Monday, May 17, 2010

DIY Victory - Mission Yogurt

For the past 10 months I have had an obsession with yogurt. Not just any yogurt. FAGE. Oh, how I love the Greek style yogurt. And not all Greek style yogurt is created equal. No no. Fage is so thick it could easily be mistaken for sour cream like they serve at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant.

Fage is thick, creamy and only slightly tart. And they sell it with this little cups of cherry, strawberry or peach preserves or honey. I am spending a lot of money on this stuff, because I have been eating one a day for breakfast for a while. At almost $3 a cup, I am slowly going broke.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my DIY websites suggested possibly the easiest homemade Greek yogurt I have ever heard of.

Basically, you heat some milk, cool that milk, then add some yogurt you have in your fridge. So far, sounds way too easy. Then she said to cover the milk mixture with a lid and wrap the container in several towels. Now hear is the freaky part. She said to just leave it on the counter overnight. What? Just leave milk on the counter?

I couldn’t do it. This recipe swears by it, and I am not saying I wouldn’t try it, but I couldn’t get past it.

So instead, I got Online and researched several different ways to make yogurt at home without a yogurtmaker. Apparently, you can make it with a cooler and hot water. You can make it with a very large thermos. You can make it with a heating pad. But I found one that suggested using your oven, so I decided to try that route.

To be honest, the hardest part was the heating of the milk, then cooling it. I had a thermometer, and according to a majority of my recipes you heat the milk to 180 degrees, right before boiling. Each time heating to that temperature set my milk to boiling – almost boiling over. Fine. So then I had to let the milk cool to 110 degrees or until you can hold your finger in the milk for 10 seconds without screaming (my favorite direction of the whole lot). I am not a patient person. But I waited and watched until the temp hit 110. However, I could only hold my finger in the milk for only 6 seconds. Now either my thermometer is wrong or I am a wimp. I went with the later, and stirred in my yogurt starter (Fage 2%). Then dished up the liquid in several small Ziplock containers.

Then, after a small preheat, I turned off my over, as per directions and put in my yogurt containers to sit for 8 hours.

It didn’t work. My oven could have been too cold, my thermometer could have been wrong – any number of things could have gone wrong. Either way, I only had bacteria milk.

I spent the whole week fantasizing about yogurt makers.

I even messaged an old culinarily adventurous friend as to whether she had tried making her own yogurt or using a yogurt maker. Her response was this: “Didn’t know you could even buy your own yogurt maker! Greek yogurt is really expensive. I like it, but damn. I think at that price it should come with a hot Greek man to feed it to me. Wait, is that what a “yogurt maker” is? A hot Greek man? If it is I’m gonna need to get one too.”

Now she fantasizes about yogurt makers.

But here is the problem with actual conventional yogurt machines, you still have to do most of the work. You still have to heat the milk, cool the milk, all the tricky parts that make the yogurt process so complicated. Because apparently adding the starter too soon kills the bacteria. Leaving you with just sour milk. Ew.

All the machine does is maintain a consistent temperature. Which is fine, but is it really worth $60.

So I decided to give it another shot. This time the heating pad approach. But I don’t own a heating pad. I have a rice bag that I warm in the microwave. So, here is what happened. I prepped the milk and put the mix in the plastic containers again, making sure I could hold my finger in the warm mixture for 10 seconds without screaming. Then I loaded a cardboard box with towels, my warm heating pad and the bacteria milk containers. Then I wrapped the box in a fleece blanket and let it set.

I checked it at 5 hrs – still bacteria milk. I reheated the rice bag and then sealed the box again.

I check it at 8 hrs. – one container was set. Kind of. I reheated the rice bag and sealed again. I figured something was happening. Might as well give it a full 13 hrs.

At 10:30 p.m., right before bed, I make the final check.

Victory! 4 containers of a yogurty substance. But it wasn’t Greek. It was Yoplait or Dannon texture. But I was too psyched to care. I gave some feeble attempts at trying to strain off the whey, but I couldn’t master that famous Fage thickness.

Regardless, it was yogurt, and right tasty. It wasn’t overly tart, and with a little honey, no sign of tartness at all. I added some granola and it made a faboo breakfast, which I will repeatedly enjoy this week.

So victory and high fives to all my DIY sisters and brothers. I am on my way out to buy powdered milk and price yogurt machines.