Friday, August 1, 2014

Adding a Little Culture to My Life

New fun for an old kitchen friend!
My creative muse swooped by recently (after a long vacation) with a wild idea.  I've been wanting to add natural probiotics to my diet, but flavored yogurt is really expensive, and full of additives.  So, I did a little research and found an easy method at Cultures for Health for culturing yogurt at home using my ancient slow-cooker.  Nothing could be simpler!

  • First, I cleaned the crock really well and found a heavy lid (rather than the glass one) that would fit tightly and retain heat.  Per the recipe, I added 1/2 gallon milk; I used Kroger Simple Truth Organic Whole Milk because Kroger is closer than any health food store.  I put on the lid, then turned the slow cooker on low for 2.5 hours while I did many other things.

  • After 2.5 hours, I turned off the slow cooker and let it cool (with the lid on) for 3 hours.

  • After 3 hours, I took out 1/2 cup and whisked in 2 T. of purchased yogurt with live cultures.  I used Greek Gods Plain Yogurt (which is, sadly, not organic) because it contained a variety of live cultures (S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacerium, L. Casei) and only pectin rather than gums.  You can also used a purchased yogurt starter as well as one shared from a friend.  Then I returned the culture mixture to the slow cooker, stirring well before replacing the lid.

Culturing the yogurt

  • The final active step is allowing the mixture to culture:  I wrapped my slowcooker, unplugged heating element and all, in two heavy bath-sheet size towels and left it overnight.  The instructions advise culturing for 8-12 hours depending upon how tangy you like your yogurt (more time=more tang).  I try to culture mine for 8-9 hours as I prefer a less tangy yogurt.

  • When your yogurt has achieved the desired "tang" spoon gently into jars and refrigerate at least 8 hours before using.  Reserve about 2 T. in a separate container to start your next batch.  Keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator.

The "busy mom" mild yogurt culture schedule
5:00 p.m.  Pour milk into slow cooker and turn on low heat.
7:30 p.m.  Turn off slow cooker; let set
10:30 p.m. Add culture starter and wrap in towels.
6:30 a.m.  Spoon into jars and refrigerate (reserve about 2 T. in its own container to make your next batch!)
2:30 p.m.  Ready to enjoy!

If you want "Greek" style yogurt, place some coffee filters in a plastic colander and allow some of the whey to drain off (frugal folk can use the whey in baked goods!).

You're only limited by
 your imagination!
Currently, I am enjoying my yogurt with fruit (fresh and preserves) and bran nuggets for crunch.  I have plans to make a healthy muesli and even a savory mixture for variety.

Why am I bothering with making my own yogurt?  I've read several articles that additional probiotics help lower blood pressure while I continue to take my prescribed medications.  I've also read several articles that probiotics help boost immunity while increasing metabolism.

Please consult your medical professional about this!  I am NOT a doctor nor do I even play one on TV!

With my next batches, I hope to make some yogurt cheese (Alton Brown makes it sound so easy!) and add some of my home-grown organic garlic and herbs to spread on toast and sandwiches.  I also have my eye on frozen yogurt.  I might even make a yogurt cheesecake!

Healthy, frugal, easy--I encourage you to give this a try!

What about you?  What's cooking in your Savory kitchen!