Memoirs are one of my favorite genres of books to read, from David Sedaris to Maya Angelou, and everyone else in between. Recently, I stumbled upon a book called French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, which is part memoir, part how to live holistically (which I also love). In her book Guiliano goes through several reasons why French women don’t get fat, especially when surrounded by the most decadent food in the world, while giving background into French culture and perspective. I thought the book was great as a health conscious, culture loving, eater and reader; and it was made even better by the recipes she adds in throughout the book.
One of the tips she wrote about was eating yogurt on a regular basis and even trying to make your own yogurt which has more live cultures and bacteria for healthy living. This reminded me of my love for yogurt, which I have tried to repress (it is too expensive to buy regularly here in the Philippines) and how it is great for the digestive tract. The book did not have a recipe for this (I think…) so I spent the next several days watching a dozen YouTube videos and reading blog recipes and tips on how to make my own yogurt using the products available to me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use fresh milk, as every site recommended, but I was determined to try it with the boxed variety I can find at my local store. I bought the box of milk and a single serving container of yogurt to use as the starter and went to work. Long story short, I botched my first batch because I don’t have a cooking thermometer, which was slightly disappointing. However, I soon rallied and attempted one more time with wisdom gained. The second batch was much more successful and has been a big hit with my family and I.
Now that I have completed several successful batches I will share my process in case anyone would like to try it. It really is so easy, especially if you have a thermometer, but even if you don’t it is okay. For the milk you will want to use the option with the highest fat content such as whole milk or 2%, you can use skim milk but it will have a thinner consistency. The milk I used was full cream, sterilized milk from a 1 liter box, not thrilling, but it works. If this is your first time (as I am assuming) you will also need to pick up a small carton of plain, unsweetened yogurt to use as the starter. Make sure the yogurt says live cultures or bacteria on the packaging to verify you have the real deal. I also use a little dry milk to make the yogurt a little thicker, but this is up to you and your personal preference.
The longest process with making yogurt is that it has to incubate for four to eight hours. You can do this by putting it in the oven with the light on, putting it in a thermos, using a yogurt maker, or wrapping it in blankets like I do. I wrap the yogurt container with several blankets, place it in a cardboard box, and then put it in a location where it won’t be disturbed (aka under my bed). If you have a constant warming source the incubation will not be as long, but for mine it takes the full eight hours since it keeps getting cooler. Below are more specific directions to help you on your way. Good luck and may the force be with you.
1 Liter of whole milk (about five cups)
1/2 Cup of plain yogurt with active cultures advertised on the cover
1/4 Dry milk
Fruit and Honey (optional toppings once done)
Take out the store bought yogurt from the refrigerator and place it on the counter so it is almost room temperature by the time it is needed. Pour the milk into a sauce pan and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat the milk until small bubbles start to form on the edges and turn off the heat before it starts to boil (180 F degrees). Place in a glass container or dish and stir regularly to help it cool down and to prevent a skin from forming on top. The temperature should lower until the milk is just warm enough to comfortably place your finger in the mixture for twenty seconds (115 F degrees). Mix in the dry milk and stir until dissolved. Ladle a cup of the milk into a separate bowl with the yogurt and mix together before adding to the rest of the milk mixture. Fasten container with lid and place in incubator, whichever method you have chosen.
If you are using a constant heat source you can check the yogurt after four hours and see if it is to your liking, if not continue incubating until it has reached the desired taste and consistency. If you use the blanket method it will take at least eight hours, which is best to start in the morning or at night. Once done, refrigerate for several hours until cool. Remember this is unsweetened so you may want to add fruit or honey to add a little more flavor. Just remember to save a little to start your next batch! Enjoy!