In the past I had tried to cooking on the stove top and cooler method. It just wasn't working out...especially since I was told you had to put a heating pad in there to keep it at the proper temperature. If you have a heating pad then you know it will automatically shut off in about an hour or so. Trying to remember to turn it back on was stressing me out. Hey, two years ago things were a wee bit stressful (Jed was still tube fed), so it didn't take much to stress me out. Oh...wait...it still doesn't! Oh well! Let's move on, shall we?
So my currently past method was the crock pot method. Stress free. I like that. Our yogurt, however, was on the runny side. Kind of like buttermilk. I had adjusted the time to accommodate using one gallon of milk, instead of the 1/2 gallon used in the written recipe. I figured it was time to buy a thermometer to see what temperature my milk was getting to in the crock pot. You are supposed to heat it on the low setting for 2.5 hours. Mine took at least 5 to 6 hours to get to the 180. You then are supposed to turn off the heat and let the milk cool for 3 hours. Again, this took another 5 hours to accomplish. After all that time you were then to put in the starter and let it incubate. For GAPS that's 24 hours. This was taking WAY toooooo long for my wee folk! So I decided to take the plunge and try the stove top method again. And this is how I whip up creamy, thick yogurt:
This will not be a detailed tutorial, as far as pictures go. All the steps will be here, but I don't have pictures of every step. To start I put 1 gallon of milk, minus two cups, into a large pot. I then add two cups of heavy whipping cream to the pot. I put the temp on 7 (out of 10). I can then gather a few of my needed supplies, before the stove top heats up. Above you see the pot of milk, the yogurt starter (Brown Cow brand...I needed to buy another starter as my other one 'wore' off, more on that later), my thermometer and a bowl to mix a bit of warmed milk and starter together in a later stage.
Currently I am using store bought milk. Once our goats start producing I will be using their milk.
As I wait for my stove top to warm up I also fill my soon to be yogurt jars with hot water. This will help keep the incubating yogurt at the proper temperature.
Here is my yogurt culture in the glass bowl. By now I am constantly stirring the milk. You don't want it to burn on the bottom, unless you like yucky tasting yogurt. You could keep the milk on a lower temp, but it takes much longer to reach the needed 180 degrees. If you are using raw milk and want to keep your yogurt raw, make sure your temps do not go above 120 degrees. With store bought milk you will want to heat it up to 180 to kill of any odd bacteria floating about.
Yeah! It finally reached the proper temp. I haven't timed it yet, but I do know on a lower temp you are looking at a 30 minute wait. I don't have 30 minutes, nor will I remember in that time should I walk away that I am supposed to be tending heating milk! So I keep my stove top temps on the med-high mode and stir constantly to avoid burning.
Once it reaches proper temperature I move the pot over to my sink. I fill one side with cold water, and put the pan in the water. No ice needed. The cold water will bring the temperature down very quickly. I don't think you need more than 5 minutes to bring it down to a workable temperature. I wait till it reaches 118 degrees. Some people wait till 110, I've even read of someone bringing it down to 80 degrees. So I am not sure what the real 'proper' temp should be, but I know this is working for me, waiting till it gets to 118.
I was having difficulty getting my camera to focus on the thermometer, and you can see here that by the time I did the temp went from 120 (when I first tried to take a pic) to 115. I pull the pot of milk out and set aside. I then drain the sink, and also pour out the hot water from the above two glass jars (soon to be holding my incubating yogurt).
When all the water stuff is drained off I then scoop some of the warm milk into the bowl that held the starter. I stir gently until it thickens. By doing this step you will be able to get rid of any lumps, making it easier for the starter to incorporate into the whole batch. Once, this bowl of starter and a bit of milk thickens (30 seconds or so) I then pour the mixture into the pot of warmed milk. Again, stir gently, but thoroughly. I then pour the yogurt mix into my two glass jars, and transfer them to my incubating chamber :-)
Meet my incubating chamber. Just a simple cooler. You may be wondering why there are three jars in there when I only poured my yogurt into two jars. The third jar (with the white lid) is a gallon glass jar filled with hot tap water. This will help keep your yogurt at a proper incubating temperature, eliminating the need for a heating pad that you have to keep remembering to turn on.
I then place a towel or blanket on top of the jars, and then close the lid. Then we wait...which can be very hard on my yogurt loving crew :-) Under normal circumstances you only need to wait 8 to 12 hours. For us, being on GAPS, we need to let it incubate for 24 hours. You will want it to chill for a good 8 hours to thicken it up. When in haste you can fill a bowl with ice water and take one of the jars of yogurt and place the whole jar into the ice water. This will help it to cool off more quickly...you know, for the impatient folk :-)
A word on starters. There are starters that you can purchase online, which will last pretty much indefinitely. I just haven't gotten around to purchasing one. Instead I use the plain, full fat Brown Cow yogurt from Whole Foods. I've used Walmart's brand as well, when in need. The Brown Cow does seem to yield a nicer texture. With a store bought 'starter' you will only be able to use it for consecutive batches only so long before your yogurt no longer gets a nice thick texture. It will still be yogurt, but will be of a buttermilk texture. For us, we seem to need to buy a new starter every two weeks. We make a LOT of yogurt! I'm talking like 8 to 10 gallons of yogurt in a two week period. That would be like buying 32 to 40 of the large store bought containers! Wow, that's kind of scary after typing that out! But you can imagine the savings by making your own with that kind of volume! On top of yogurt being our number one probiotic on GAPS we also consume kefir. I'll share that tutorial with you soon. I am amazed by what this diet has accomplished. Either that, or we got one of the best kefir grain batches out there. I'll explain more about all of that in another post.
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