When I first announced that I wanted to plan out my menus for an entire year many thought me totally NUTS! My thought was you plan a menu every week, so why not collect all 52 menus and end up with your menus planned for the next year. The benefits of having a meal plan are numerous. These posts are about the menus I planned and how I did them.

Monday, May 13, 2013


When I was in public school I was fascinated by ancient history.  Mainly the Greeks and Romans.  The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World held great fascination to me.  The Greek gods of mythology  were some serious folks, fascinating to read about.

In high school I had a Greek pen pal, it was interesting to exchange letters with a person overseas and get a peek into his every day life.  Remember this was long before computers were  common place.  The internet did not exist then.

As time went on I became more interested in day to day life here in the USA, US history and cooking good foods of all types. My fascination for things Greek turned more to olives, and other Greek foods such as cabbage rolls, gyros and most recently Greek yogurt and thus the reason for today’s post. 

My son and I have fallen in love with Greek yogurt as a quick breakfast or snack, it might have something to do with all those episodes of “Burn Notice” we watch.  After all they are constantly grabbing a cup of yogurt out of the fridge to eat while discussing a plan.  Strange you never see them putting any yogurt into that refrigerator.  Is it actually a self filling yogurt machine?  Hmmmm, have to check on that more in the future.

But back to the subject at hand Greek yogurt making.  Now my husband is not a fan as yogurt as a snack, unless it’s the frozen type they serve at so many stores across this nation either in waffle cones or cups.  So while learning to make and use yogurt I better include how to make the frozen yogurt as well. 

So my adventure into yogurt making begins.  I am blessed to have a very nice Stx 600 dehydrator that came with the yogurt/bread proofing door/drawer for it.  This will enable me to control the heat and let the yogurt cook at a constant temperature.  I know you can do yogurt in the crockpot, in a yogurt maker, in the oven or even on a heating pad too.  There are lots of recipes on the web for doing that, however the problem with crockpot yogurt and some of the other methods, I’ve read, is the temperatures on these often vary greatly and in order to make good yogurt you need a very controlled heat. 

Since the Styx 600 has a thermostat and is actually set-up for yogurt making, complete with a yogurt setting, I decided that was the best way to go for me. 

After much research and discussion I went with the Basic Greek Yogurt Recipe for yogurt that calls for using whole milk and live active cultures from grocery purchased yogurt for the first batch.  Once I have a successful batch I will use my own yogurt for the culture for future batches.  

You will notice when you  link over to my Patterson Pantry Recipes Blog that I have included using powdered milk in the recipe notes if you prefer to go that route. 

For current usage I use the whole milk because after doing much research we discovered it was cheaper to purchase a gallon of whole milk than to purchase powdered milk and reconstitute it for cooking.  I do, however, keep powdered milk in my food storage for when I am out of milk, or want to add a little extra protein to a dish without adding excess liquid.

Now on to the yogurt making experiment.  I spent much of the first day doing research on the web, gleaning this bit of info and that recipe idea from hither and yon.  I learned a lot, some of which I will share with you here.

1.     It is better to start with your milk at room temperature so that you spend less time heating it.  It is also better to have your fresh yogurt culture starter at room temperature so that when you add it to the heated milk you don’t bring the milk temperature down too far.  It also blends in easier to the warm milk.

2.     When using gelatin in some of the recipes it should always be softened in water first.  This aids in getting it well mixed in.

3.     If you are adding powdered milk to liquid milk for added protein in your yogurt you should add it to the top of your milk and let it set for about 10 minutes before stirring it in so that it will rehydrate to some extent.

4.     If when you add powdered milk, or powdered yogurt cultures to your yogurt ingredients lumps form don’t panic, these will dissolve as you heat the yogurt mixture.

5.     If you adding jelly, jam or frozen or canned fruit to yogurt you can add it safely in with the milk as you are originally heating it.  However, fresh, and possibly dried fruit may contain enzymes that would cause the yogurt to curdle if you do it then.  So do not add those until after the yogurt is made.

6.     You can freeze leftover plain yogurt with live cultures to make future batches of yogurt in small containers and the cultures will go dormant.  Thaw slowly and naturally before making your next batch of yogurt. So invest in one small cup and then between it and the yogurt you make in the future you will always have live cultures.  Thus a $1 investment can save you a lot of money in the long run.  Sometimes, if your yogurt starts being too tart, you will need to invest in a new fresh starter.

7.     Fruit on the bottom and sundae style yogurt are basically the same animal, the only difference is you dump the fruit on the bottom yogurt out in a bowl so that the fruit is on the top and thus a sundae.

8.     Frozen yogurt is not just yogurt that has been frozen, there are a few extra steps in there, but not many.   Some recipes for this call using plain gelatin in the mixure while others merely add flavoring, sweeteners and the use of a freezing method.

9.     99% of the “how to’s” are for just plain yogurt, which can be a bit tart if your starting cultures are not very fresh.  Most of those will say you can add sweetener and flavorings at serving time.  Which you can do, but often this will cause the yogurt to thin out, which is less than desirable.  But with some research and combining my own cooking knowledge I have included recipes for flavored, fruit and yes even chocolate yogurt, and of course, chocolate frozen yogurt in my recipe blog.

10. For years I've heard mention of yogurt cheese, but never saw any in the stores.  Or so I thought.  Guess what Greek yogurt and yogurt cheese are basically the same thing.  They are made the exact same way.  The only difference in the two is you might strain the cheese longer.  I plan on experimenting with mixing herbs and such with the yogurt before straining it so the dried materials will rehydrate as it strains and flavor the cheese thoroughly.  I can't wait to have crackers and homemade yogurt cheese!

11.  I found a very good website/blog on yogurt and kefier making and using and now receive their newsletter.  If such a newsletter is of interest to you go to:  yogurtfromhome.com/   I am in no way affiliated with them.

12.  The drained whey from making Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese is good to feed to your barnyard critters.

So the next step was the "where did I put it? " step. You know the one where you put something up for safe keeping, and then can't remember where you put it?  Well that hit big time on Mother's Day when I had the goal in mind to make the first batch of yogurt on that day- -news flash it didn't happen that day.  I got too busy writing this blog on my "day off" from house work and such. 

As anyone who reads my Patterson's Princess Plan blog will tell you I am fed up with having trouble finding things so I'm slowly, oh so slowly marching through this house organizing, inventorying and other wise getting my "stuff" together.  Unfortunately the yogurt door for my dehydrator was not one of the items organized yet.  I looked on and off all day for it.  The bad thing is I actually found it where I thought I'd put it, but something had been placed on top of it and silly me didn't think to move those mylar bags to look in under them until the third trip to that storage cabinet.  Yes, that unit is now on the get organized and inventoried soon list. 

The following step was to dust off the dehydrator, sterilize the jars I'd be using and other get it together items before I started.  That is a habit I developed years ago.  When I'm preparing to cook, or preserve food,  I gather all the ingredients and tools needed to make it together first, just in case I don't have something on hand.  Luckily that was not the case this time. I had everything and got it all together on Mother's Day to start the process the next morning.

Monday morning I was moving slow, so it was nearly noon before I set the milk and yogurt starter out on the stove to come to room temperature as I went about my daily chores.  I finally got around to starting the making of the yogurt around 1:00 pm.

Just as my milk was about to get to the 185 degree mark I heard a strange knocking in the utility room.  Since I had the washer and dishwasher both running I thought it best to check it out. It took me about a split second to know what had happened.

The water company had said they would be replacing our new meter with an even newer one around the end of the month.  I guess they consider the 13th to be the end of the month.  With no warning, on a busy Monday they had shut my water off and yanked my meter.  It was nearly two hours before I had water back.  Thank goodness I'd done all my sterilizing of jars and such the day before.  I will admit I was still a bit miffed, and I let it be known, that they didn't even have the courtesy to knock on the door or honk from the safety of their truck if they are afraid of our geese and dogs (smart people are) to let me know their plans.  They just went straight to meter that is down behind our barn in the woods where I couldn't even see them and do it.

As soon as the milk was to the cool down stage I marched theough the woods to tell them they were inconsiderate louts.  They were, of course, defensive.  Claimed they didn't know which house the meter went to.  That didn't work since there is only the one house in this area, but enough on that.

Back at the house I started pre-heating the dehydrator.  This is when I actually realized that only 1/2 pint jars were going to work for yogurt in it using the supplied door.  Luckily that was what I had sterilized.  I was also thrilled to see it would hold exactly 20 of those 1/2 pint jars.  Turned out I had 19 1/2 pints worth of yogurt mixture made up.   Boy did I luck out on that!  Note to self, in the future check this information out BEFORE starting.

A dehydrator, like the Excalibur, that has a solid door on it would work for any size jar.

Next I prepped the jars while waiting for the milk to cool to the point where I could add the yogurt culture.

While I do cook with  yogurt I didn't want 19 half pints of plain yogurt with this first batch--maybe in the future.  So in nine of the jars I put about 2 teaspoons of either cherry preserves, strawberry jam, or orange marmalade (3 jars each) in the bottom.  Then I topped it off with the plain yogurt liquid.  If all goes well this should make fruit on the bottom regular yogurt.

Of the remaining ten I plan on making Greek Yogurt or yogurt cheese out of nine of them and keep the remaining half pint as plain, since I have nearly a quart of plain yogurt in the fridge already.  This last 1/2 pint will be used as starter for future batches.  Dh will have to wait for frozen yogurt later in the week, because I need six cups of plain yogurt strained to be three cups of Greek yogurt to make the frozen yogurt.

In the future if I should want to make a larger container, say a quart to make strictly plain Greek Yogurt out of I will simply use my flexible cutting board taped to the front of the dehydrator to seal the front when I take more than two trays out. 

I used my canning funnerl to fill the sterilized jars.  There was exactly 19 half pints.  How great is that? 

Once the jars were all filled I filled the shelf in the dehydrator, which had been pre-heating for an hour then set the timer.  One of the great things about this dehydrator is it will automatically shut off at the exact time you tell it to.  So I can go to bed tonight with it running and removed the "hopefully" completed cooled down yogurt first thing in the morning.  I'm thinking orange marmalade yogurt for breakfast!

It's the next morning now and I am proud to say this experiment was a HUGE success!  It set up perfectly, it's not too tart or too sweet and the orange marmalade is perfect in it for a light and wonderful fruit flavor.

Later today I'll start draining some of the plain to make it into yogurt cheese.  I'm thinking I'll flavor it with dill for a cracker spread. 

Jan who can't believe how simple the whole process was in OK


No comments:

Post a Comment