Spring is around the corner and all I can think about is getting outside. Hiking is at the top of my list. When hiking I like to take great food along with me. The next few weeks I will take you on an adventure of creative snacks to make and enjoy while you are playing in the great outdoors.
I need to be perfectly honest, I have never really enjoyed yogurt very much. I have found store bought versions too tart for my taste. It wasn’t until my mother made yogurt from scratch that I realized I could control the tartness and texture to my liking. As I experimented, with this very simple recipe, I found that I had created a creamy smooth treat that rivaled ice cream. And this just about stopped me in my tracks!
Geekin’ Greek Yogurt Recipe
1/2 Gallon 2% milk (or whole, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk)
2 T. Plain yogurt (starter)
Add Ins (optional)
2 T. Honey
sprinkle of cinnamon
1/2 t. Vanilla
Tools you will need:
Cheese cloth or a thin dish towel
1) Pour milk in a large pot and simmer until just before boiling. The temperature should reach around 185°. At this point the milk will start to form little bubbles on the top of your milk. If you do not have a thermometer to work with, this is a great indicator that now is the time to take your pot off the stove.
2) Pour your milk into a clean glass bowl. Let it sit out until it cools between 90°-110°. If you do not have a thermometer use a clean finger to guestimate. The temperature should feel very comfortable to touch. You should not feel coolness or any stinging from the heat. It should feel warm.
Cooling your milk can be done in several ways. You can leave your milk on the counter to cool or you can place your bowl of milk in a water or ice bath to reach the desired temperature. Stir occasionally to even out the temperature of the cooling milk.
3) After your milk has cooled, add 2 tablespoons of yogurt (your starter culture) to the warm milk. Cover with plastic wrap. Keep the temperature of the mixture as close to 100° as possible. This can be achieved in different ways by putting your bowl of milk in an oven on “proof setting”, on a low setting of a heating pad, a warm water bath or in the oven with the light on. The light will generate heat. At this point leave your mixture and let it go until the milk forms into a custard like mass (curd) surrounded by yellowish water (whey). This could take anywhere from 7-12 hours. Be patient. Depending on the environment and temperature you are keeping your milk heated to, will depend on the length of time it will take to curdle. The longer the mixture stays out the more tart the yogurt will taste.
“Curds and Whey”
4) Put your cheese cloth or thin dish towel (if you don’t have either use a clean, one layer of a t-shirt) in a colander. Place the colander over a bowl to catch draining liquid called whey. Pour the curdled milk mixture in the cloth lined colander. Let it drain in the refrigerator.
I needed to lift my colander so it did not sit in the pool of water as it drained. To prevent this I placed my colander on a smaller second bowl to lift it up out of the draining water.
Place your bowl in the fridge until it drains to the desirable consistency. If your mixture drains too much it may come out looking like a soft cheese. Either use it for cheese (add some herbs and spices) or add whey (the drained liquid) back into you yogurt to give you the desired consistency you are looking for.
I enjoy adding honey, vanilla and cinnamon to even out the minor tang that was created in the yogurt making process. Be creative and add anything and everything you enjoy in your yogurt.
It keeps for 1-2 weeks.
The Science behind the recipe:
Geekin’ Greek Yogurt, as you can see, is a very easy recipe with only two ingredients. To make yogurt is more about understanding the science behind it. The milk is heated to 185° for two reasons. One is to re-pasterize the milk, killing off any unwanted bacteria from growing in your yogurt as it sits out for 7-12 hours. It also denatures the proteins in the milk, disrupting their original state. By creating this disruption, the protein are better able to join together into a mass (to curdle).
By keeping your milk close to 100° as possible your are creating an environment to grow the microorganism called probiotic. This is introduced into our milk by way of 2T of yogurt. The Yogurt contains live cultures that grow in our mixture by way of fermentation, which is the bulk growth of the microorganism. I like to equate this process to that of making bread. In bread the starter used is yeast.
Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are basically the same thing. The only difference is Greek yogurt contains less liquid, creating a thicker texture.
The left over whey is a “good” byproduct of making yogurt. It contains a lot of nutrients and can be used for many things. If you are like me, I find it hard to throw a good thing away. Here are a few creative uses for using your whey; making Ricotta Cheese, watering plants (dilute with water first), add to your compost or substitute in recipes that call for water.