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If you love the tangy flavor that good-quality yogurt possesses eaten on its own, topped with fruit or granola or as the key ingredient to a sweet smoothie or savory sauce, you may have given some thought to making your own at home. With self-sufficiency on the minds of many Mainers these days, now is as good a time as any to start your own batch of yogurt.
Yogurt making is not complicated and requires few ingredients. You probably even have most of the necessary equipment already in your home to get you started.
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To start it’s helpful to know just what yogurt is. Basically, it’s fermented milk that has been heated and then combined with the live bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Don’t be afraid — these are good, probiotic bacteria that help keep your gut healthy and running smoothly.
When you are ready to take the plunge
Make sure to assemble the needed ingredients and equipment before you start. Making a successful batch of yogurt does not depend on split-second timing, but who wants to be running around and fumbling in the refrigerator, drawers or cabinets looking for a missing item?
The ingredients you’ll need are milk and pre-made plain yogurt or a packet of commercial yogurt starter. For equipment you need a sturdy, non-reactive pot, measuring cup, whisk, ladle, candy thermometer — available in the baking or housewares aisle of most grocery stores and supermarkets if you don’t already have one — and a vessel in which to incubate your yogurt.
Yogurt starter might be tricky to find, but is available locally at stores like The Natural Living Center in Bangor or The Belfast Co-op. These stores might be able to help out with missing equipment. Local grocery chains are another option for ingredients.
The equipment you need are a sturdy non-reactive pot, measuring cup, candy thermometer — which are available in the baking or housewares aisle in most grocery stores — whisk, ladle and container in which to incubate your yogurt.
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What else do you need to know?
— Choose a good culture. For that first batch, plain store-bought yogurt will work just fine and has the advantage of allowing you to taste it so you will know what your batch will taste like. If using a yogurt starter, these are available at most health food stores.
— Choose your milk carefully. While any milk will work (as long as it is not ultra-pasteurized), using full-fat milk will result in the best yogurt as the higher the fat content of the milk, the thicker your yogurt will be. You can also use goat’s milk.
— At each step in the yogurt-making process, make sure you allow the milk to get to the right temperature. This is where the candy thermometer will come in.
— Strain your yogurt if you want it to be a thicker Greek-style yogurt. Pour the yogurt into a fine-mesh cheesecloth set over a bowl and let it drain until it is at the desired thickness. As a bonus you can drink the drained off whey or use it to cook with.
— Until you get comfortable with how the heating process works in incubating the yogurt, use a commercial yogurt-maker to take the guesswork out of the process. Yogurt makers are available at most kitchen supply stores and can be found online. Additionally, they come with jars and lids in which to store your yogurt.
— Don’t disturb your yogurt while it’s incubating. Like a fine wine, making yogurt is not a speedy process and has to be left alone for at least eight hours to properly set. Stirring it, jiggling it or otherwise messing with it could hinder the incubation process. When it comes to making yogurt, patience is a virtue.
— Don’t use that old milk that’s been sitting in the refrigerator, even if it has not hit its expiration date. The fresher the milk, the better your yogurt will taste, and it will last longer.
— Don’t try to rush things by skipping the heating process. Heating the milk to the proper temperature is what lets the proteins react with the bacteria to create yogurt. Not heating the milk sufficiently leaves you with runny yogurt.
— This is a tough one, but don’t eat every last bit of your yogurt. Save at least three tablespoons for your next batch. If it’s going to be too hard to resist that temptation, you can put some of your fresh yogurt in a plastic bag and freeze for up to three months to use later.
Now you are ready to go with a simple, easy-to-follow recipe online at https://hellohomestead.com/how-to-make-yogurt-at-home/ and you’ll soon be enjoying your own fresh yogurt.
Watch: What does returning to normal look like?