Well Cultured

After my success with cheesemaking yesterday, and in keeping with this month’s home dairy theme, I decided that I should also try my hand at making some yogurt.  My mom makes yogurt and yogurt cheese all the time and assured me that it was pretty darn easy, so I read a couple of tutorials about the process online, picked up some yogurt and a  heating pad from the store, and got to work.

Yogurt is made through a bacterial fermentation process.  The basic idea is that you heat the milk up to 185 °F, cool it down to 110 °F, then inoculate it with your yogurt bacteria and let it sit at that 110 °F temperature for 7 – 8 hours.  The initial heating kills any undesirable microbes and denatures the milk proteins so they’ll stick together rather than forming curds.  The long, warm fermentation is because that’s the temperature the bacteria like to ferment at.  The bacteria convert the lactose in the yogurt to lactic acid, the same acid that gives sauerkraut its flavor.  Microbiology is so cool!

The easiest way to inoculate yogurt is to add some existing live culture yogurt to your warm milk.  I added about a tablespoon and a half of Nancy’s whole milk plain yogurt to get things started, then turned on the heating pad and let it go.  Then I discovered something about this heating pad.  It has a 2 hour automatic shutoff.  I’m sure that that is a vitally important safety feature when people are using it in their bed, but when it’s in my kitchen and I have better things to do than come by every two hours to turn the damn thing back on, it is irritating.  It also lost about an hour of good heating time, so it took longer.  Boo!

Once the yogurt firmed up a bit, I stirred it and poured it into a couple of containers, then stuck them in the fridge.  I tried the yogurt tonight and it is pretty tasty, but a little on the thin side (I blame the heating pad!).  My mom suggested putting it through a yogurt strainer, which I may try.  I’m also wondering if I should just heat it up again and let the bacteria keep doing their thing.

Oh well.  In the mean time, it is delicious with a drizzle of maple syrup!  Not bad for a first attempt.