There’s always a lot of fermentation going on around here. Yeast is doing plenty of that work, but bacteria also get in on the action. Sourdough cultures contain — along with wild yeast — one or more strains of Lactobacillus, which produce the acids responsible for the “sour.” But lactobacilli like to ferment other things in addition to flour; they help turn cabbage into sauerkraut, cacao into chocolate, and apples into cider.
Then of course there’s milk, for which the bacteria were named in the first place. Lactobacilli love lactose (the sugar in milk), and the resulting yogurt loves us! Medical research suggests that regular consumption of yogurt, like other fermented foods, has beneficial effects on cholesterol, immune function, and digestive tract health (some references for these claims are listed below). Yogurt is also rich source of calcium and protein, and can often be enjoyed even by people who are lactose-intolerant. Or you could forget all that and eat it just because it’s tangy and creamy and delicious.
In any case, the good news is that it’s simple to make your own. Heat the milk, add a little “starter” (store-bought yogurt or some of your own from the last batch), keep it warm for a few hours, and you’re done. No really, it’s that simple.
I love my Brod and Taylor proofer for making yogurt. It maintains a constant and easily adjustable temperature, and you don’t need special containers like you do for a specialized yogurt maker; any glass or ceramic jars will work, as long as they fit inside the roomy box. The yogurt-making method on Brod and Taylor’s website is easy, relatively fast, and yields a smooth, mild-flavored yogurt that has earned wonderful reviews from everyone I’ve fed it to. In fact, while I can’t tolerate the very sour flavor of plain store-bought yogurt, I can eat this without any accompaniment at all — although a sprinkling of muesli and a few raspberries certainly don’t hurt!
I’ve been making yogurt every week or two for the past few months. Here are a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way:
- Whole milk (3.5% – 4% fat) yields the creamiest yogurt. If you use unhomogenized (cream-top) whole milk, you will get cream-top yogurt. In that case, I suggest using single-serving jars for culturing, so the cream can be mixed in right before you eat it. I prefer homogenized milk myself.
- A flour sack towel set inside a mesh strainer is ideal for straining yogurt for a few hours to make it Greek-style. Strain it even longer and it becomes as thick as cream cheese. Save the whey you strain off and throw it into smoothies.
- An instant-read thermometer is a nice thing to have.
- If you are culturing more than one jar, check each one individually for “doneness” (when the yogurt is set so that the top does not move when you tilt the jar). Usually it’s all done at the same time, but I have had batches where some jars (even of the same size) took longer than others.
Long-term consumption of fermented dairy products over 6 months increases HDL cholesterol. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002; 56(9):843-9.
The effects of probiotic and conventional yoghurt on lipid profile in women. Br J Nutr. 2010; 103(12):1778-83.
Daily intake of probiotic as well as conventional yogurt has a stimulating effect on cellular immunity in young healthy women. Ann Nutr Metab. 2006; 50(3):282-9.
Role of yoghurt in the prevention of colon cancer. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002; 56 Suppl 3:S65-8.
A randomized trial of yogurt for prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Dig Dis Sci. 2003; 48(10):2077-82.