Monday, January 12, 2009

New Frugal Activity of the Week!

This week, I am starting a weekly series on frugal activities- some fun, some kitchen, some cleaning, all easy.

I'm going to cheat and write about something I've been doing for some time now. Making homemade yogurt is super easy, and very rewarding. When Abby was a baby, I was looking for healthy foods to feed her- and full fat yogurt was one of her favorites. I didn't learn how to make homemade yogurt then, in fact, I didn't even know it was an option! My mom bought one of the fancy yogurt makers and started making her own- so I went looking for a workaround. Here's what I do for homemade yogurt:

You'll need:

1/2 gallon of milk (personally, I use 1%, but you can use any kind you like)
1 small container of plain, ACTIVE CULTURE yogurt (I use single serve size of Fage or other greek style yogurt)
1/2 cup milk powder
crockpot insert and cover
candy thermometer

Pour milk into the crockery insert, and leaving cover off, microwave for 20 minutes. Check temperature, milk needs to get to at least 180 degrees. Once it reaches temp, cover, and wait until milk drops back down to 110 degrees (112 max!). I've done this both inside and out of the microwave, and I find that I will check more often if it is on the kitchen counter, and the temp seems to drop faster. Pull the starter yogurt out of the fridge now so that it will reach room temperature.

Once the milk has cooled to 110, whisk in the milk powder. Dump the starter yogurt into a small bowl, and refill the container with some of the milk mixture, pouring over the starter. Whisk till loosened, then pour all of the starter/milk mixture into the crockpot and whisk well. Cover, and place in incubation area. *

*Incubation areas need to stay at about 100-110 degrees. If you have a gas stove, you're done. Place lidded crockpot in oven with door shut overnight- the pilot light will do the trick. If you don't have a gas stove, you've got to get more creative. You can use your crockpot on warm (test it first!) or a heating pad wrapped around the crockery with a bathtowel insulating everything will work.

Let the yogurt develop overnight, or throughout the day, depending on when you start it. It will start to set up and thicken within a few hours, the longer you let it go, the thicker it will be.

We eat the yogurt plain, or "Greek" it for dips, or turn it into yogurt cheese. "Greeking" involves lining a strainer with a coffee filter, setting that on top of a measuring cup or something else to catch the whey, spooning yogurt into filter, then letting it drain off the whey for an hour or so. Yogurt cheese has the consistancy somewhere between ricotta and cream cheese- and it is made by "Greeking" the yogurt overnight.

I mix yogurt cheese with preserves (current favorite is a blueberry/cherry blend) and spread on bagels or toast.

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