Year and years and years ago I used to try to make my own yoghurt. I am not sure why I did and am even less sure why I stopped trying, but it is definitely there in my memory. I think it involved my mother’s airing cupboard in some way, but I am not terribly sure. If you are going to make your own food, bake your own bread, make pickles perhaps, even cure your own meat, then knitting your own yoghurt is probably a pretty sensible place to start. But I warn you, it can be filled with hurdles, disappointments, and quantities of something quite disgusting.
To be honest, this article is probably for interest only. For the gods, go and buy an electric yoghurt maker; much easier!
Basically, yoghurt is milk that has been chomped up by some rather tasty bacteria or cultures. These are naturally occurring, but are easiest to find in, well, Yoghurt. So, go buy a pot of your ordinary, natural yoghurt. (Note, it will probably say “pro-biotic” on the label these days – that is nothing new, it always has been!)
I was inspired to have ago again by seeing Hugh Fearnley-Withenstall gobbling up some of his home made efforts. I was reminded how easy it should be – and even is, sometimes.
A basic method
Heat 750ml milk to 80°C for a few minutes to kill off bad bacteria and change the proteins. Don't boil it!
Whisk in a couple of tablespoons of milk powder.
Let the milk cool to 46°C (seriously important bit)
Add 4 tablespoons of existing natural yoghurt (not fruit yoghurt!) and stir it gently.
Put in a warm place (how about a Thermos flask?) for about 8 hours or so.
And that is that.
Let it cool if too hot
What milk you choose is up to you, I often used the semi skimmed that was in the fridge, but a good whole milk will improve the richness. Use the boring milk powder you get at supermarkets, but you can play with the quantity. In theory, you can use your old yoghurt to start your next batch, but I find this loses flavour quickly, so I tend to buy a very small tub each time. If after a few goes it starts getting stringy, start with a fresh culture. You can actually buy just the yoghurt culture if you want to go that way.
Can it go wrong?
Oh, yes! There is nothing more disappointing than to pour out the yoghurt to find it is all grainy and lumpy. There are several possible reasons for this.
- You worked at too high a temperature
- your equipment wasn’t clean (clean with boiling water)
- you forgot and left it for 3 days (that can happen)
- your starter was dead or old
I have to admit I have had yoghurt fail for no good reason at all, but when it does work, it is wonderfully satisfying. To be honest, the scary fail bit probably diminishes if you buy a yoghurt maker.
Yoghurt can be used in so many ways that it is a really sensible thing to have in the fridge. Use it making curries, eat it on its own, have it with musely and honey, make Lassi out of it, use it in deserts; the list really is endless.
If you want a thicker yoghurt, strain it through muslin in a sieve for a while in the fridge. The whey will drain out and what is left is more like the Yoghurt that the Greeks love so much. I did that often.
There you go - something healthy!