Serious about Yogurt

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a lovely holiday. I certainly did. It was fun, relaxing and very, very over indulgent. As many good holidays often are.

So, like many people out there, I have started the new year with a few new inspirations. The first, to go along with counteracting some of that seasonal indulgence, is to get serious about yogurt. It’s such a fantastic snack, and I’m hoping it will actually get me to eat breakfast and lunch and keep me from mindlessly eating throughout the day.

As a first step, I bought a Euro Cuisine YM100 Automatic Yogurt Maker. I’ve made yogurt once before with some success using nothing more than a cooler and a heating pad. But, that setup was pretty sketchy at best, and $40 for a yogurt maker that comes with 7 glass jars is a good deal. I love the idea of having yogurt around most of the time for cooking or just eating, and not piling up more plastic containers.

I also like the idea of getting exactly the texture of yogurt that I want. That means starting with good cultures and using the right kind of milk. But, as a newbie to this whole yogurt making thing, I really wasn’t sure what texture I really wanted or what milk would give it to me. So, I yesterday, I played mad scientist and made up 5 little cups of yogurt with 5 different milks: Skim (what I usually drink), raw whole milk, pasteurized goats milk, vanilla soy milk and just because I had some that needed to be used, heavy cream. For a starter, I used Total 0%. (I usually prefer their full fat version, but since this was just for a starter, I went skim).

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After adding about a tablespoon of yogurt to each 6 ounces of milk, and giving it a good stir, I set the jars in to warm for about 10 hours. Milks with higher fat content will firm up more quickly than skim, and I found that the soy milk firmed up even faster. With such different fat contents, it’s not surprising that the yogurts all turned out quite differently.

The skim milk yogurt was my least favorite of the bunch. That’s not all that surprising, although if you had asked me, I would have said the soy since I have an aversion to soy milk in general. The skim yogurt was fine actually. Although a little too sour and a bit chalky, the biggest problem was that it was watery. By draining it in a sieve or in some cheese cloth, I could get rid of the watery texture. Most yogurt recipes you read recommend adding some powdered milk to the mix if you are using skim milk to make your yogurt for this very reason.

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The raw milk yogurt had a nice bright flavor and creamy texture, although still a bit on the chalky side. Since raw milk isn’t homogenized, I found that the yogurt was not really homogenized either and developed its own yogurt “cream top” which was fairly easily mixed in.

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The goat’s milk is a bit of a puzzle to me. Flavor-wise, it’s the clear winner. It’s kind of zesty without being sour. It’s super smooth with no chalkiness. But, it also didn’t firm up much at all. It’s thick, but almost glue like in texture. Mixed in with some granola and preserves, it will make a fine snack, but I’m going to have to play around more with timing to get it to be a bit more firm.

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The biggest surprise to me was the soy milk. I pretty much despise the stuff, but wanted to give it a try anyway. I bought the Silk vanillla soy milk which is lightly sweetened. According to the machine’s manuel, you need to use a sweetened soy milk if you want the cultures to develop. And, develop they did. This was the quickest yogurt to make and I honestly don’t think I’d know it was soy if I was blind taste testing it. But, it’s also presweetened and I prefer using a plain yogurt and mixing in my own flavors.

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Finally, the crazy prize goes to the cream. I’m not exactly sure what I created with this, but I have to tell you, it’s fantastic. It’s like butter meets cream cheese meets clotted cream. Spread it on a bagel, and oh my. I won’t be making it every week, but it will be made again.

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Of course, there are still other milks to try, but my next trials will be all about the goats milk and figuring out what I need to do to get it just a touch thicker. In the meantime, I’ll be stirring in spoonfuls of a Seville Marmalade (recipe from Clotilde in the January issue of Martha Stewart... it’s fantastic!).

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