Whats up with my yogurt?
February 3, 2011 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm making my own Greek yogurt. Its worked well before, so why is it so thin now?

I'm using a yogourmet yogurt maker, and incubating for 24 hours so that my yogurt has no lactose to bother my stomach.

I used vitamin D milk, pasturized it myself and cooled it appropriately before adding some Greek yogurt from the supermarket to "seed" the culture. 24 hours later, it was still much thinner than I seem to remember my previous batches (this summer) being. I prefer a custardy consistency to yogurt rather than the thinner (European?) yogurt I ate as a kid.

I ended up draining it in cheesecloth 24 hours, adding a bit of the liquid (whey?) back in to get it to a good consistency and being happy with it that way.

But that seems too complicated. Have I forgotten some important step that is making this come out differently than previously?

And while people are at it, any suggestions for great ways to use yogurt or creative add-ins would be fantastic. I'm pretty much sticking to adding strawberry puree right now, but would like to branch out a bit.
posted by gilsonal to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Is it a lot colder now than it was in summer? That could be it. The cultures that make it into yogurt probably do better in the warmth; I know, for example, that it's harder to make good sourdough bread in the winter.
posted by wayland at 10:08 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you typically inoculate from supermarket yogurt? I've never made my own yogurt (quite shameful, being Bulgarian & Greek), but several of friends and people in my family do. Apparently supermarket yogurt has a significant proportion of stuff you don't want in your starter culture. The qualities valued in supermarket yogurt – durability, consistency, appearance – are different from the ones you want at home. The right balance between bacterial species takes a while (a few bacterial "generations") to establish.

I've heard that using starter cultures from homemade yogurt (and it does last a while in the fridge, even if it gets more sour – sourness is actually valued in my part of the world) makes a huge difference as far as end results are considered. If you're starting fresh, do you by any chance have the ability to get starter culture from a friend who has been doing this for a while?
posted by halogen at 12:40 AM on February 4, 2011

I've always had to strain via cheesecloth to make Greek-style yogurt. I'm surprised you've gotten that thickness without straining n previous batches!

any suggestions for great ways to use yogurt or creative add-ins would be fantastic.

I'm a bigger fan of savory than sweet, so I often use my yogurt to thicken up curries. And I just recently sent someone my recipe for tzatziki! Here it is:

16 ounces Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped, sprinkled with salt
3 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or vinegar, though I prefer the lemon)
7 mint leaves
dill (roughly as much in volume as the mint)

Remove seeds from cucumber (I just cut it in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape the seeds out of the troughs). Cut up the cucumber into small chunks, then salt the pieces and leave in a colander to bleed out the moisture for a while. (maybe a couple of hours -- you basically just want to get rid of as much moisture as you can)

Put all ingredients except yogurt into food processor, blend until liquefied.

Fold that liquefied mixture into the yogurt and mix thoroughly.

Let chill in fridge for a couple of hours, or, preferably, overnight; the longer you leave it, the more the garlic taste wil develop and mix with everything else.

posted by Greg Nog at 4:59 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding wayland -- I took a break from yogurt making and when I started up again, nothing would set. Then my aunt pointed out that it was winter now, and my kitchen was a lot colder. I think I put a blanket on the yogurt maker (or maybe even put the whole thing, plugged in, into the [cold] oven) and everything gelled nicely again.
posted by MeiraV at 6:11 AM on February 4, 2011

Oh, and my favorite thing to do with greek yogurt is maple syrup and granola. Honey is a popular favorite, as well.
posted by MeiraV at 6:13 AM on February 4, 2011

Different brands of yogurt produce different quality results. For a starter culture, I would look for a brand that doesn't need to add thickeners to get a decent consistency yogurt. All it should have is milk and culture — no milk powder, pectin, gelatin, corn starch, etc.
posted by parudox at 6:55 AM on February 4, 2011

Wow, it never occurred to me that the yogurt maker would get cold when its plugged in, but I'll try wrapping it in a towel next time. I've been thinking about buying a culture online, since I don't know anybody else who makes yogurt. I think that may help too.
posted by gilsonal at 7:35 AM on February 4, 2011

I make my yogurt with just an improvised double boiler and a heating pad. When the yogurt has come out runny it is because I either forgot to turn the heating pad on (it's cold) or because I have used "old" yogurt (ie: after making four or five batches using s scoop of the prvious yogurt it just deosn't set as well). I'm not sure about how yogurt makers work but also if you don't let it set enough hours it can come out runny as well.
posted by MsKim at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2011

While I don't make my own, I pretty much live off of store-bought greek yogurt these days. Here's some of my favorite mix-ins (recipe self-links):

Peanut butter + chopped walnuts
Cherry fruit preserves + chopped dried cherries
Lemon/pineapple/any other fruit curd
Hot cocoa mix/cocoa powder (tastes kinda like chocolate pudding!) + crumbled graham crackers
Diced apples + chopped walnuts
Chopped pears + chopped cinnamon sugar pecans
Bourbon peaches + chopped pecans
(Sweeten any of the above with sugar/honey/vanilla sugar and top with granola/your favorite breakfast cereal/oats)

I've also been known to top non-breakfast items, like cake, with plain greek yogurt and call that breakfast. YMMV :)

There's also about a million things you can make with greek yogurt. I've found the store bought stuff works as a substitute for sour cream in recipes like white chicken enchiladas.

Recipes: French Onion Dip, Lemon Blackberry Kuchen (cake), Lemon Yogurt Cake, Blackberry Lemon Frozen Yogurt. For more, Chobani has a bunch of recipes on their website and Facebook page.
posted by geeky at 11:03 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Streptococcus thermophilus, the culture that causes yogurt to thicken is most active at 113F (45C).
posted by clockwork at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Finely diced apples nuked briefly in the microwave with some cinnamon make a yummy addition.

Thick yogurt makes a great addition to curry or chili... if I make anything spicy for my family I serve strained yogurt alongside so my spice-fearing kid will eat it. A blob on top is a nice accent, like sour cream; mixed in, it kills the heat.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:56 PM on February 4, 2011

I add powdered milk while scalding, and the result is quite a bit thicker before straining.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2011

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