Perfect and thick - Yoghurt revisited
I think I surprised everyone that I was so diligent about the yoghurt making and baking sourdough bread, which I also do every week or so. I think it's because I just feel so good after eating my own. I can't imagine being without it.
I've just started a new diet called GAPS. The whole idea is that our gut is damaged and lets through large molecules into the bloodstream which cause the body to make antibodies and also that the bacterial flora of the gut is not good, so that we have too many harmful bacteria in the gut and they make toxins which also get into the blood and they cause all sorts of problems. Neither grain nor dairy is allowed on this diet because they are hard to digest. The diet starts with meat broth, boiled meat and vegetables, cod liver oil, Probiotics and yoghurt for those who can tolerate it. Rather restrictive, but I'm prepared to try it. I am lucky enough to be able to use yoghurt from day one. Not only have I been eating yoghurt every day but I'm one of the lucky people who can digest lactose as are 95% of my country men. This ability is a genetic mutation about 8000 years old, known in peoples of northern Europe and eastern Afrika. So I have no plans to abandon dairy.
I have found a wealth of information on the internet about this diet and I particularly like this site, The Liberated Kitchen, where she has a page about the resources, for those who would like to know more. I have started this diet because I am really tired of arthritis pain in my hands and I think I need to try something to make it better (other than painkillers).
But back to yoghurt. The first time I made my own yoghurt I got a really good thick yogurt, so I thought, hey, this is easy and promptly made another batch that was very thin and runny. Then I had a batch that had tiny hard grains in it. So I thought I had better figure this out so that I could make the perfect batch every time. This is how I do it.
I always use 1.5 - 2 liters of full fat milk. For a while I experimented with adding cream to it and that produced very nice yoghurt, but it is more expensive. So full fat, pasteurized og homogenized (can't get it any other way) but not ultra heat treated. I would try fresh milk straight from the cow if I could. I put this in a pot and put it on full heat on the stove. I stir it pretty continuously as i monitor the heat with a thermometer. When it reaches 180 °F / 85 °C I turn down the heat and hold this temperature for at least 5 minutes. This is the best tip ever. This is what makes the yoghurt thick and creamy. Something about the heat and proteins, but the result is thicker yoghurt.
After holding this temperature for 5 minutes I plunge the pot into a bowl filled with ice cubes and water and stir the milk until it has cooled down to 110 °F / 42 °C. Then I pour almost all of the milk into a large jar. The small amount I pour into a glass and to this I add the yoghurt that I'm using as a starter. This is usually what is left of my own. Or, if I've been greedy, store bought fresh yoghurt. I mix it with the milk in the glass, about 2 - 3 tablespoons, and then pour it into the large jar. Then I mix the liquid in the jar by gently stirring.
I put the jar into my oven on a low setting and keep it overnight. I find that 10 hours works very well for me. Then I take it from the oven and put it in the refrigerator to cool down. When it is cold I use a knife to stir it well and it is ready to eat.
I used to think this was so much hassle to make. First I thought one would need a yoghurt maker. Not so. Wouldn't use one if I was given one. It is much easier to use a jar. Also I used to worry terribly about the exact temperature. But it's not that precise. I've heated the milk above the recommended temperature (although not to a boil) without any ill effects. The important thing is that the yogurt bacteria thrives at temperature between 100-110 °F / 38-43 °C. If it gets hotter the bacteria will die. If it gets colder the bacteria won't do it's job till it's warm again. So as long as one is careful about the temperature after the yoghurt is added, there is no problem.