Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yogurt: High Culture

It's creamy. It's healthy. I think it can even be raw!

It's Little Miss Muffet's favorite dish - yogurt. (Well, what did you think curds and whey was anyway?) Turn it into yochee (yogurt cheese) and it will even be healthier, tastier, and more versatile.

I know you're used to buying non-dairy yogurt for a dollar or more per 6-ounce carton, but you can make it yourself for less than half that cost.

Yogurt contains very healthy bacteria (probiotics) used in the digestive system, it's high in protein, and it concentrates the vitamins and minerals present in whatever milk you use.

I use this yogurt maker to make a quart at a time, but you can do the same thing by wrapping a heating pad set to low or medium around a one quart mason jar and holding it in place with rubber bands.

It's just a warmer that holds a container.

To begin with you need a starter yogurt. You can use the yogurt you make to start the next batch though it will lose its potency after two batches. Put three or four tablespoons into your very clean measuring cup (wash very well if you used anti-bacterial soap).

Make sure your starter yogurt has active, live cultures.

You can use any milk. I used a combination almond and soy milk for this batch. You need to warm one quart of milk up to 110 to 120F, then thicken it with powdered milk equivalent to another two cups (2/3 cup powder).

I use powdered soy milk to thicken.

When I was making this I realized raw foodists can use almond nut milk if they make it very thick. It will stay raw because the temperature will remain between 105F and 120F. You'll need a yogurt starter, but the "live" part of yogurt is in the active cultures so I'm guessing that allows it to technically remain a living food. (My apologies to raw foodists if I've got this wrong.)

Now that I'm thinking about it, I suppose an Excalibur dehydrator would be perfect for this!

The milk, once brought up to temperature, gets the powdered milk and yogurt mixed in.

The mixture is poured into the very clean container...

...and the container goes into the warming unit overnight.

In the morning, yogurt is born!

Well, technically, it's yogurt, but it's so warm that it's still kind of runny. It needs to refrigerate several hours so it can firm up.

Once chilled it's hard enough to eat as yogurt, but it's not quite the same as the store bought stuff because it has no additives like gelatin to firm it up. However, there's a trick to making it not only thicker, but also tastier.

Strain it using a yogurt strainer.

Here are two types of yogurt strainers.

The box type of strainer is a lot more convenient in having a cover and holding so much more, but they both accomplish the same task. They get covered and refrigerated to strain out the whey.

After just three hours, quite a lot of whey has drained out.

Whey is a component of yogurt that has very little nutritional value and has the bulk of the sour flavor. Drain it out and the yogurt is much smoother tasting.

Three hours is the max if you want to keep it the usual yogurt consistency, but I recommend waiting at least 12 - 24 hours and letting it thicken to yochee, or yogurt cheese.

Yochee is a yogurt equivalent of cream cheese and can be used in much the same way. You can flavor it up in any number of ways or use it straight.

I even have this book dedicated to yochee uses. For instance, top a potato, make a spinach dip, or cook up a pesto sauce. (The Yochee pesto sauce eliminated 50 percent of the fat, 40 percent of the calories, and tasted great.)

Remember, you already added extra protein, vitamins, and other nutrients by making it 50 percent stronger than plain milk. By straining the whey, you're throwing out almost all of the carbs and doubling the concentration once again. Even just one heaping tablespoon of homemade yochee probably adds as much as 4 grams of protein to a smoothie (my favorite use). It also makes it smoother!


  1. Wow- that is really impressive. What a versatile food project!

  2. I am so impressed by this project!!! You are so awesome :) I love the idea of making your own yogurt and actually saw a yogurt maker at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but just passed by it because it seemed really intimidating. Your post is awesome though because you've explained it so well and it totally seems like something I could do. It would be fun to add in different fruit purees at the end to make flavored yogurts :)

  3. I love making raw yogurt from young Thai coconuts (blend the meat and water) and add a capsule or two of probiotic powder... let sit in glass mason jar for 12-24 hours on counter (depending on desired level of tartness). When ready to serve, enjoy plain or add some sweetener or fruit. :)


  4. Wow, Kristen. What an easy and innovative way to make real raw yogurt! :)

  5. I've made yogurt on a warm counter before - although that was dairy yogurt way back when. I'm bookmarking this and going to may soy-gurt or almond-gurt soon! Mmm... with fruit and granola, can't wait!