Yogurt is an ancient food that has been around a couple of thousand years (according to a yogurt history book). Sheep’s and goat’s milk are favored over cow’s milk in most Mediterranean countries, however, in north-central Europe and the U.S., all yogurts are made from cow’s milk.
Yogurt is coagulated milk that has been fermented by two types of bacteria: Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Streptococcus thermophilus. The first bacterium coagulates the milk, and the second causes the sugar in the milk to turn into lactic acid; it is the lactic acid that acts as a natural preservative.
Yogurt is beneficial to the digestive system and seems to be well tolerated by lactose intolerant individuals, thanks to the culture found in yogurt: Acidophilus, which produces Lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugars.
Eating yogurt can help you maintain healthy levels of beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, although the FDA has never approved similar statements. I am lactose intolerant, and yogurt soothes my stomach, never irritates it or causes me to have the painful side effects as milk does.
In the U.S., most commercial yogurt is made from fresh, pasteurized cow’s milk.
Plain Yogurt – Depending on the yogurt brand you prefer, the ingredients vary from milk, butterfat, enriched non-fat solids, and gelatin (as a stabilizer).
Flavored Yogurt – Know that if you buy a flavored yogurt, additives are present, such as sweeteners, preservatives, emulsifiers and stabilizers. The more elaborate the yogurt and the longer the shelf life, the less beneficial bacteria it contains, or none at all! Unless the packaging says the yogurt contains “live cultures”, it is nothing more than a creamy snack and offers no health benefits.
On the other hand, one can rely on premium brands that contain quality ingredients, but they are pricey, varying from $1.00 to almost two dollars per 6 oz. – 8 oz. containers; that is expensive!
Making yogurt at home
Why pay top price at the store for a product that is ridiculously easy and cheap to make?
By making your own yogurt you can omit ingredients such as emulsifiers, artificial colors, or stabilizers (to thicken yogurt), and persons who should control their sugar intake know exactly how much sugar is in the yogurt! Take control of what goes into your food supply!
Yogurt Makers (Incubation Equipment)
The truth is, yogurt can be easily made at home without the use of special gadgets, and I remember my grandmother making her own yogurt without the use of a machine; all she used was a container that she would place in a dark corner of the kitchen, and left it undisturbed overnight.
Modern times, however, demand “convenience” gadgets, and so…
The EuroCuisine YM80 Yogurt Maker
This particular model was released about 4 years ago, with an improved version now available (YM100) that come with automatic on/off switch button. I purchased this model from Drugstore.com for $29.99, but it can be found in many online retailers.
Inside the Box
One unit YM80
~ Seven (6oz) Glass Jars with Screw-on Lids
~ One Sachet of the EuroCuisine Yogurt Starter
The YM80 has the following Features:
~ Hour Reminder (manual counter)
~ Pilot Lamp
~ Switch Button (manual on/off)
~ Power Cord
~ One Dome lid or cover for the heating base
~ Instructions manual in English and French, to include some flavored yogurt recipes.
~ Unit Dimensions – 9.5 (d) x 6 (h)
Ingredients Needed to Make Yogurt
~ 42 oz of fresh milk (whole, 2%, 1% or skim), preferably Organic, or 1.3 liter of any brand UHT milk, which is just as delicious as fresh milk.
~ For the starter use: 1/2 cup plain yogurt with live active cultures or one packet of dry yogurt starter.
~ 1/3 cup of powder milk (makes yogurt firmer if using low-fat milk), but you can omit this ingredient when using whole milk.
Before you begin:
The initial preparation is critical to ensure optimal results.
~ Thoroughly wash the jars, lids, spoons to be used, pots, strainers, etc., with hot, soapy water. Rinse everything thoroughly and air dry (do not use a towel to avoid leaving lint on the utensils).
~ Pour nearly boiling water into each jar and leave water in until ready to use the jars.
Making Yogurt with the Euro Cuisine YM80
For some odd reason, the instructions that come with most yogurt makers make the process sound more complicated than it really is. The following steps are my modified instructions. I have obtained excellent results by following these steps, and as you grow proficient, you will make your own adjustments to suit your needs.
1. In a saucepan, heat milk over medium heat, add 1/3 cup of dry milk, stirring thoroughly to avoid lumpiness. Continue to stir frequently just below the boiling point (when little bubbles are forming on the edge of the pan).
2. Remove the pot from the stove and allow the milk to cool until lukewarm (you should be able to place your small finger in the milk and comfortably count to ten, if you can’t do this, the milk is still too hot), or between 100°F and 110°F if using a thermometer).
The cooling process takes about 20 minutes. Do not add any flavorings or sweeteners before completing the yogurt making process.
3. Place the lid on the heating base and pre-warm the Yogurt Maker heating base by plugging power cord into a 110 – 120V AC electric outlet. Turn on the machine.
Note: if using a dry yogurt starter, do not pre-warm the yogurt maker. The dry yogurt starters require a gradual temperature increase from 73°F.
4. Add plain yogurt or yogurt starter to the warm milk, stirring gently to blend, but be careful not to beat or whip.
5. Discard the hot water from the jars and pour the milk mixture into each jar. DO NOT SCREW ON THE LIDS. Place the dome cover over the jars and base, and allow the mixture to incubate undisturbed and away from air drafts for 5 – 10 hours (longer if using a dry yogurt starter). Every time you make yogurt, you will need to keep adjusting the number of hours until you find just the right tartness/consistency for you.
Note: if using a dry Yogurt Starter, the incubation period will be 10-12 hrs. Yogurt should be partially set (it should have the consistency of jello when it is beginning to set) and it will thicken further when refrigerated.
Personally, I did not like the Euro Cuisine Yogurt Starter as it renders a yogurt that is extremely acidic! It is sold in packs of 5 at $19.99, which is very expensive. It is best to use a fresh yogurt starter, and it’s cheaper per serving.
6. After the desired numbers of hours have elapsed, manually turn off the machine (as it does not have an automatic on/off switch). Remove the dome and remove the jars from the heating base. Place the lids on the jars and place inside the refrigerator. Chill at least 2 hours. Save ½ a jar of yogurt for future use. You can make up to five batches from the original starter, but I only use it up to 3 times, as each times the yogurt comes out thinner.
Making your own yogurt is simple, and through trial and error, I have perfected my yogurt-making technique, as you will. For the best and creamiest consistency, I use 2% or whole milk, and to save calories I eat smaller portions (3-4 oz).
The Euro Cuisine YM80 is extremely easy to use!
The manufacturer’s suggested incubation period is from 4-10 hours, but I have found that 6-7 hours is the perfect incubation period. Your batch will not be ruined if you forget to remove the jars from the incubator after 10 hours, and the only change is that the yogurt will taste a bit tart. The longer incubation period is ideal for those who work outside the home.
There are two negative aspects about this machine:
• The jars are made of glass, which is dangerous if you have little hands reaching into the refrigerator for a cup of yogurt. The good news is that you can purchase a replacement set if you break some jars. Alternatively you can shop around for similar size plastic jars with lids.
• The machine does not have an automatic on/off button, so, you must remember to turn off the machine when the incubation period is over. The newer model, Euro Cuisine YM100 comes with an automatic on/off switch, and it sells for $39.99.
I recommend this machine if this is the only model you can find, if not, a “bucket” type yogurt maker is more efficient.
However, the individual jars do make it handy for those on the go… just place a jar in your lunch box or cooler, and enjoy home-made, fresh yogurt anytime!!