Oh the bounty of summer! It is delightful, really. As I look in my garden I see green tomatoes turning red, cucumber vines weighing down the trellis, kale leaving reaching high towards the sun. Little apples are eagerly awaiting cooler fall temperatures to be ready for picking. While strawberry season has passed here, blueberries are at full harvest. My 9 year old picks at least a few pints a day and we only have 2 producing plants this year (sadly one died, and the 2 new transplants need a year to adapt to their new home). While we do not have peach trees on our property, we live in the south which makes peaches easily accessible. Besides eating the fruit directly off the bush or tree, how else can we enjoy these fresh, local and healthy treats? How about on freshly made yogurt made from delicious milk from a local dairy. Homemade yogurt is easier to make than you likely realize. It does take a little time, but really only takes a few steps.
What you will need:
Large pot to boil water
Medium pot to heat milk
Cooler with a tight seal – I use an old one just like this basic cooler
Ball or Mason type canning jars – you can either use large quart size jars or small individual size jelly jars
Kitchen towels or washcloths to help insulate the cooler
Ingredients: makes 2 quarts of yogurt
2 quarts local whole milk (here in NC, I use Homeland Creamery)
*Whole milk will make for creamier yogurt. Lower fat options will also work.
4 Tbls. yogurt starter
I either use a few tablespoons of a previous batch of yogurt, or if I did not save any, I use a plain, store bought, organic yogurt (see below for tips on storage of this yogurt).
Vanilla bean or extract, if desired
Fruit (add after the refrigeration steps – do not add too soon or yogurt will not culture correctly)
Honey, to sweeten yogurt when serving, if desired
Fill large pot with water. Bring just to a gentle boil. Once water is boiling, turn off the heat and carefully pour the water into the empty cooler. The purpose of this step is to heat the cooler. Close the cooler and let the water sit.
You can start this step while you are doing Step 1.
Heat milk in medium pot over low to low/medium heat. Stir often to avoid scorching milk. Heat to 180 degrees (use a thermometerto ensure temperature is reached). At this point, remove pot from heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees.
Add yogurt culture (thawed if previously frozen), stir. If you desire vanilla yogurt, add a teaspoon of vanilla when you add the culture.
Carefully pour (a canning funnel is helpful) milk with yogurt culture into jars. Screw lids onto jars.
Empty hot water out of cooler.
Place yogurt jars into warm cooler. Cover with towels or washcloths to help keep the warmth in. Close cooler. Wait 8-12 hours. Shorter wait time will result in a looser, milder yogurt. Longer wait time will result in thicker, stronger yogurt. Try to avoid opening the cooler and disturbing the yogurt until wait time is over.
Once wait time is completed, take jars out of cooler and place in refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving. I often let the yogurt sit overnight in fridge to firm it up.
Top with honey and berries, maybe a little granola, or enjoy it plain.
Fresh. Local. and Healthy!
Another option would be to use a yogurt maker. I have never used one, but have heard they work well. I have no room for extra kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose, so I like my method…but for some, this may make yogurt making a little easier.
Storing yogurt for culturing:
Using a basic ice cube tray,spoon approximately (it does not need to be exact) 1 Tablespoon of plain yogurt into each well. Once filled, gently tap tray on hard surface to level out yogurt. Cover with ice cube tray cover. Freeze. Once frozen, remove cubes and place in a freezer safe container or bag. The bacteria (this is a good bacteria) in the yogurt will go dormant, but will stay alive. Once thawed, the bacteria will spring back to life and be ready to grow in your yogurt!
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