Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homemade Raw Milk Yogurt

Dairy is one of those things that you're either fine with, or you can't tolerate it. Of course, you could be totally fine with it and choose not to eat/drink dairy, like me right now, because you're on a cut. But that's another story. There is also argument in the Paleo/Primal camp about whether dairy is acceptable or not. I say, if it doesn't bother you, it should be fine. Obviously, if you have an autoimmune disorder, avoid dairy. Otherwise, go nuts, especially if you have access to raw dairy.

There are two types of dairy: commercial processed dairy, and raw dairy. There is no comparison. Commercial dairy products come from a factory where the milk was separated from the cream after being pasteurized (boiled) to kill all the pathogens that result when cows are crammed into close quarters, fed species-inappropriate food, and drugged to make them produce more and more milk. Organic milk is only slightly better, since the cows do get "access" to outdoor pastures, but there's no actual guarantee of how much they get outside or the quality of the feed they receive.

Raw milk from pastured cows is unpasteurized, clean, delicious, and full of beneficial enzymes and microbes that help heal your gut and protect the milk against bad bacteria. These good bacteria are what give you yogurt, sour cream, and clabber when they multiply. It causes your milk to sour instead of spoil. You can drink milk that's gone sour if it's raw. You would become very ill if you drank spoiled milk - milk spoils when the bad bacteria overrun the good bacteria (or when the good bacteria has been killed by pasteurization and then the milk is contaminated with a bad bacteria).

Raw milk yogurt is raw milk that has been innoculated/bacterially fermented/cultured with the bacteria that create yogurt - generally Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus. These bacteria work by fermenting the lactose in the milk and producing lactic acid. This produces a tangy, firm milk product that is typically better tolerated by lactose-intolerant people (because the lactose has been changed into something else). When you use raw milk to make yogurt, you get the added benefit of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down the lactose for you. Lactose-intolerant people can generally drink raw milk where they can't drink commercial, pasteurized milk. (This is not a guarantee, some lactose-intolerant people cannot tolerate raw milk, either.)

Once you have made yogurt, you'll find there are many uses for it. Typically, raw milk yogurt has a thinner, runnier consistency than store-bought yogurt, because store-bought usually has pectin added to make it artificially thicker and creamier. You can thicken homemade yogurt by straining it through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. This makes the yogurt a bit tangier, too. Keep the whey, because you can use it in a variety of things. Whey will keep in a clean glass jar in the fridge for up to six weeks. Use the whey in lacto-fermented products like enzyme-rich mayo, homemade ketchup, fermented cabbage (kimchi), pickles, and other great-for-you foods.

If you strain all the whey off, you will make a cream cheese-like product called "labneh." First, salt the yogurt lightly and then strain it overnight or for up to 24 hours in the fridge. The end result is a thick, creamy, spreadable (and very tangy) product. You can add herbs, fruit, or even canned salmon to this for a spread for crackers (this would be good on almond crackers!) or mix it into a dip for vegetables.

So, you ask, how do you make homemade yogurt? Well, it's ridiculously easy - and you don't need a yogurt maker. All you need is 1L of raw milk (you can use store milk I'm sure, I've never tried), a large saucepan, a candy thermometer, a whisk, a clean jar, and 1/4 cup of live-culture yogurt. You will need a stove and an oven with a working oven light, too. That's where the magic happens. Here's what you do:

1) Turn on your oven to its lowest temperature, generally 150F.

2) Pour your milk (minus 1/4 cup) into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Attach the candy thermometer to the side of your pot so you can monitor the temperature - you don't want it to get hotter than 115F. This would kill the good bacteria and pasteurize your milk. Not good. As it's heating, gently whisk it once in a while to make sure it's heating evenly.

3) As your milk heats, scoop 1/4 cup of yogurt into a measuring cup. This is what you'll use to culture your milk into yogurt. You can use store-bought yogurt for this, just make sure it's a plain, unsweetened, unflavoured yogurt with live bacteria. I use Astro plain. (The one with the red label.)

4) As soon your milk heats to about 110F - and definitely no hotter than 115F, remove it from the heat and gently whisk in the yogurt. Immediately pour it into the clean jar.

5) Turn OFF your oven and turn ON the oven light.

6) Place the open jar into the oven on the middle shelf and quickly close the door. Leave the light on -the light maintains the oven at a temperature perfect for culturing yogurt.

7)  Leave the yogurt in there for about 10 hours. You can check after 8 hours but I've found the best results after about 10. The yogurt should be thick and creamy, and have a tangy flavour.

8) Take the yogurt out of the oven, turn off the light, and screw the lid on. Put the yogurt into the fridge immediately to cool.

9) Eat it as is, strain off some of the whey to make it into a "Greek-syle" thicker yogurt, or strain all the whey off to make labneh. You can eat your yogurt plain, or stir in honey, or even some chopped up fruit. Here I've added some frozen wild blueberries for my daughter:

The yogurt will keep in your fridge up to two weeks or so. I usually heat the milk around 1030 PM, then put it into the oven overnight. When I get up around 730 AM I take it out, check the consistency, and throw it into the fridge for a few hours.

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