Yogurt is consumed all over India in a vast number of ways. On the savory end, it’s used in raitas, mixed with rice, or even as the base for a meat marinade. On the sweet side of the spectrum are dishes such as the Bengali mishti doi, the Gujarati shrikhand, or the famous mango lassi. It’s used as a condiment to temper the fierce spice of many Indian dishes and is an accompaniment to almost every meal. My parents make a fresh batch of yogurt every week. I used to love being part of that weekly process: the comforting aroma of warm milk wafted through the house in the evening and the morning was filled with anticipation as to how well the yogurt was set. This love for yogurt is echoed in Srini’s family, as well. His grandmother could speak for hours about the flavor and texture of plain yogurt. She peers into the oven when the yogurt is setting and knows exactly the moment it is done with a quick jiggle of the pan. She usually has two or three batches going at one time, and each of these are carefully judged for flavor and texture. The best is reserved for eating plain. The others are saved to be a condiment or as the base for another dish. She speaks fondly of the flavor of the yogurt she used to make in India and how it differs from yogurt in America. Making yogurt is a near daily ritual for her, and it’s been such a special treat to learn her perspective on this seemingly simple treat.
Yogurt is a fermented milk product born from inoculating warm milk with bacteria. In the modern day, a small morsel of yogurt is added to warm milk and allowed to culture until it thickens. Originally, this bacteria was probably a wild strain, but now we have a few strains that are widely used for their flavor and consistency. Thus, yogurt begets more yogurt, so it is essential to start with yogurt with live active cultures. Some commercial yogurts are artificially thickened with starches and pectin, especially low-fat and less expensive greek varieties, thus if you are making your own yogurt, be sure to start with some that specifically is labeled to say it contains live active cultures. Or steal some from a friend who makes yogurt! To start the process of making yogurt, milk is first heated in order to denature the milk proteins which allows for better bonding. Because the bacteria that help to make yogurt solid die at temperatures greater than 113F/45C, you have to allow the milk to cool before adding in the small amount of yogurt that turns the large amount of milk into yogurt. Once the morsel of yogurt is added to the warm milk, the bacteria are widely distributed throughout the milk. These bacteria consume the lactose in milk and break it down into lactic acid. This causes the milk to become more acidic which allows the casein molecules to unfurl and link together to create a thick, semi solid matrix which is why yogurt has the texture that it does! It’s just a chemical reaction brought forth by bringing bacteria in to play!
So why the sous vide? Srini bought me a sous vide a few years ago, and I think this is the first time it has made an appearance on this blog despite being one of our most frequently used and most loved kitchen devices. This device is a water heater and circulator that brings a water bath to a very precise temperature. Water is excellent and efficient at transferring heat, and it also is very slow to lose heat. Due to this, it’s a perfect medium for cooking something at a precise temperature. With the sous vide, we make the best steaks anywhere, amazing soft boiled eggs, chicken breast that’s not dry or tough, tender pork chops…I could go on an on. We love it. But I digress…Why the sous vide? Due to its ability to maintain a set temperature, it’s perfect for making yogurt. There’s no concern about how hot the oven light will actually be, ambient temperature, etc. And, I can make large batches of yogurt in individual servings ready to grab and go for breakfast or lunch. I know I sound like an infomercial, but I really do love it. I was inspired to start making yogurt in the sous vide by this wonderful article on ChefSteps. They recommend a temperature of 109F/43C and I’ve played around with a few and decided that 105F/40.5C is my happy place: it’s thick, silky, and just the right amount of tart for me.
If you don’t have a sous vide, you should still make your own yogurt at home. In my mind, it’s both cheaper and more delicious! You make as much yogurt as the milk you put into it, and ounce for ounce, milk is cheaper than yogurt. For example, I use organic whole milk, which is about $5-6 per gallon. Organic whole milk yogurt is about $5 for 32 oz of yogurt. 1 gallon is 128 oz, thus, the cost of making 32 oz of yogurt if I do it from scratch is $1.25-$1.50. For those of you that love Greek yogurt, it is simply yogurt that has been strained. When you strain yogurt, the whey separates out from the casein complex and leaves behind a thick, creamy yogurt. You lose about 50% of the total volume when you make greek yogurt, and commercial greek yogurt is about $4-5 for 16 oz, but if you were to make it at home it would be about $1.25-$1.50 if you use organic milk. In addition to the cost savings, homemade yogurt is simply more delicious. Not only can you control what type of milk you use (I firmly believe in full fat dairy), but you can also control how long you let it ferment for and at what temperature all of which change the end result. I hope you try it and think it’s worth it!
Stay tuned next week for a recipe that goes perfectly with this homemade yogurt!
Sous Vide Yogurt
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: 8-9 8 oz servings of yogurt||Total:|
A ridiculously simple, completely delicious, super thick and creamy sous vide yogurt, ready to grab and go in individual servings!
- 6 cups of whole milk
- 3 oz of yogurt with live active cultures
- Place the milk in a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring regularly. Allow the milk to heat until it registers at 180F/82C on an instant read thermometer. The milk will be fragrant and steamy, but not boiling. Remove from the heat.
- Allow the milk to cool to about 110F/43C. While the milk is cooling, set up your sous vide to 105F/40C. When the milk gets to 110F/43C, place a ladleful in a bowl with the yogurt, and stir well to combine.
- Return the yogurt milk mixture to pot and whisk to evenly combine.
- Portion out the inoculated milk into about 8-9 8 oz mason jars, 4-5 16 oz mason jars, or 2 quart jars. Be sure that whatever jars you use will be able to be fully submerged by the water bath. Be sure to not leave too much air at the top of the jar, otherwise they will float and won't stay fully submerged.
- Place in the water bath, and allow to rest for about 8-10 hours. Remove from the water bath and cool in the fridge before use.
No sous vide? You won't have quite as precise temperature control, but if you want you can use the oven. Turn the oven on for a few minutes, until it feels just barely warm. Then turn it off and turn on the oven light. Place the inoculated milk in a large bowl and place below the oven light for 6-10 hours, check periodically, and refrigerate when it is firm but still jiggles.
If you are making this with a sous vide, play around with different temperatures, staying within the 90F/32C to 110F/43C range to see which you like the best. Lower temps need more time and higher temps need less time.