Saturday, November 15, 2008

ReCre8 Milk: Make Your Own Yogurt

I have tried to encourage yogurt eating in my household since my kids were on solid food. It’s a great way to get your calcium, protein, and helpful bacteria all at once. With the right additions you can get a lot of other yummy and helpful nutrients and antioxidants too. Here are some links on the health benefits of yogurt and other cultured dairy products:

This year, I realized we were spending at least $10-$20 a week on yogurt. That is $500 - $1000/yr just on yogurt! I also realized how much plastic we were acquiring to support this yogurt habit. Many wonderful green and frugal blogs out there inspired me to make my own yogurt. It is super easy to make your own yogurt. It has been a big savings to our food budget and just a lot of fun.

I have researched a TON of advice out there and came up with my preferred method for making yogurt. I’ll explain it here, but I’ll also provide links to the great resources I found out there that can give lots of other ideas.

Before venturing to make your own yogurt, I highly recommend watching the Alton Brown “Good Eats” episode which gives a tutorial on making yogurt. It's called "Good Milk Gone Bad", pretty funny. It is available on YouTube unless it gets taken down. I do mine a little bit differently, but this helps you understand the process really well.

I make ½ gallon at a time, but you can easily adjust this to make any amount. The yogurt will stay good in the fridge 1-2 weeks, but it never lasts that long in my house! This is my method:

What you will need:

  • 6 oz. yogurt with LIVE, ACTIVE, CULTURES (this is your “starter”.
  • You can use plain or a flavored variety, but if you use flavored, your resulting yogurt will carry that flavor forward)
  • ½ gallon of milk (I use 2% organic – in a GLASS bottle, but you can use skim or whole milk as well)
  • ¼ c. non-fat dry milk (optional – adds protein)
  • 1 2-quart thermos or thermal carafe (must be lined with stainless steel or glass – NOT plastic)
  • Kitchen Thermometer (I use a candy thermometer)


I like to start in the evening, putting the milk on to heat right before we sit down for dinner. Then, by the morning, I have yogurt!

Day 1:

  1. Take out 6 oz. yogurt as a starter and let it come to room temperature while you prepare the milk
  2. Heat milk at medium heat in your pot to 180 degrees F, stirring regularly (this kills off any bacteria that is currently in your milk)
  3. Stir in non-fat dry milk
  4. Once milk reaches desired temperature, cool it down to 120 degreed F
  5. While milk is cooling, sterilize and warm your thermos or carafe by adding boiling water and closing it for at least 5 minutes. Empty the water.
  6. Temper your room-temperature yogurt with the 120 degrees F milk
  7. Add starter yogurt to pot and stir gently until dissolved
  8. Transfer milk/yogurt combination to your thermos or thermal carafe
  9. Put in a warm, draft-free place and leave overnight 8-10 hours

Day 2:
At this point you have a choice. Do you like your yogurt very thick or do you like it a tiny bit runny? If you don’t mind it a little thinner, your yogurt will be done. Just transfer it into a glass container or into jelly jars and put it in the fridge. I like to have my yogurt very thick and creamy, so I always strain out the whey first. To strain your yogurt, place a mesh sieve over a glass bowl. Pour in enough yogurt to fill the sieve. Let it sit and drain. Use a flexible spatula to gently manipulate the yogurt. Don’t mess with it too much, because you don’t want to break up the curds. Once it is at the desired thickness, place it in your glass or ceramic storage vessel (I like to use 4 oz. or 8 oz. jelly jars so I have single servings ready-to-go). Once you have jarred up all your yogurt, don’t discard the whey! It is full of protein and other goodies and it is infinitely useful, as I will cover in another post. Store it in a glass jar in your fridge until you are ready to use it.

Flavoring Yogurt
Now, regarding the flavoring. You have so many options for flavoring. I used to mix up some flavors in the blender and stir them into the yogurt, but it was more work and more to clean. So, I found some super simple ways to make a variety of flavors:
  • Honey-Yogurt: A favorite of my kids. Just drizzle a tablespoon of honey (or substitute Agave nectar) on the top of the yogurt and put it in the fridge. When you are ready to eat it, just stir it up.
  • Raspberry Yogurt: This is my absolute favorite. Just take about 10 or so frozen raspberries and push them into the yogurt. Leave it out for a few hours until you are ready to eat (this makes it very convenient for a bag lunch – no refrigeration necessary). Once the raspberries have melted, stir the yogurt together. Add a packet of sugar or equal for sweetness. This is really a treat.
  • Chocolate Yogurt: Stir in 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder into the yogurt. Put 1 tablespoon of honey or Agave Nectar on top and refrigerate for a few hours or days. When ready to eat, just stir it all up.
These are some of the favorites in my house, but really, you can stir in whatever flavors you like and sweeten it to your own taste.

Here are some sites that have some different recipes and some different approaches:
In the next post, I’ll cover some other great things you can do with yogurt.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Re-Cre8 Canning Jars as a Flexible Kitchen Storage System

i HEART mason jars

The introduction of mason jars/canning jars into my kitchen has been the most wonderful transformation in storage for me. If you look in my regrigerator, any of my cabinets, or on the counter, you are sure to find all sizes of jars performing some useful function. I initially bought some jelly jars for making jam after our pick-your-own raspberries and blackberries adventure this summer. (BTW, the jam turned out great and the canning process was super easy). That is when I had an “a-ha” moment that these inexpensive glass jars will address many of my concerns in the kitchen this year.

Here are all the reasons for my new love affair with these classics:

Using less plastic - I have been trying systematically to remove my dependence on plastic - especially those kinds that cannot be recycled at all, such as zip-top bags and plastic wrap. I found that having a set of different sized canning jars lets me do just that. I can store single-size servings of leftover spaghetti - ready to go into lunch boxes or snack-size cookies and crackers. I can use them in place of plastic storage containers for just about everything I cook. They are also great in the pantries for holding beans, seeds, and flour bought in bulk.

Storing leftovers in re-heatable containers - Leftovers are important to staying frugal and eating healthy in my household. I absolutely refuse to put anything plastic in the microwave. So storing, say leftover homemade Spaghetti Sauce, in a quart size mason jar allows me to just put it directly in the microwave and voila - dinner's ready. No need to pour from a Tupperware into a another bowl and dirty some more dishes.

Reusable containers for work and school lunches - I use these in my Kindergartner's lunch and to bring my lunch to work all the time. Applesauce, yogurt, smoothies, leftover rice and beans, soup - you name it - all of these things work great in a small canning jar for a portable lunch. While glass is breakable, these are pretty durable. As long as you're not throwing your lunch box around, they're going to be alright.

Yogurt jars - These are just about the best solution for creating single-serving yogurt jars. There are 4-oz. jars and 8-oz. jars for kids-size servings as well as grown-up servings.

Standard and easy-to-replace lids -Now the lids for all my containers can be interchanged with each other. If I lose them, I don't have to throw out the whole storage container - I can just get a new lid from any grocery or hardware store.

Bulk Food Storage - I am buying more and more bulk food in the process of reducing my plastic consumption. Mason jars are so great for storing rice, beans, seeds, and flours. No need to have anything disposable involved! They also are a standard size, so it can keep your pantry nice and neat.

The list goes on and on. But, you get the idea! It is just as wonderful to reuse glass jars you may get your honey, parmesan, jams, or pickles in - especially if they have a lid that is easily reusable. Give it a try!