According to Statistics Canada, per capita consumption of yogurt almost doubled between 2000 and 2012. Canadians of all walks of life ate – on average – more than 8 litres of yogurt last year.
That’s a lot of yogurt!
Part of yogurt’s allure is that it is one of the world’s oldest methods of food preservation. It transforms milk into a stable product, allowing it to last longer in a variety of storage conditions.
For that reason alone, it’s been part of the human diet for centuries. Many of the world’s ancient cultures recognized the digestive properties inherent in yogurt and, to this day, it continues to be an essential ingredient across much of the world.
It’s no surprise then, that yogurt’s star is on the rise in North America. The latest craze is for Greek-style yogurt, a thicker, protein-packed version made by straining the whey from regular yogurt. Chobani, one of the leading manufacturers in the United States, reports that when the company started in the fall of 2007, the Greek yogurt market share in that country was less than 1 per cent; today it is almost 60 per cent.
For the ambitious and health conscious, there are a number of easy methods for making yogurt at home. Making Greek yogurt is the same as regular yogurt with one additional step — simply strain your homemade yogurt through cheesecloth for a few hours; the longer you strain, the thicker the result!
How to make homemade yogurt
This method uses milk from our own Jersey cow, but store-bought milk will work too. Whole milk is best.
We use a thermophilic powdered culture as a starter, but you can also use store-bought yogurt, as long as it contains live probiotic bacteria (look for words like Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus or L. acidophilus on the label).
The starter you choose will affect the taste and consistency of the end product. Often, when yogurt doesn’t set properly the culprit is the starter – bacteria levels have to be properly balanced in order for the milk to curdle (set) correctly.
You will need:
16 cups of milk
ABY-2C starter (our recommended choice; available online)
a candy thermometer
a large, non-reactive pot
This makes about 2-3 litres of yogurt.
Gently heat the milk to 180ºF to prepare it for receiving the yogurt culture.
Once the milk has reached the desired temperature, cool it down to between 115-118 degrees to receive the culture.
Add 1/8 tsp of the culture. The milk must now be kept at the same temperature for at least 12 hours – this is the tricky part of making yogurt.
Keeping the temperature constant allows the bacteria to work with the milk to create yogurt. In winter, the warming shelf of a wood stove is a great way of doing this. Alternatives include heating pads, or gas ovens with pilot lights. Some people swaddle their yogurt in tea towels and store it in a warm location.
One other option is a purpose-built yogurt maker – a frill, to be sure. But these gadgets are designed to ensure consistent results every time.
Either way, making it at home is fun, easy and a great way to ensure your family gets the benefits of wholesome, healthy yogurt.
Monika Benker is the co-owner of HillTop Farm, a small family farm in Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg County where voluntary simplicity is the motto.