Homemade yogurt, like giant bell-bottoms and paisley caftans, went out of style in the '70s. Although I am relieved some hippie trends are obsolete, homemade yogurt is long overdue for its revival.
Yogurt is surprisingly easy to make. To ferment your own yogurt, heat a quart of milk to 180 degrees, let it cool to 115 degrees, plop in two tablespoons of store-bought yogurt with active cultures, and let sit in a warm oven overnight. Save a spoonful of your new yogurt to act as a starter for your next batch.
I prefer Greek yogurt so I strained a batch through a cheesecloth-lined colander to eke out all of the liquid. The result: an incredibly thick and luscious Greek yogurt sitting above a pool of milky whey.
This yogurt was milder and sweeter than most store-bought varieties. I usually cut the sharpness of supermarket yogurt by stirring in a spoonful of jam or honey, but I’ll happily lick plain, homemade yogurt straight off a spoon.
The cost of this homemade yogurt depends on what type of milk you buy. A tub of Trader Joe’s yogurt is 9 cents per ounce; I used organic milk so my homemade yogurt cost 5 cents per ounce, but it could be as little as 3 cents per ounce if made with conventional milk. Though not a huge difference, if you use inexpensive milk and eat as much Greek yogurt as I do, the savings might be worth it.
Of course, my delicious Greek yogurt also produced a bowlful of whey, yogurt’s milky byproduct. Whey is thick, sour water and its absence is the distinction between regular and Greek yogurt. Though I have heard some people enjoy drinking whey, I have also heard that some people eat dirt. For the sake of culinary research, I froze the whey in an ice cube tray and plopped it into my morning smoothies. It is an acquired taste, to say the least, but it added a not wholly unpleasant Pinkberry-esque dimension to my breakfast.
If you decide to save the whey, be careful whom you invite over while your yogurt is straining. Your mother, if she is anything like mine, might try to be helpful and dump your whey down the drain. In defense of whey-tossing-mothers everywhere, the only benefit of whey is its nutritional content, which is comparable to that of the much better tasting yogurt sitting in your colander. But if you aren’t a fan of sour water, join the club and pour it out.
To try something different, I also made goat’s milk yogurt. If you are looking for a tangier yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt is worth a try. It is the same process to make, but the result is much more savory than cow’s milk yogurt. With more yogurt than I knew what to do with, I stirred sugar and vanilla into the goat’s milk batch and froze for a few hours, stirring every so often.
Attempting to drink a glass of whey was the low point of my week, but a bowl of goat’s milk frozen yogurt was the perfect apology to my taste buds.
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