Now, I've been wanting to do this for quite a while, but now I've actually done it. Yogurt.
I don't know how many of you are yogurt lovers, but I most definitely am. Give me a bucket of Brown Cow Maple Cream Top Yogurt and I will finish that thing in a day. DE-lish. (If you haven't tried it, you must.)
My only problem is, a bucket of that a day really takes a chunk out of my wallet, which is why I only allow myself to buy one and make it last for at least 2 days. But for a while I have wanted to make my own yogurt (I'm easing my way into cheese-making) and I tried it once on the stove, but that experiment came to a tragic end. Tragic meaning when I was done, I had wasted a quart of milk and there was no yogurt.
What I had decided that I needed (for many reasons) was an Excalibur dehydrator. One of the best in the biz. With temperature controls. Pretty snazzy stuff. And I had decided that I needed it for my birthday. The only problem is that I had spent all of my pennies on Brown Cow Cream Top Maple Yogurt and the like. :)
Anyway, long story short, I would have to wait for a while before I could get my precious dehydrator until *angels singing* my hubby brought one home. the sun had shone upon my yogurt-making dreams. I guess someone having a yard sale decided that they didn't want their fabulous Excalibur dehydrator, but more than that, they didn't want to SO MUCH that they put it in on the "free" table! Can you believe that?! I sure can't.
So, my husband, knowing that I wanted a dehydrator for a VERY BIG and EXCITING project that I have coming up (don't worry, I'll post it, but it's about two and a half months down the road) and knowing that he didn't want me to use his precious dehydrator, picked it up for me. Isn't he the sweetest thing? Actually, when I saw it on our counter and started hyperventilating he was confused, and after being notified that it's WAY better then his dehydrator, he is now trying to claim it...
And that's the story of the Excalibur dehydrator that started this yogurt-making endeavor. I don't know if was worth reading through to get to the actual tutorial. But, let's move ahead.
Yogurt making is amazingly easy and takes about 10 minutes of actual labor, as long as you follow the instructions. You can use a lot of different methods. As you know, I went the dehydrator route, but some people just fill coolers with a lot of bottles of warm water, or you can go stovetop, or buy a yogurt maker. In my mind, buying a dehydrator makes a lot more sense than a yogurt maker, because you can use it for hundreds of other things as well. Anyway, however you decide to do it, the recipe and instructions stay the same.
So, here it is:
Ingredients and Supplies:
1 quart milk (any type). Though if you want it to be cream top yogurt, it cannot be homogenized.
1/4 cup dry milk powder, for a thicker product (optional)
1 Tbs. thickener, such as carrageenan, pectic, or gelatin (optional; use as a substitute for or in addition to dry milk power)
1 packet yogurt starter or 2 Tbs. yogurt with live cultures
Containers with lids
Easy. You really only need milk and plain yogurt (I did use milk powder as a thickener because that's how I like it)
If you want to flavor your yogurt you'll want those things handy. Maple syrup is my very favorite, honey is another delicious one. You can add chocolate syrup or an extract like lemon, almond, or vanilla (1 tsp.), your options are really endless. Just remember yogurt isn't inherently sweet and if you want it to be sweet, you'll have to add a sweetener, though many flavorings are sweet in themselves. You can also do "fruit on the bottom" style and put jam, peanut butter, or chocolate syrup in your cups, add the milk-yogurt mixture and then ferment as normal. If you're flavoring with any type of fresh, canned or dried fruit you will have to add that after the yogurt is made, as some fruits are acidic and will curdle the milk and prevent proper fermentation. I add all my flavorings after the yogurt is made, just to be sure I don't mess anything up and so I'll have a starter for my next batch of yogurt (your starter yogurt should always be plain). Starting out, I suggest you make your first batch plain, and then after that start experimenting with fun flavors.
*Note: The actual instructions that should be used with every fermenting method will be red. The instructions that are black are the ones I've added for the dehydrator method.
Take all of the trays out of your dehydrator.
Get your dehydrator to the right temperature (116). This picture is looking through my dehydrator door at the thermometer inside, and the resulting reflection of my camera and hands.
Combine the milk, milk powder (if desired) and thickener (if desired) and flavoring. Heat the mixture to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. I thought I had taken a picture of this step.... but I guess not.
Let the milk cool to 116 degrees. Add the starter (or yogurt); mix well.
Pour into containers and cover (I use ramekins with lids). Keep covered, at 116 degrees for at least 6 hours (mine takes 8-9 hours), or until set to the consistency of thick cream. This is where the dehydrator comes in.
Refrigerate and serve cold. This will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.