Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Homemade Yogurt

There are two favorite items with my family: yogurt and popcorn. We don't eat them together, but we do go through a lot of each.

We used to buy plain Greek yogurt from Costco to keep up with the demand, until several years ago, when I learned how to make it myself. My first recipes for yogurt involved using combinations of different kinds of milk: powdered, fat-free and 2%. Over time, I have simplified my recipe to what is below. Honestly, it is going to look very complicated, but it is truly a simple process. It does not require crazy unitaskers like yogurt warmers. I will summarize the process before jumping into details with pictures. Hopefully, this approach will not scare you off, dear reader.

Quick summary

In a slow-cooker, add 8 cups of milk and set it on high. When the milk heats up to 180° (which will take about 2 hours), cool it down to 115°. Mix into the cooled milk 1/2 C of yogurt from a previous batch. Keep the mixture at about 100° for 6-8 hours. Done. You have yogurt at the cost of milk.

To make Greek yogurt, just strain the yogurt through a cloth for an hour or two to allow the whey to drip away. Stop straining when the yogurt is as thick as you want it to be. Done. You have Greek yogurt at the cost of, well, nothing.

Equipment List

  1. Slow cooker. The smaller models, which hold about 2 quarts, are best.
  2. Thermometer
  3. Oven with a light

Detailed / Photographic Plan

  1. Turn on the light in your oven.
    I'll explain later. Trust me.
  2. Measure 1/2 cup (100g) of starter yogurt into a large container.
    You need some good yogurt to get the process going. If this is your first time, then go buy a small container of yogurt, but make sure it says it contains live & active yogurt cultures.

  3. Measure 8 cups of milk into a slow cooker.
  4. Heat the milk to 180°.
    Set your cooker to high.

    This recipe is really a process of culturing bacteria. We want to make a safe & sterile home for the bacteria we want, in this case called Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These live in your starter yogurt.  By heating the milk to 180°, effectively sterilize the milk. This takes me just over 2 hours.
  5. Cool the milk to 105° - 115°.
    Now that the milk is mostly sterile & clean, we have to cool the milk down to a temperature range that supports life -- the life in your starter yogurt.

    Using 2 metal bowls, fill a large bowl with cold tap water. Pour the hot milk into a smaller metal bowl and have it float in the water. Since the metal is a great conductor, the temperature reduces to the safe zone in about 8 minutes. You want the milk to be between 105° and 115°.

  6. Mix the cooled milk and starter yogurt.
    Pour a little of the cooled milk into your starter yogurt to loosen it up first. Add enough milk and mix it up until it becomes fluid and will flow easily. Simply pour the loosened starter mixture back into the small metal bowl holding the cooled milk and mix thoroughly.
  7. Move the milk mixture (yogurt & milk) to a warm 100° resting area.
    We're almost finished. This part takes the longest amount of time.

    Pour the milk & yogurt mixture back into the crock that was used to heat my milk, put the lid on it and cover it with a towel. Place this little setup into your oven that has had its light on since step 1. The oven body is should be around 100°. This is a wonderfully warm temperature for bacteria where they will live and prosper and multiple and multiple and multiple.

    After about 8 hours, the milk will have so many Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus (that's yogurt, remember?) that it will become thick and gelatinous.
  8. Cool the new yogurt.
    At this point, you are finished. You have yogurt, albeit, warm yogurt. You could move the yogurt to containers and store in the refrigerator.

    For me, I take the crock out of the oven and move it straight to the refrigerator. Since I usually make yogurt 3 or 4 nights in a row to build up a supply, I'll wait until the evening to empty the crock.
  9. Make Greek yogurt.
    Greek yogurt is simply yogurt that has been strained to remove whey -- a high protein liquid.

    Lay a cloth napkin over the top of a tall container and secure it in place with a rubber band. Push down on the napkin to create a large pocket to hold the yogurt. Thoroughly whisk the yogurt before pouring it into the strainer. This will break up the yogurt and speed up the straining process. Depending on the thickness of your cloth, the whey will stream through it and into the container. I strain the yogurt for just over 2 hours.

    Personally, I haven't found a fantastic use for the whey yet. When I do, I'll post here. Leave a comment for your fantastic uses of yogurt whey.

  10. Repeat the whole process.
    First batch is finished. I'm lazy & I don't want to wash the crock, since I make yogurt several nights in a row, I follow a simple pattern. I start at 9 pm, so the yogurt is in the warm oven at about 11:30 pm. I pull it out at 8 am the next morning where it goes into the refrigerator while I'm at work. At 9 pm, I start straining the new yogurt while I make the next batch. That means, step 9 and step 1 are happening simultaneously.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Seared Lamb Loin Chops

Happy Easter

Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I don't recall ever having lamb before. I've had gyros, but that is for another story. This Easter, I thought I would cook lamb for the three carnivores in my family (the other three do not eat red meat). I bought eight lamb loin chops from a local butcher.

Since I have never cooked lamb chops before and they were very expensive, I watched many YouTube videos and let Google point out other blog postings to me. In the end, I used the technique from "Preparing Lamb Chops" to cook all eight chops, but I seasoned four of them with just salt & pepper while I took ideas from Giada De Laurentiis to create a garlic & rosemary marinade.

I think the best modification I can recommend to you is to use clarified butter instead of regular butter. As you can see from my other postings, my family loves popcorn and we use clarified butter a lot. Because its smoke point is so much higher than regular butter, I knew it would be great in my cast iron skillet for the lamb. If you want to follow what I did, just watch the videos above and use clarified butter instead of plain butter.

Clockwise from upper left: turkey ham (for the non-red-meat eaters) , salt & pepper chops and garlic & rosemary chops
Brussels sprouts preparing to be roasted using smoked paprika, salt & olive oil

Garlic, rosemary & olive olive make a simple, yet flavorful, marinade. Four loin chops with this seasoning

Four remaining chops were seasoned by applying kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper. While I should have used more pepper, the salt did a great job of pulling the water to the surface. The effect of this is a crust that you can see in a future picture.

Searing using medium high temperature in the cast iron skillet. The clarified butter is working wonderfully.

These are the garlic / rosemary chops. Before adding to the skillet, I wiped away most of the solid herbs to reduce the impact of them burning.

After 4 minutes, I flipped them to reveal a beautiful crust.

The very last minutes of cooking were in the soldier position: standing upright on the bone. I put all of the chops into one pan just so I could the stove for cooking the ham.

Everyone needs a nap - even my lamb. They rested for about 5 minutes while I finished up the meal.