Greek style yogurt is so popular right now. 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. Hmmm... It got me to thinking (because I'm shamelessly cheap but still crave high quality foods) if I couldn't make this stuff in my own kitchen.
I can and I did.
You do need a few odd but readily available things, like a small cooler, twine, and cheesecloth (or a pillowcase) 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.
Boil 2 quarts of milk (I used 2% but you can use whatever), stirring constantly so it does not burn. Allow to cool to room temperature or slightly warmer, about 110*F.
While that is cooling, bring your starter (2 or 3 tablespoons of plain store-bought yogurt) to room temperature. Mix the starter with a couple tablespoons of milk to make the starter pour able and more easily incorporated into your heated milk.
Pour the cooled milk into a non metal bowl. Using metal may inhibit the good bacteria from doing its job. No bacteria, no yogurt.
Using a non-metal 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 small cooler (this one is sooooo old) with hot water, about 110*F. If the water is much warmer that 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 bring a thermometer to my hot tap water and see if that will work.
Put your jars into 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 it just right.
Okay, here is the magic. Close the lid. Place the cooler in a warm place and do not disturb it for about 10 hours. Yes, ten hours. Do. Not. Peek. Opening the lid will let all of the magic (the heat) escape. No heat, no yogurt. Mine ended up on top of the freezer. It is dusty up there. A warm sunny window would do also.
Sometimes at this point I will not remember my yogurt. Obviously if I put it somewhere it can not be disturbed I will forget its very existence. Ah, but when I remember 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 over a bowl. No cheesecloth? I've been there. Substitute a single clean pillowcase for the cheesecloth. The strainer is only here to provide support for the cheesecloth.
the yogurt into the cheesecloth. I had some help (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. Mine is tied to a cabinet handle.
After only a couple of hours, maybe two or three, open up your little cheesecloth package and find this...
If you want it 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 also to the taste between original yogurt and this 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 of Greek style yogurt. I kept the stuff that dripped out, knowing that it is still super healthy to be consumed, for recipes and smoothies. Straining the yogurt is the reason why even fat free milk can still make such creamy Greek style yogurt. It 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...
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