Monday, March 14, 2011

Randomness that Leads into Making Yogurt

I've fallen in love with a foreigner. Now given my history of marrying an Englishman , adopting an Ethiopian, and then working on returning to adopt another Ethiopian, you might figure that falling in love with foreigners seems to kind of be par for the course. But this time, my love affair is with a Greek (yogurt to be more specific).

February was a LOUSY month. I have intermittent asthma. It's not really that big a deal. I only deal with it a couple of times a year. BUT, this year the asthma began acting up, and then my tonsils did too, and then to top it all off, I got bronchitis. 5 weeks worth of bronchitis. I did 1 round of antibiotics and an inhaler. That didn't work, so we began a 2 round of high-powered antibiotics and a steroid injection. That wasn't kicking it, so the Dr. added a round or oral steroids and a steroid inhaler. YUCK! I don't do antibiotics or steroids unless it is absolutely unavoidable. I'm grateful I had them, but not so grateful for the side effects. Antibiotics are hard on your stomach, so are steroids. They're murder on your energy and mental clarity, and steroids mean that I don't sleep, literally not at all for days in a row. Plus, they give me the most awful case of chipmunk cheeks (and no, I'm not going to post the picture that Noah took).

Having done so many rounds of them, my stomach was in agony. I wasn't hungry, wasn't really eating, but my stomach was still killing me. Enter the Greek. He was the only plain organic yogurt I could get at Target that day. I brought him home, drizzled him with raw honey, and Oh My Goodness. I fell in love. It's all I ate for several days. My stomach was so much better.

Then, I ran out. I went back to Target, and they didn't have any. So I bought Activia. It was SOOO nasty tasting after having had the real stuff, and it didn't deal with all of the stomach trouble. So, I went back to Target the next day and bought the real deal (and being a little bit more clear-headed than I had been on my first trip, I was horrified to find that it cost me almost $5 for a 2-day supply. I bought one small container and went back home and googled making yogurt. Hurrah for Google!

I found a great web-site that talked about making yogurt in a crock-pot. Then I found another one that talked about how to make Greek yogurt out of regular yogurt. I've tweaked both of them, and after a couple of rounds of practice, I am in love with making Greek yogurt. It is time-consuming, but it's not hard at all. And, there is something extremely self-satisfying about making your own yogurt. It is now the munchkins' favorite thing. So much their favorite thing, that I now make it a gallon at a time! For breakfast, we put a cup of it in a bowl, slice in fresh fruit, drizzle it with honey or real maple syrup, and then sprinkle it with granola. So good, and I love feeding my kids a really healthy breakfast that they think is a huge treat!

So, for anyone who has stuck it out for this long, here's how you, too, can make Greek yogurt in your crock-pot.

Making yogurt is a bit time-consuming. It is best to start in the morning on a day when you will be home for at least the first 6-8 hours. For the first day:

1. You will need 8 cups of whole milk (preferrably organic and not ultra-pasteurized), 1/2 cup of plain, all-natural Greek yogurt (I use Fage), a crock-pot, and a thick bath towel.

2. Plug in your crock-pot, turn it on low, and add your 1/2 gallon of milk. Cook for 2 1/2 hours.

3. Unplug your crockpot, leave the lid on, and allow to cool for 3 hours.

4. After 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warm-ish milk and whick together with the 1/2 cup of yogurt. After you have removed all lumps, return the milk and yogurt mixture to the crock-pot and stir in well.

5. Replace the lid of the crock-pot, cover the entire crockpot with a thick towel (to help insulate), and leave to sit until the next morning. I've left it to sit for only about 8 hours, which made a thin yogurt. I like it best left to sit for about 14-16 hours, which does require you to make it in the morning so that it has the afternoon, evening, and all night to culture.

At this point, you will have plain yogurt. If you like it thinner, you can stop here.
But, if you have a passion for really thick, Greek-style yogurt, then the next morning:

1. Take a large strainer and place it over a large glass bowl. Layer cheesecloth, a coffee filter, (or like me, an old clean white dish towel) into your strainer. You do need to be careful that what-ever you use as your filtering medium doesn't have any fabric softener or other odors to it, as these will be transferred to your yogurt.
2. Give the yogurt a stir, and then carefully pour it into the strainer. Cover it with the remaining towel orcling film, and place the entire thing in the refrigerator. Every 2 hours, drain off the liquid that you have strained out (this is the whey). I feed it to our dog, as it is an excellent source of protein and good bacteria. Continue to strain until the yogurt has reached your desired consistency. My latest batch (I doubled it and made a gallon) I strained for about 10 hours and got a REALLY thick Greek yogurt. For a gallon of milk, I strained until I had about 2 quarts of whey drained off.
Cost for 2 cups of Fage greek yogurt, about $5. Cost ingredients for 2 quarts of homemade Greek yogurt (or 4 quarts of regular yogurt) about $6. And, that is using organic milk. If you used the plain stuff, it could be even cheaper. Now, don't forget to reserve a little bit of your homemade yogurt to use as the culture for your next week's yogurt making!

Here is a picture of the finished product. I had to snap this picture really quickly. The munchkins couldn't wait to get their spoons into it!
Now, it's off to make some lemon curd to have with tomorrow's yogurt!

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