With recent studies revealing that many yogurt brands contain more sugar than a Twinkie, we thought it was time to take a stab at making our own yogurt. This fermented dairy "super food" has been enjoyed for centuries in India, Greece, and many other countries due to it's health-giving properties and satisfying tangy taste. However, because commercial yogurts often contain preservatives, thickening agents, added sugars, and artificial coloring, the health benefits are less than desirable. The final straw (at least for me!) is that commercial yogurt tends to be fermented for less than an hour, which inhibits probiotic bacteria from reaching its full strength. If you opt to make your own yogurt, you can ferment it for a full 8-12 hours and make sure the beneficial probiotic bacteria strains and cultures remain intact.
Making yogurt is easier than you might think, and especially if you have a yogurt maker to eliminate most of the guesswork. We chose the Euro Cuisine Digital Automatic Yogurt Maker because it was reasonably priced (about $50) and included seven glass jars. The jar lids also have handy calendar settings so you can easily see the date the yogurt was made or when it will expire. The glass jars are dishwasher safe and should be thoroughly washed and dried before making your first batch of yogurt.
To get started, select the best quality milk you can find. Raw, organic milk from grass-fed cows at a local farm would be ideal because valuable nutrients and healthy fats have not been destroyed by pasteurization. If you cannot find raw milk in your area, choose organic milk from the grocery store. We used the Organic Valley brand for our first batch and it turned out just fine. We used one quart of milk to fill the seven glass jars.
In addition to milk, we used the following to make yogurt with fresh fruit:
1/2 cup organic strawberries, chopped (or favorite fruit of your choice)
3 T sugar (or a little more to taste)
1/3 cup water
Garden of Life Raw Organics Flaxseed Antioxidant Fruit Blend
5 T plain, unflavored yogurt or 1T of yogurt culture (available in health food stores)
Utensils: A thermometer is highly recommended, as yogurt must be heated to exactly 180 degrees and then cooled to 110 degrees.
In a large saucepan, heat milk to boiling at 180 degrees. Boil 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and cool to 110 degrees, carefully watching thermometer. Chop strawberries or fruit of your choice and cook in a smaller saucepan with water and sugar over low heat for 10 minutes.
When milk has cooled to 110 degrees, add culture or 5 tablespoons of plain yogurt and stir until smooth. Stir in the chopped fruit mixture. Divide and pour into the seven jars. Place jars in the yogurt maker without lids and cover. Set timer 8 hours for whole milk, (recommended) 10 hours for 2% milk and 12 hours for skim milk. Similar to using a crock pot, you can "set it and forget it" overnight and then wake up the next morning to yummy yogurt for breakfast.
When yogurt is ready, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of flaxseeds on top and enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later. If you plan on making more batches later on, save 1/2 jar for your "starter culture" next time. We plan to keep experimenting and will share more yogurt recipes with you in the future!