Recipe: Greek Yogurt two ways, by Kate Johnson
There is little doubt regarding the benefits of maintaining good gut health. Probiotic foods vary and are widely commercially available; however, the cost and quality of these products are not always optimal.
Throughout the years, I have maintained a number of in-home probiotic foods, including milk kefir, water kefir, kombucha, sourdough, fermented vegetables and yogurt. While most of these require some minimal ongoing maintenance, they have all rewarded me with delicious and probiotic rich foods.
Today I would like to share my years of experience of making Greek yogurt. Later this summer, when my vegetable garden harvest is feeling overwhelming, I will share some ideas on fermenting fresh garden fare.
Several important things I have learned over the years:
The initial heating of the milk is not done to kill bacteria, but it is done to break protein bonds in the milk so that the yogurt will thicken. Therefore, if you do not get the temperature perfect, it is fine!
While it seems like more starter would result in thicker yogurt, instead it creates an environment with competing bacteria which results in thin/watery yogurt.
You can use any type of milk. I prefer Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Milk.
The first time you make your yogurt, you will need to purchase a “starter.” This should be a plain version of your favorite yogurt. After the first batch, simply use the last few tablespoons of your homemade yogurt for starter.
The leftover whey you strain off can be used as though it is buttermilk. You will never make better biscuits or pancakes! I also add this to my dog’s food for the probiotic benefits.
Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into a heavy pot, heat until stovetop thermometer reads 170-180
Cool to 115 degrees (let it set for about an hour or put it in an ice bath for a few minutes); if you add the starter when it is too hot, it will not thicken.
Mix 1.5 tablespoons of starter into one cup of the warm milk and mix well. Then pour this back into the rest of the warm milk and mix well.
Cover and place the milk/starter in a 115-degree dehydrator or oven for 5 to 18 hours (heat oven, turn off and leave light on). The longer the yogurt processes, the more tangy the flavor. I always process at least 12 hours and often as long as 18. I like to use my yogurt in dressings or as a substitute for sour cream and love a tangy flavor.
Place the yogurt in the fridge for 1 to 8 hours and let it thicken further.
Eat as is or strain for thick “greek” style yogurt. You can strain it through cheese cloth, a nut bag or (my method) in a salad spinner lined with a tea towel. You can strain for a matter of minutes or up to 3 hours depending on how thick you like your yogurt. I usually do between 1-2 hours. I have had occasions when it went as long as 5 hours and it produced what I would describe as a ricotta style cheese and can be used as such — delicious!
Instant Pot Version:
Pour 1/2 to 1 gallon of milk into the Instant Pot and choose the yogurt setting. It will begin flashing “boil.” Place the top on the Instant Pot and walk away. The instant pot will heat to approximately 180 degrees and will beep when done.
Remove the inner pot and cool the milk to 115 degrees on a wire rack (1 hour) or place in an ice bath for approximately 5 minutes. Skim if necessary. If you add the starter when it is too hot, it will not thicken.
Mix 1.5-3 tablespoons (depending on the initial amount of milk) of starter into one cup of the warm milk and mix well. Then pour this back into the rest of the warm milk and mix well.
Place the milk/starter back into the Instant Pot and adjust the amount of time you would like to process the yogurt. Steps 3 and 4 as above.
Kate Johnson is a longtime resident of Carson City. She practices pharmacy locally at Costco Pharmacy and is an avid gardener, cook and lover of dogs.