.