Devon is blessed with lush pastures which are green though out the year. This verdant landscape provides rich grazing for herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. It also means that we have some of the best local dairy products in the world.
Recently, I have been enjoying pots of creamy yogurt made from a local dairy. The yogurt is organic, delicious, addictive and can be made at home if you can resist eating the whole pot in one go. You can make yogurt with any brand of natural, unflavoured yogurt. Homemade yogurt is very economical and you know exactly what's in it. The best part is the alchemy that takes place by mixing just two ingredients, milk and yogurt. It's magic!
Here's the recipe for Plain Yogurt :
2 Tablespoons whole-milk yogurt 1 UK pint or 20 fluid ounces of whole milk
Pour the milk into a stainless steel saucepan and heat until little bubbles form around the edge of the pan. This kills off any unwanted 'bugs' in the milk.
Let the milk cool down until it is very warm when you put a VERY clean finger into it. If you want to use a thermometer it should register about 100 degrees F/ 43 degrees C. Discard any skin that may have formed over the milk.
Stir 2 tablespoons of room temperature, whole-milk, natural yogurt into the warm milk, mix well.
Now you have two options - the idea is to keep your cultured milk warm:
Pour the yogurt mixture into a pre-warmed Thermos flask. Screw on the lid and leave for at least four hours for the yogurt to set. You may have to wait a little longer, just keep checking. The longer you leave the yogurt the thicker it will become and develop a sharper taste.
If you don't want to use a Thermos, pour the yogurt mixture into a glass or ceramic bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Put the bowl in a warm place like the oven with the oven light on. An airing cupboard is a good place, too. Leave for at least four hours to set or until it is as tangy as you like.
Your homemade yogurt may not be as thick as store bought yogurt because it doesn't have all the additives in it. If you want it thicker, you can strain out some of the whey by placing a strainer lined with cloth over a bowl and pouring in your yogurt. (I use a cotton table napkin that I boil to sterilise before putting it into the strainer but you can buy cheesecloth especially for the job) Place the yogurt in the refrigerator to drain, checking periodically for the consistency you want. You can even make a soft yogurt cheese by letting lots of whey drain out.
You've made YOGURT! Now comes the fun part. You choose what flavour you want!. I like a spoonful of honey and a drop of good vanilla extract in mine. Chop in some fruit and add pinch or two of sugar, or use a spoonful of jam. You can made it sugar-free by using your favourite artificial sweetener. If you keep it 'loose' you can pour it over your morning cereal instead of milk. I am told it can be used in place of buttermilk when baking. I have to try that idea soon.
Your yogurt should keep well in the fridge for a week. Be sure to save a little bit to make your next batch. Give it a go. Think of it as a science experiment for the kids- one you can eat!