Greek-style yogurt is so popular right now—and no wonder. Have you had a chance to pull back a shiny lid and indulge in that smooth delicacy? It amazes me how even the varieties with no fat can still be incredibly rich. But the price? Ouch. It got me to thinking—because I'm shamelessly cheap but still crave high-quality foods—whether I could make this stuff in my own kitchen. I can and I did.
You do need a few odd but readily available things, but the end result is nothing if not extraordinary. If you start this first thing in the morning, you can have fresh Greek-style yogurt chilling in your fridge by bedtime. I would suggest reading through all the steps at least once before attempting—and succeeding! Here we go.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
2 quarts milk plus a little extra
2-3 Tbsp store-bought yogurt to act as your "starter"
nonmetal stirring utensil
2 sterilized jars
cheesecloth (or pillowcase)
WHAT TO DO
Boil 2 quarts of milk (I used 2 percent, but you can use whatever), stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Allow to cool to room temperature or slightly warmer, about 110 degrees F.
While the milk is cooling, bring your starter (2 to 3 tablespoons of plain store-bought yogurt) to room temperature. Mix the starter with a couple tablespoons of milk to make the starter pourable and easier to incorporate into your heated milk.
Pour the cooled milk into a nonmetal bowl. Metal may inhibit the good bacteria from doing its job. No bacteria, no yogurt.
Using a nonmetal utensil, mix the milk and the starter mixture until smooth. Don't worry about a few lumps here and there. Then pour the stuff into sterilized jars. Straight from the dishwasher will do the job.
Fill a small cooler (this one is sooooo old) with hot water, about 110 degrees F. If the water is much warmer than this, you may kill your bacteria. Again, no bacteria, no yogurt. I boiled and cooled water, but it took a while for the water to loose enough heat. Next time I think I'll check my hot tap water with a thermometer and see if that will work.
Place your jars in the cooler, making sure the water is about one inch from the top of the jars. This will take some trial and error to get the height just right.
Okay, here is the magic: Close the lid. Place the cooler in a warm place and do not disturb it for about ten hours. Yes, ten hours. Do. Not. Peek. Opening the lid will let all of the magic (a.k.a. the heat) escape. No heat, no yogurt. My cooler ended up on top of the freezer—and was it dusty up there. A warm sunny window would do also.
Sometimes, at this point, I will forget my yogurt. Ah, but when I remember it, I find this . . .
Now, if you stop here you have traditional homemade yogurt. Let me tell you that it is much thinner than the store-bought version you used for a starter, but that is because it is free of all the stabilizers and artificial thickeners. It is a tad bitter but still awesome in smoothies. But we are on a quest for that ultra cool and creamy stuff. So we continue.
Stretch four layers of cheesecloth over a strainer and set the strainer inside a bowl. No cheesecloth? I've been there. Substitute a single clean pillowcase. The strainer is only here to provide support for the cheesecloth.
Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth. I had some help. Hey, someone had to take the pictures.
Gather the corners of the cheesecloth. Tie a length of twine around the yogurt like this:
Suspend the yogurt over the bowl and let it drip. I tied my yogurt bundle to a cabinet handle.
After just a couple of hours, maybe two or three, open up your little cheesecloth package and find this:
If you want your yogurt thicker, tie it up and hang it again. When you are happy with the consistency, spoon your fresh yogurt into clean jars and pop it in the fridge. It's thick now, but after it cools completely it becomes even better. Something happens to the taste between the interim homemade yogurt and the final creamy Greek style. The bitterness almost vanishes, leaving it more sweet and subtle. It's like dessert—a total treat.
Two quarts of milk translates to about 3/4 quart (or nearly two pint jars) of Greek-style yogurt. I kept the stuff that dripped out, since it's still superhealthy to be consumed, for recipes and smoothies. It's the straining that lets you make even fat-free milk into creamy, Greek-style yogurt. What you end up with is definitely not like the sickeningly sweet and artificially flavored stuff at the grocery store. This is the good stuff. Real food. If you continue letting the yogurt drip for a day or two, you can actually make yogurt cheese, but I'll save that for another day.
THE BEST OF THE REST FROM THE WEB
Trina of Passionate Homemaking shares her recipe for homemade yogurt, along with her four sacred secrets to successful yogurt-making: Keep it fresh! Keep it clean! Respect your starter! Let it rest!
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