Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Raw milk yogurt update
Some things have changed since my last - very lengthy - post on making yogurt at home. I now need no equipment at all other than my trusty Mason jars and my incredible tea cozy. Not even a thermometer. And you can forget about all the fancy yogurt makers, or the freeze-dried yogurt culture. Even better, yogurt fermented this way, for a full 24 hours, is actually the most digestible and health-supportive. To the best of my knowledge, NO commercial companies make 24-hour yogurt -- which makes sense because after all why spend 24 hours when you can make a perfectly acceptable yogurt in 12 (or less)? However, by fermenting for 24 hours you ensure the lactose is converted completely to galactose, and the casein is predigested (I am not sure to what extent) as well. While Oliver and I both have reactions to plain fresh raw milk, we are able to enjoy yogurt like this with only happy results.
In the past I wasn't sure about whether I should make the yogurt using actual unheated raw milk, so I used to heat the milk first. However, I have since found that this doesn't result in thicker, more uniform yogurt at all, and wastes time and precious nutrients in the raw milk.
Here's how I do it now:
1) pour fresh raw milk into 2 quart jars (you could use goat's or cow's - but it must not be sour! be sure to shake it up first before pouring)
2) place the jars into a large pot of water and set it over a low flame. Allow the milk to come just to body temperature! This means that when you dip a knuckle into the milk you will feel nothing - it will be exactly at your own body's temperature, right around 100 degrees.
3) take the jars out of the pot, set them on the counter, thoroughly mix in 1/4 cup of pre-made commercial yogurt (see note below) into each jar (I recommend using a wire whisk), and cover with cloths, a blanket, or a large tea cozy. It just has to be something that will keep the milk warm while it is fermenting.
4) Now leave it alone for 24 hours. When you're done, place the lid on the jar and pop it in the fridge. In my opinion, the perfect thing to eat as a yogurt topping is a fresh fruit "butter," made by frying sliced fruit in coconut oil (with cinnamon, optional) and blending to a creamy smoothness.
The great thing about this current heat wave is that it is PERFECT yogurt-making weather. Assuming your kitchen stays around 90-100 degrees, as mine currently does, the yogurt will thicken beautifully and be rich, creamy, and delicious by the same time the next day.
Okay, now for the issue of sourness and flavor. After trying many different "starter" yogurts I have come to the conclusion that the yogurt you make will be slightly more tart than the starter. So this means you must avoid the very tart varieties, like Stonyfield. The yogurt I made using Stonyfield was far too sour, so instead I made it into a creamy herb-garlic spread (recipe coming soon!).
It is of course important to use a high-quality yogurt, preferably organic. It's worth mentioning that I do not recommend using your homemade yogurt as starter as the live cultures will be weakened and it may not culture properly. My favorites, which all make a yogurt that is delicious even eaten plain, are:
Seven Stars Biodynamic Yogurt
Brown Cow (no, not organic, but this makes the BEST yogurt)
Redwood Hill Farm goat's yogurt
You could also experiment with Fage, or other favorites. It must be PLAIN, FULL-FAT, and organic if possible. If I couldn't find my favorite starter yogurts at the store, I would opt for the next best option that does not have a lot of additives (guar gum, etc.). And of course, remember you can make just one quart at a time if you like, or more than 2 quarts.
Try it once and you will be amazed at how easy this is! In my opinion making raw milk yogurt is so simple and rewarding that there is no excuse for anyone to be buying it - except, of course, to use as the starter. :)
See the thick layer of cream at the top? Yum!