Fermented and cultured milk, aka yogurt, sour cream, creme fraishe, cheese, whey are a important part of so many cultural diets. Interestingly, it’s really only there in the West that milk is so greatly consumed in it’s natural or unfermented state. Before pasteurization, milk would sour and separate naturally if not refrigerated. Left alone on the counter, ‘friendly’ bacteria begin digesting the naturally occurring milk proteins and sugars. When the bacteria have produced enough lactic acid to consume and inactivate the ‘bad’ bacteria, the milk is considered preserved for a few days to a number of weeks. Interestingly, it’s the breakdown of those proteins and sugars that may allow those with milk intolerances to consume fermented/cultured products. In a nutshell, this is the beginning of all cultured and fermented milk products.
For most of us, we are most familiar with yogurt. It’s in almost every grocery store shelf, laden with flavors, sugars, additives, preservatives…occasionally a manufacturers will toss in a mix in of granola, chocolate chips or cereal*gasp* in an effort to make it more appealing. And while many will purchase, realize that this added sugars and preservatives is detrimental to the health benefits you’re striving for when purchasing.
Yogurt is NOT soured milk. Yogurt is produced by first heating milk (preferably raw, but pasteurized can be used. Ultra-pasturized isn’t recommended by the writer, and it doesn’t produce favorable results) and then introducing a‘live’ culture. This culture can be obtained via mail order or internet from companies that specially ‘grow’ the culture desired (different cultures produce different results and/or textures) or via a like product. Most often used here in yogurt is L-acidophilus. others that may be included are S.thermophilus, L.bulgaricus, Bifidus, L.casei and possibly L.rhamnosus. It’s also interesting to note that we are born with some of these friendly bacteria in our digestive tract. Many health advocates recommend taking probiotics on a daily basis for digestive and immune health, making your own yogurt is a simple way to control exactly what is in yours.
There have been numerous reports and articles written on the benefits of yogurt and cultured dairy products to lower cholesteroland helps protect against bone loss. And as mentioned above, by keeping the immune system up to snuff, you are doing your part to keep some pesky pathogens at bay, guarding against disease and helping to get the fullest nutritional value of all the food you eat.
What follows are my recipes for making yogurt at home, both with raw and pasteurized milk. I have used both a yogurt machine (whichis nice because it’s pretty foolproof and provides multiple individual portions) and a quart mason jar left overnight in the oven with a pilot light. personally, I prefer the mason jar. I donated the yogurt maker. :)
makes one quart
1/2 cup ORGANIC plain yogurt, or 1/2 cup yogurt from a previous batch
1 quart pasteurized whole milk, non-homogenized if you can find it.
candy thermometer (I use an instant read…the important thing is to test the milk and NOT touch the bottom of your pan!)
1 quart clean glass jar or 8-4 oz glass jars as provided in your yogurt maker
Slowly heat the milk to 180 degrees. Remove from heat and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees. (This takes longer than you’d think. Stirring helps cool it down a little faster. ) Stir in the half cup of yogurt and pour all in a glass container. (if using a yogurt makers, follow the manufacturers directions) I prefer a glass quart mason jar, but a shallow dish will work too. Cover and place in a warmed oven overnight. I have a gas oven, and the pilot and interior light work well by themselves. I’ve also used an electric oven, preheated to 225 -250 degrees, TURN OFF, and keep the interior light on. Transfer to the refrigerator in the morning. It will thicken as it cools.
*Greek yogurt is a thicker texture and produces a favorable batch for me.
****variation for RAW MILK
Heat milk to 110 degrees. Remove a couple of tablespoons of warm mile and add this to one tablespoon of ORGANIC or yogurt from a prior batch. Stir and add to your quart of milk, stir well and pour into a quart mason jar. Add ANOTHER couple of teaspoons yogurt to the jar and stir well. Follow oven instructions above or manufacturers directions on yogurt maker.
From here, the possibilities are endless. Your yogurt should keep for a number of weeks, covered and refrigerated. And sometimes, be prepared for a flop or a runny batch. It happens. But rest assured that you can still use it in smoothies, Middle Eastern Indian dishes, or freeze it for later.
The guidelines for the above recipes are from my ‘go to’ book, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon that I purchased many, many years ago. I was blessed to be able to hear her speak in Nashua, NH a number of years ago. The impression has lasted, and has allowed me and my family to lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s right there with my rice cooker, one of the best investments I’ve ever made.