Fifth times a charm!

I have successfully made yogurt twice now.  It only took five tries to get it to the thickness I wanted.  Liquidy yogurt just isn't my thing.  I had been buying organic milk at the grocery store, the regular milk that I buy for us to drink/use.  It is ultra pasteurized and can last for weeks in the fridge.  Isn't that odd?  I guess with the ultra pasteurization every possible thing that could be in the milk is killed and so the result is that it is very difficult to make yogurt.  I first tried to make skim milk yogurt, well that was just straight liquid with a few thick chunks in it, no good at all!  Then I tried whole milk and it was slightly better, but once I strained it there would be a tablespoon or so of thicker yogurt, so that was used for smoothies too.  On my fourth attempt I found a store that sold raw milk and thought I would try that.  It turned out beautifully!  I followed Katie of Kitchen Stewardship's recipe for the most part and Munchkie's Daddy's Aunt (who had been making yogurt for years) so I can't claim that I came up with this myself. There are some things I'm going to change for next time to both make it a little easier on myself and create a taste I would enjoy better.  So here goes!

Items needed-

  • Jars (to hold however much milk you are using, Munchkie's Daddy's Aunt puts her milk right into a pot, stirring constantly)
  • Large Pot
  • Washcloth (to place in bottom of pot to prevent jars from rattling/breaking while boiling)
  • Candy Thermometer (there are ways to do without this, but I failed miserably when I tried, so I got a thermometer)
  • Milk
  • Small container of yogurt for a culture (once you make your yogurt, you can use your own for future cultures)
  • Cooler (Munchkie's Daddy's Aunt told me that she uses her oven)
  • Towels

1.  The first thing to do is to sterilize your glass jars and lids.  I usually do this in the dishwasher and then let them dry completely before I begin my yogurt making.  If they aren't sterilized, you will culture whatever bacteria is in the jars along with your yogurt cultures.  What a petri dish of bacteria you will end up with!

2.  I set out the yogurt culture I am going to use to bring it to room temperature while I do everything else.  I prefer Greek yogurt, so this is what I used, even though there are not the 4-5 recommended cultures.  

3.  I evenly distribute the milk (half a gallon) between 5 canning jars.  I place a wash cloth in the bottom of my pot and put a few inches of water into the pot.  I then place the jars into the pot.  Now don't laugh at my thermometer set up.  I had to figure out a way to keep the thermometer in a jar.  I also put a spoon in the water to sterilize it so I can use it for distributing the yogurt cultures and stirring later.

4.  I bring the temperature of the milk up to 185 degrees and keep it there for a few (5 or so) minutes.  Now the reason why I'm not so concerned with the raw milk is because I am now pasteurizing the milk myself, but it's not ULTRA pasteurized.

5.  Once the milk is up to temperature I put a few inches of cold water in my sink and put a few ice packs in.  I don't have one of those nifty tools to pull hot canning jars out of pots, so I have found that if I quickly put the lid on I can grab the lid to transfer to the sink, or can use a pot holder, without loosing my sterilization, to transfer to the sink.  I'm sure those tools are not so expensive.  I should look into it maybe.

6.  You need the milk to come down to a temperature of 90-110 degrees, preferably right around 100 degrees.  When I put the milk in the cold water, it brings the temperature down pretty quickly and I had a lot of problems before missing that mark.  It would get too cold too fast.  I use the thermometer to stir the milk in each jar to accurately get the temperature.  I have to keep a pretty close eye on this.  Once the milk is around 105-110 degrees I take them out of the cold water and set them on the counter.  (I am going to change this next time.  I am going to just leave them out on the counter and let the milk come down to the right temp on it's own.  I have missed my mark too many times and need to learn patience. With it on the counter it will not be as difficult to obtain the correct temperature because it will cool slower.)

7.  While the milk is cooling I fill my pot at least half way with water and then bring the water to a boil again.  This will be used to incubate the yogurt and I've found if I don't do this, the temperature isn't warm enough for long enough.

8.  Once the milk is on the counter I add my yogurt culture.  My jars are pint jars and so I believe you are supposed to use about a tablespoon.  Munchkie's Daddy's Aunt said that she used a small carton per half gallon.  I use this spoon and about this much per jar.  As you can see, it's more than a tablespoon, but less than two tablespoons.  I'm pretty exact as you can see (kidding!).  I gently stir each jar to mix, but making sure not to kill the cultures.

9.  Once the jars are mixed and the lids on they go into the cooler.  This is my set up.  Pot of water on one side, jars on the other.  I put a towel in between the pot and the jars because I don't want the jars to get too warm.

10.  Then I cover the jars with a towel.  Close the lid and let incubate 4-24 hours.  Here is another change I will make for next time.  I usually do this after dinner and let incubate overnight.  However, the longer you incubate the more "plain" and tangy the yogurt will taste.  I think I will not incubate any more than 6 hours because it was pretty tangy this time. If you do like it tangy, or want something more like sour cream, and decide to incubate longer you will probably need to add more boiling water to your pot after about 4 hours or so.

11.  Once you are finished incubating, put into the freezer for about an hour.  Somehow this helps with the consistency.

12.  Transfer to fridge and enjoy!  This is why mine looks like when finished.
I like my yogurt thicker, so I strain it through cheese cloth again to get as much whey out as I can.  Then I eat it with some melted raw honey and ground flax seeds or granola.  Mmmmmmm! 

It seems pretty thick, but with Greek yogurt, once you stir it, it thins out a lot.  The containers usually say not to stir.
When you strain it you can use the whey in place of water for baking or cooking.  You can squeeze even more whey out and make cream cheese, or work with it more to make other cheeses.  I have not tried any of these options out.

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