For years I struggled to make my ideal yogurt – one my children would actually eat. They would down yogurt by the carton, and it always seemed so unprofitable to have so many dairy animals and be buying yogurt, just for the sake of the picky, picky little ones.
Their ideal yogurt must be mild, and have a firm, creamy texture. Any weird viili-like stringiness, or sour flavors caused turned-up noses. And yet I had such a hard time getting my yogurt to set up right. Either it curdled itself into unappetizing curds and whey, or it was too liquidy and had to be made into smoothies. For ages, my mother – who is an avid food critic – maintained that it was all because our milk was not high-quality enough, which upset me to no end, because we do everything we can to make the food we grow high quality.
Finally, I had a yogurt conversation with my friend Renee that changed everything. I was trying to make the Sally Fallon-style raw milk yogurt that is only heated to 115 F. In order to be really thick and creamy, the milk must be heated to 180 F. This changes the milk proteins, and causes a thicker curd when it is cultured.
So I have at last discovered how to make really good yogurt, the kind my children argue over. I do keep a yogurt culture going, but only until I feel like it. When I get tired of feeding it every week, I just buy another tiny plain live-culture yogurt and use a tablespoon to make a fresh batch. Yogurt cultures, unlike kefir, are self-limiting and will only last for a certain amount of time. New yogurt cultures were traditionally obtained in several ways – one way was to gather clean, fresh dew from long grass. Another way was to use ants that lived in wood. I have not tried any of these things, but it sounds interesting! All these good cultures human beings have put to use all come from the earth. You can also use kefir. Keeping it at the yogurt-culturing temperature will encourage the thermophilic (heat-loving bacteria).
*you’ll need a small cooler, a tea towel, a quart-sized jar, a wooden spoon, a regular table spoon, and a milk thermometer*
1 quart fresh milk
1 Tablespoon live-culture yogurt (or active kefir, before it is chilled again)
- Set the wooden spoon, the tablespoon, and the thermometer in the jar. Boil about2 cups of water, and pour it into the jar, and over the lid of the jar.
- Put the milk on to heat with the thermometer clipped to the side of the pot, and stirring with the wooden spoon. (set the tablespoon aside on the boiled jar lid). The longer you heat it, the more water will evaporate, the thicker the yogurt will be. Stirring is good, and keeps it heating evenly. Heating the milk too quickly will make it taste boiled.
- Heat the milk slowly, stirring, to 180 F. Pour the milk into the jar, and clip the thermometer onto the side of it. Let the milk cool down to 115 F. Add the tablespoon of live-cultured yogurt, and stir it in. Then cap the jar, wrap it in the towel, and put it in the small cooler for 8-12 hours (I’ll leave it overnight).
- Check to see how the yogurt cultured by tipping the jar. A soft curd should have formed. Put the jar, unopened, in the fridge to chill. When the yogurt is cool, you can open the jar and take out a tablespoon for the next culturing.