Part of my job as mum/wife/cook/home maker is to look at ways to make things healthier, more budget friendly, and as home made as possible. I really enjoy the challenge of making food from scratch and it's satisfying to know that the end product is full of good things for our bodies.
We are not big yoghurt eaters. I don't eat it at all as I'm dairy intolerant and the kids have only limited dairy in their diets. But my husband likes yoghurt, and he eats cottage cheese every day. After buying a big punnet of cottage cheese every week for a while, and after looking at all of the additives that go into it, I thought that there must be a way to make fresh organic yoghurt and curds at home.
After a bit of Internet research I had a go yesterday and I was thrilled with the results. It was so simple, anyone can do it. You'll end up with a huge jar of organic yoghurt for a fraction of the cost of store bought organic brands.
Here's how to do it:
A slow cooker
1L whole milk
1 small punnet plain, unsweetened organic yoghurt with as many live cultures as possible (at least 5)
Turn your crock pot or slow cooker on low with the lid on.
When it's warmed up a bit, put 1L into the crock pot. Use organic whole milk if you can, if you can't find it or it's too pricey use a whole milk that is pasturised but NOT ultra pasturised. The better quality milk you use, the better your yoghurt will be.
Replace the lid and leave it for around 2 hours until it's steaming and frothy around the edges but not boiling (85 degrees C or 185 degrees F). This took 1.5 hours for me but it will depend on your crock pot. I don't have a milk thermometer and I'm not really the type to measure it anyway.. so I judged it on when it looked right.
Turn the crock pot off and leave the milk to cool down to warm - you want to be able to put your (clean) finger in and have it warm but not burning hot (around 46 degrees C or 115 degrees F).
Take out a cup of the milk and mix it with 1/4C of your yoghurt in a clean bowl. Place the milk and yoghurt mix back into the rest of the milk in the crock pot and replace the lid.
Wrap the whole thing up in a wool blanket or thick beach towel to keep it all snug and warm and put it out of the way. Some people put it in a cold oven, I put mine in the bottom of my pantry.
Leave it for between 5 - 12 hours. I was impatient so I peeked after 5 hours and it was thick and creamy. Leaving it for longer such as over night will be fine too.
Bottle in clean glass jars. It will keep in the fridge for 7 - 10 days.
It's great plain in baking or curries, and I'm looking forward to trying some combinations on the kids such as raw cacao powder and agave, vanilla and honey, and pureed strawberry.
Make sure that you reserve a small portion of your home made yoghurt (plain) for the starter for your next batch!
I reserved around 1.5 C of my yoghurt to make into cheese. Basically all you need to do is strain the yoghurt through a cloth into a bowl. I used a cheesecloth. I draped the cloth into my bowl, poured in the yoghurt then gathered the sides and tied a knot. Then I grabbed the ends and tied them to a wooden spoon, and placed the handle of the wooden spoon over a ceramic bowl. In the morning I had whey (thin yellowish watery stuff) in the bowl and a thick white cheese left in the cloth.
The curds can be used like cream cheese on crackers or toast, or you can loosen them up a bit with some water or yoghurt and add a pinch of salt to make cottage cheese.
Whatever you do, don't through away that precious whey. It will keep in your freezer for a while, and you'll be needing it soon when I start to teach you all about the wonders of fermenting - coming soon!