We had some friends pop in last night for a cuppa, after their dinner, but before ours. They were fascinated by my cooking antics in the kitchen, and were completely astonished to learn that I was making my own natural yoghurt. The first question, of course, was what’s it made from? I couldn’t help laughing as I answered. Milk of course!
My yoghurt goes mainly to feed the chickens. I make a litre and a half which lasts several weeks, as we only give them a couple of heaped spoons in their porridge every day. I’m not a fan of natural unflavoured yoghurt, but my eldest DS will eat it quite happily if he can.
However making yoghurt at home is amazingly easy. All you need is the time to devote to keeping it at the right temperature. I have tried the old, warm oven, wrapped up in blankets type tricks and they never work for me. You can always buy a yoghurt maker, but really, who needs one more gadget in the kitchen? I use my slow cooker, set a timer for one hour off, 10 minutes on, for several cycles until it’s set and the flavour has developed. The longer you incubate it, the stronger the flavour.
I start by warming up 1 1/2 l of milk – in this case, powdered milk. Add an extra half a cup or so of powder so the milk is on the thick side, not thin. You can do this even if you use regular liquid milk.
Heat up to 80degrees C, then allow to cool back to under 50degrees C. The heating up is to sterilize, just to make sure there are no stray bugs. I don’t know if you need to do it for powdered milk, but it isn’t really that much extra hassle, so I do.
Once it’s cooled down under 50C, take a small amount of starter yoghurt – left over from your last batch if you are organised, or taken from a store-bought natural yoghurt. Not a flavoured/gelatine based one, it has to be one that advertises it contains natural cultures. About 1/2 cup is plenty. Mix this with a similar amount of the warm milk before adding it to the remaining milk. This makes it much easier to mix in. Then simply pour into the pre-warmed slow cooker and maintain it at the temperature range of about 45C give or take. Keep an eye on it over the next few hours, you will see it set, then taste test to the desired flavour.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to turn the slow cooker off after each cycle….. yeah ask me how I know this 🙁 it looked pretty awful, but it was more like ricotta in texture and the chickens didn’t care about the difference.
When you’re happy with it, ladle into a handy storage tub, and put in the fridge. Ours keeps for at least 2 or 3 weeks, and if you leave a little in the bottom of the tub, you can use it as the starter for your next batch!
So there you have it. I haven’t done the sums, but even paying for a starter and the powdered milk, it’s pretty cheap yoghurt. Which you could use in cooking, as a sour cream alternative, as well as in desserts, snacks, and you guessed it, chicken feed. Yoghurt is such an amazingly complete food. It contains important minerals like calcium, and protein as well. We practically raised our eldest son on a steady supply of bananas, kiwifruit and yoghurt for lunch!
Oh, by the way. We got 3 eggs today! Ruth has joined the ranks of the layers – I know this because I hung around the chicken yard all morning and got to witness their nesting shenanigans. I guess I’d make that much of a production of it too – it looks rather painful! But we are still very excited to be part of this fantastic simple frugal living experiment, and to feel like we are finally getting things right!