Adventures in Yogurt Making

Here I am again, and devastated to report the slot on my Nikon that holds the SD card has decided to commit suicide.  If that’s not bad enough, it selfishly decided to take the 16GB memory card containing ALL of my unpublished (read: unsaved) food photos along with it.  This means the images of all the recipes that I’ve been photographing, but haven’t had time to post, have gone to That Great Mass Storage Device In The Sky.

So, yeah…no photos.  Have I mentioned I’m devastated?

(In a desperate ploy to at least partially appease his devastated – and, possibly, hysterical – wife, Beloved suggested I look at a new camera body so I didn’t have to try and take photographs with my lousy-for-taking-pictures Anroid phone for the 3 weeks it will take my D90 to be repaired.  I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D5300; the D90 will serve as a backup upon its return.)

Fortunately, I had already saved this particular photo and since making yogurt was one of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about, well, there you go.

As I’m sure My Better Half will tell you, I’m often guilty of coming up with Grand Plans that don’t see fruition.  Not from lack of follow-through, but from becoming distracted by other, sometimes more important, things that aren’t part of the Grand Plan – and, as I’m sure he will tell you, I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew.

In other words, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

At any rate, homemade yogurt has been on my list of Grand Plans for quite some time, and I have finally gotten around to giving it a whirl.  As I am wont to do, I began by researching and the first thing I researched was yogurt makers.  Since, like Alton Brown, I don’t like one-use gadgets, after reading that yogurt makers can suddenly lose their temperature control – and successful yogurt depends on pretty precise temperature control – it didn’t take long for me to look into other methods of making yogurt in my own kitchen.  And there are lots of different methods.

– Both David Lebovitz and Bon Appetit suggest just putting your tempered milk/starter mixture in a jar and leaving it in a “slightly warm spot” in your kitchen for 10 to 12 hours.  So much for precise temperature control. (I’m sure this will work, but the yogurt will be thin.)

– If you don’t feel comfortable leaving jars of warm milk sitting on your counter for hours, Aimee at Simple Bites tells you how to culture it with a heating pad and towels.

– The Creative Simple Life shows us how to make yogurt with a slow cooker.

– Don’t have a slow cooker or a heating pad?  Marisa at Food In Jars cultures hers in a small insulated cooler.

– Sarah at Heartland Renaissance started out making yogurt in her slow cooker, but now makes it in the oven.

While doing all of this research and considering all of these different methods for making yogurt, I found one site that suggested in an offhand manner that it’s possible to make yogurt using a Sous Vide Supreme.

Hold the phone.  I have one of those.

And it works.

Fabulously, really.

One of the reasons yogurt makers work so well is that they can (or are supposed to) hold the culturing milk at a steady, correct temperature, usually somewhere between 105 F and 113 F, ensuring that the yogurt doesn’t get too hot or too cold so the happy, beneficial little bacteria have the perfect environment to become fruitful and multiply.  Holding food at a steady temperature for hours is what a sous vide is designed to do, making it the perfect appliance for making yogurt.

Now, if you look at many homemade yogurt recipes, you’re going to find that some use just milk and a starter culture – usually yogurt, either store-bought or from a previous batch – while some include things like powdered milk and/or heavy cream.  The purpose of these additions is to thicken it; yogurt made with just milk tends to be a little on the runny side.  While I don’t have a real big problem with powdered milk per se (there is some concern about the process oxidizing the cholesterol, which is A Bad Thing), I’m not real crazy about the taste, and decided to use a combination of whole, vat-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from a local dairy that grass feeds their cows, and organic, vat-pasteurized heavy cream.

The results are nothing short of delicious.  While still not as quite as thick as popular commercial yogurts, it is incredibly creamy, fresh and tangy.

A candy thermometer – one of those glass ones that clip to the side of the pan – makes the job much, much easier.

Homemade Yogurt
Serves: 8
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  1. Fill 3 sterilized pint Ball jars 3/4 full with water, and set them in the empty sous vide. Fill the sous vide with water until it reaches the bottom of the necks of the jars. Remove the jars, pour out the water and wipe them dry with a clean cloth.
  2. Plug in the sous vide and set the temperature for 107 F. Cover with the lid.
  3. While the sous vide is coming to temp, combine the milk and cream in a large, heavy saucepan. Over low heat, slowly bring the milk/cream mixture to 180 F; this should take at least 15 to 20 minutes – if heated too quickly, the yogurt may turn out lumpy with a “grainy” texture. Remove from the heat and allow the milk/cream mixture to cool to 110 F.
  4. Whisk in the yogurt and pour the mixture into the jars, dividing it equally between the 3. Cap the jars and place them in the sous vide for 4 to 5 hours, or until the yogurt has thickened.
  5. Allow the yogurt to cool on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour, then refrigerate – it will continue to thicken as it becomes cold.
  6. Eat within a week.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 162 calories, 14.1g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 54.7mg sodium, 156.5mg potassium, 5.6g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 5.1g sugar, 3.8g protein


Of course, if you don’t have a Sous Vide Supreme, you can choose any of the other methods listed above with good results.

And what can you do with this wonderful, rich, creamy and delicious yogurt?  Just about anything you want, really.  I’ve used it to cook with, eaten it straight out of the jar (something I never did with plain store-bought yogurt – blech) and made this lovely, filling breakfast.  Which would also make a damn fine dessert.

Banana-Berry Yogurt Parfait.  Delicious, healthy and filling, this makes a great quick breakfast or dessert.

Banana-Berry Yogurt Parfait
Serves: 1
[i]Gently heating the honey will help it mix into the cold yogurt completely.[/i]
  • 1/2 cup Homemade Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/2 medium banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries, thawed
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and yogurt. Layer the sweetened yogurt in a tall parfait or dessert dish alternately with the berries and bananas.
  2. Serve immediately.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 275 calories, 14.4g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 57.8mg sodium, 534.9mg potassium, 34.9g carbohydrates, 3.9g fiber, 23.1g sugar, 4.9g protein


Whisky Mushroom Cream Sauce

Well, Fall has hit us with a vengeance and I’ve been on a “comfort food” kick.  Warm, hearty, filling dishes – and we’re still on our winter squash kick.  I’m working on a savory version of the butternut squash souffle with chipotle peppers, roasted red bell peppers, onions and cheese and will post it as soon as I’ve got the proportions of the ingredients just right.

Oh, as an aside and sort of a follow-up on my HFCS post last Friday – canned red kidney beans contain sugar/corn syrup/soybean oil, depending on the brand.  Fortunately, the organic store brand was just soaked beans (soaking is important, as it releases a lot of the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients from legumes), water and salt.  Why was I buying canned beans?  I was making chili, and the beans in my pantry were apparently old and did not take well to the “quick soak” method (boiling them for 2 minutes and letting them sit for an hour); every last one of them split wide open and became mushy.

Anyhoo.  Comfort food.  We got a ton of roasts when we purchased Chuck (including a standing rib roast destined to be Christmas dinner).  I reserve the tougher cuts – chuck, blade and arm roasts – for stews or chili (just cut them into 1″ to 2″ cubes) or just throw them in the crock pot with some onion, garlic, seasonings and a little water.  Cook it on low for 8 – 10 hours and you’ve practically got dinner on the table.  I used to do a nice pan gravy with this, but since we’ve cut out grains we’ve just been dressing our beef roasts with a little steak sauce or low-sugar ketchup.  I wanted to do something with a little more flavor with the last roast, so I made this.

And it is GOOD.  I’m one of those that can take mushrooms or leave them – I prefer them raw, to be honest – and even I thought this was great.  Beloved, who loves mushrooms in any way, shape, form or fashion informed me that I can’t serve him roast any other way now.  This would be excellent over a good steak, and since it has a “marsala-ish” quality, would be pretty darn good over chicken or pasta, too.

Note:  You can use bourbon, Kentucky or Irish whiskey, but since “whisky” in our house means single malt scotch, that’s what I used.  A good dry white wine would also work well.

Whisky Mushroom Cream Sauce

Whisky Mushroom Cream Sauce

4 – 6 servings

Unsalted butter

2-3 cups sliced fresh white button mushrooms

1/2  medium yellow onion, minced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3 tablespoons whiskey, scotch, bourbon, or dry white wine

1/2 to 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely minced chives (optional)

Melt about 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium-sized heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  When the butter begins to foam, add about 1/4 of the mushrooms to the pan.  Do NOT crowd them; you want to brown the mushrooms – they will release liquid into the pan and will not brown if there are too many.  Cook the mushrooms in batches until the liquid they release evaporates and they are golden brown.  Add a little butter with each batch, if necessary.   Remove each batch as done to a plate and set aside.

Lower the heat and add a little more butter to the pan; when it begins to foam add the onions and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, but not brown.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.  Increase the heat back to medium-high and add the mushrooms back to the pan, tossing to combine them well with the onion/garlic mixture.

Add the whiskey and balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, allowing the mixture to bubble and reduce slightly.  Lower the heat slightly and add the cream and nutmeg; cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  Remove from heat, taste and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in chives, if using, and serve immediately.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Whiskey Mushroom Cream Sauce on Foodista