Some readers might recall my previous post on yogurt. It was one of my earliest posts, and has become one of my most popular articles on Punk Domestics. In it, I revealed my process for making yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream, all using the same ridiculously easy, practically instant process. 1
This technique worked wonderfully for me, because I have specific needs for my fermented milk products. I use sour cream for recipes and for whey (to preserve other condiments, like my Eternal Mayo), and I use buttermilk to make my breakfast smoothie every morning.
You will notice that there is no mention of ‘yogurt’ per se in the previous paragraph.
The only way I actually use ‘yogurt’ is to turn it into buttermilk, because I need something that I can simply pour into my Magic Bullet every morning. My yogurt process 2 results in a barely-set, decidedly ‘curdy’ product that is perfect for whisking into a smooth, tangy, pourable buttermilk, but is a far cry from the thick-set, velvety custard that people generally envision when thinking ‘yogurt.’
If you aren’t scared of eating fat 3, you can still make yogurt with the stupid-easy buttermilk process. The higher fat content in the milk, the smoother and harder-set the final product will be. So just use half-and-half. That’s what I would do. But like I said, I don’t actually eat container of yogurt.
So I wanted to make a ridiculously easy recipe for the folks that actually do EAT yogurt, instead of drinking it. There are a billion yogurt recipes out there that are all ‘It’s so easy, just heat milk up to exactly this temperature, then cool it down to exactly that temperature, then add the culture and keep it all at EXACTLY THE SAME TEMPERATURE FOR EIGHT HOURS!’ THAT’S NOT EASY. Not for me, at least. All these specific temperature ranges, not to mention the trouble of keeping the mix within the same 10° window for practically half a day…
That’s the part that really gets me. The holding for hours at a specific temperature. I’ve seen techniques using crock pots, coolers, thermoses, and full-on yogurt-making machines, and I DO NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH ANY OF THEM. A whiny yogurt bacterium that is finicky enough that it will only grow in this tiny temperature window is not worth my time. I knew there had to be a way to get the hardy, active Lactobacillus culture from buttermilk to form the same thick, smooth yogurt product that yogurt-eating folks crave.
I did some research, and it turns out that the thick texture of yogurt is not a product of the culture at all!!! The texture happens because because the initial heating of the milk causes denaturation of the milk proteins, which when subsequently cultured form a tight matrix that holds its shape when cut. Like a real yogurt.
I also checked out some recipes on how to make yogurt thicker, and saw that a popular method is to add some powdered milk. I already has some lying around from my experiment with SOS mix, so I thought I’d try that out too.
So I made science. In my kitchen. There was a control cup (Y0), into which I added a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk straight from the fridge. There was the heated milk cup (Y1), into which I added a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk that had been heated to 185°F and cooled to room temperature, and the heated + dry milk cup (Y2), into which I added a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk heated in the same manner as Y1 and also mixed in two tablespoons of dry powdered milk. I set the lid on each container, slightly askew, to protect from air detritus but still allow air exchange. Then I left them all on the kitchen counter overnight.
The morning results:
Y0 was, as expected, very loosely congealed, with a chunky, curdy texture. I can just stir that up and add it to my buttermilk; it’s the same stuff.
Y1 was thicker set, but still rather curdy, not smooth. The surface of the set milk had wavy deposits that made the whole tiny scene resemble nothing so much as a tiny salt flat. Strong flavor of cooked milk. Ugh.
Y2 was… well, it was yogurt. IT WAS YOGURT. It was thick. It was smooth. It was custardy, and held its shape when I scooped out a luscious spoonful. I haven’t done a side-by-side tasting with Dannon or anything, but I am willing to bet real money that I wouldn’t be able to tell the freakin’ difference.
I WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO TRY THIS. I crave independent confirmation of my results. I want to make yogurt creation radically easier and more accessible for hundreds of thousands of people. Please, try this. Tell me what you think. Reveal your successes, your failures, your fears and revelations and tips and tasty additions! Damn The Man and his industrial yogurt! YOGURT FOR THE PEOPLE!!!
EDIT 02/19/14: I got a comment from a kind reader (thanks, Christina!) who tried the recipe, and the yogurt failed to set overnight. I am hoping that the culture is just taking a while to get a foothold; waiting to hear on the result. If that works, I am changing the recipe to recommend aging 24 hours instead of just overnight. If it doesn’t work, I might have some more work to do. Please let me know your results so that I can improve this recipe. Thanks again, Christina, for sharing; looking forward to hearing how it comes out!
- 1 quart milk
- .5 cup powdered milk
- .25 cup cultured buttermilk
- Heat milk to 185°F, mix in powdered milk until dissolved, cool to room temperature.
- Mix in buttermilk or yogurt, pour into desired container(s), cover loosely and leave at room temperature overnight.
- Cover, chill, and eat.
- If you have a quarter cup of yogurt left over from a previous batch of this recipe, you can use it in place of the buttermilk. DO NOT use a starter derived from conventional yogurt.
- All I did was add a bit of buttermilk to milk (for yogurt) or half-and-half or cream (for sour cream) and let it sit on the counter for a day. If I wanted buttermilk, I would just stir up a pitcher of yogurt until it was pourable. ↩
- That is, pouring a glug of buttermilk into a pitcher of milk and letting it sit. ↩
- If you’re a relatively active and healthy individual, you shouldn’t be. ↩