I promised to post about this last week. Then, you know, life and business and forgetfulness. Blah, blah, blah. So here is the way I make my own yogurt at home. It requires no special equipment besides a candy thermometer. (I make it without one and will give those directions as well.)
First, you have to start with an amazing family cookbook that contains lots of delicious and traditional Lebanese recipes. Thank you Nancy for sharing with our family!
I like to use organic, non-additive food whenever possible. Some weeks, it is just whatever is on sale. I figure if I am able to get the best half of the time, that is better than never.
I didn't have half-n-half so I used this mixed with some milk. (half a pint of milk, half a pint of cream, BAM! half-n-half)
I had my candy thermometer in place on the side of the pot.
I poured the 1/2 gallon of milk and the half-n-half, into this pot and turn the heat on medium. Following the directions above I brought the whole thing up to 170 degrees and then took it off of the heat. *If you do not have a thermometer, simply bring milk to an almost boil :) and take it off of the heat. Don't let it boil or scorch.
I funneled it into the container I will use to store my yogurt. It is a half gallon jar. (which actually has a permanent tea stain because I also use these to make our iced tea! I use them for everything.)
I transfered the thermometer to the jar so I could monitor the cooling down. It should reach between 110 and 116 degrees. *Again, if you are doing this without a thermometer, use a clean finger to test the temp. If you can hold your finger in the liquid and it is tolerably warm, not hot, it is ready for the starter.
Make sure it is not too hot or you will kill your starter!!!
Let's talk starter. You can use pretty much any plain, live culture yogurt. The container should say it is cultured. Please use plain and unsweetened!! The highest quality yogurt that you like the flavor of is your best choice.
I always use full-fat dairy but this gives you an idea of what to look for.
(I can't remember the kind of yogurt I started with because I now use my old batch for the new starter. )
When you are sure your milk is cool enough, thin your starter with a few Tablespoons of the warm milk.
Next, pour the thinned starter into the warm milk mixture. I put on my lid and give it a good shake. Depending on your container, you might stir.
This all needs to happen fairly quickly because you need to keep the heat in your mixture. The heat will allow the cultures for the starter to change the milk mixture into lovely, tangy yogurt!
Here comes the creative part. You need to keep your yogurt baby warm for several hours. I use a few bath towels and a crock now. But I have used a small cooler in which I placed the towel-wrapped bundle. I also have heated the oven slightly and put the whole thing in there. (Kind of a fire hazard though.) I would be interested to hear any other ideas that you come up with.
Here, I am tightly wrapping the warm mixture.
Then I set the whole thing in my pickling crock and cover it with another towel. If I was smart, I would have heated a few rocks to go inside the crock to make it nice and cozy. Next time for sure!
I push the crock out of the way overnight or for at least 8 hours. The longer it sits the tangier it gets!
When it is done I unwrap it, always with anticipation. The finished yogurt needs to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before you use it. Sometimes it is hard-set and very thick. Other times it is thinner.
(You can follow the recipe above to make a strained yogurt called Labani. I have not done that yet but hear it is a wonderful, cream-cheese-like spread.)
This can be used for so many things. It is great to eat on it's own but I use it a lot to replace fat in other recipes. It will also replace sour cream.
I have also given some of the older yogurt to our animals when I am ready to make a new batch. They love it and get benefit from the cultures too!
(Who would have thought that chickens love yogurt?)
This batch was thinner but no less tasty. It seems to get more flavorful with every batch!
I hope this inspires some of you to try it! Enjoy!