The other day I happened to catch an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats, and he did a whole show on making your own yogurt! Imagine that. Evidently he did not consult my instructions on how to make perfect homemade yogurt in the microwave, because he made his yogurt quite a bit differently than I do. He also had a lot of information that I had not heard before, so being the ever vigilant yogurt scientist, I took notes, and did a little experimenting so I could share the results with you.
Alton did not heat his milk up to 180-190 degrees. He just started by heating it to 120 degrees. I have wondered about this step for a while, because hasn’t pasteurized milk already been heated quite a bit? But then he was much more diligent about keeping the milk at 120 degrees for the incubation period. He used a heating pad and a temperature probe to make sure the milk stayed at a constant 120 degrees for at least 4 hours.
So. I decided to forego the heating up to 180 degrees, and just heated my milk to an even 120 degrees in the microwave. I added the room temperature yogurt, and did my usual double towel wrap and placed it back in the microwave (microwave turned OFF.)
Four hours later….hmmm, looks a little too watery to me. Checked the temperature and it had dropped to maybe 106 degrees. So I decided to go all radical and RE-HEATED the partially formed yogurt to 120 degrees, covered it with the two towels and put it back in the microwave for another three hours.
What I ended up with looked like yogurt curdles in a lot of whey. But wait! All was not lost. Alton had also demonstrated making yogurt cheese (yes, I already knew how to strain yogurt–see my recipe.) But he put a weight on top of the yogurt (a small plate with a canned good on top.) And that worked great! I used my coffee filters, because, dang it, they charge too much for cheesecloth in the stores.
I ended up with some nice thick stuff that had a bit of texture like ricotta cheese. Sorry I don’t have a picture, but I’ve used it in a number of recipes, and it has worked very well.
I think I’ll stick with my tried and true method. But for those of you in colder climates, Alton’s suggestion of wrapping a heating pad around the container with the yogurt mixture would probably work very well.
A few more of Alton’s suggestions that I found interesting:
- 2% milk makes the best textured yogurt.
- Buy organic milk, because maybe the farmers feed the cows a better grade of feed.
- Choose paper cartons–better quality of milk.
- Don’t stir homemade yogurt too much. It will break down, as it does not have any gelatin in it.
- Add powdered milk to your yogurt culture for added protein.
I know I yack about homemade yogurt frequently. But not only is it a good buy ($4 for a half gallon of ORGANIC milk will yield almost a half gallon of homemade yogurt. You really can’t beat that price,) but it also tastes so much better than any store bought yogurt I’ve ever had. Its not nearly as tangy (not a fan of the tang.) Plus, its just plain fun to see milk turn into yogurt.