Friday, October 9, 2009

"Y" is for Yogurt, The Homemade Kind

Yogurt has been a staple in the human diet for 4500 years. Today it's a staple in many cultural cuisines. It's certainly a staple in my diet.
Plain yogurt is also a fabulous ingredient to add to a variety of dishes that can be paired to wine.
Its predominant taste sensation is tanginess. This makes it a great match for wines possessing this same taste sensation.
Dishes highlighting yogurt like Tzatziki, a Greek and Turkish appetizer, partner extremely well with crisp, dry white wines, such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, Viura (Spain), Cortese di Gavi (Italy), Orvieto (Italy), Gruner Veltliner (Austria), and more. Tzatziki is traditionally made from sheep or goat's milk (along with cucumbers, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic), which has this predominant zesty, tangy taste.
So, if yogurt is the featured ingredient in your dish, consider a crisp, dry white wine as its accompaniment.
I am addicted to homemade yogurt. I make it every day. It took me about 3 months to finally learn how to make themophilic homemade yogurt. This is the process of making yogurt in a warm environment. I have yet to master the mesophilic process, that is using a room temperature environment.
Store bought yogurts are generally thermophilic. However, homemade room temperature versions are apparently easy to do and offer different texture and flavour.
Yogurt has many cultural names. Piimä is a homemade Scandinavian version with a runny texture and almost cheesy flavor. My girlfriend Dina’s mother makes Lebenah, a fresh Middle Eastern cheese made from homemade yogurt. Fresh yogurt is placed in a strainer lined with cheesecloth (I use paper towel), set on top of a bowl. The whey (water soluable liquid) drains from the curds (fat soluble part) of the yogurt, leaving the thick fresh cheese. The cheese is seasoned with salt and pepper, coated in olive oil, covered and refrigerated. Yogurt cheese can be used in a whole plethora of recipes and is a healthy substitute for other cheeses like cottage and ricotta.

What all yogurts have in common is that they are made from fermented milk. Yogurt can be made from cow, sheep or goat's milk. You can use skim to whole milks. Soy and rice milks need a specialized culture.

I purchased a Styrofoam yogurt maker to make mesophilic (room temperature) yogurt from my local health food store. The process failed. I am still unsure as to what I did wrong.

I tried making yogurt in a jar, placed in the oven with the heat on. This process failed. I tried making the yogurt in the oven with the heat off and the light on. Another failure.

I finally stumbled on an electric yogurt maker at my local Value Village. It cost me $8.00. I highly suggest you invest in an electric model if you’re interested in making yogurt at home for the first time.

Homemade yogurt is a probiotic food containing live beneficial bacteria that colonize the stomach with microbiota. Microbiota are essential to the proper functioning of your immune system and digestion and supports your body’s ability to digest critical nutrients.

In winemaking yeast comes into contact with sugar and starts the fermentation, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide evaporates, leaving wine. Yogurt works in much the same way. The beneficial bacteria come into contact with the sugar in milk called lactose. This starts the fermentation.

Yogurt is lower in carbohydrates than milk and is high in protein, calcium, riboflavin, B 6 and 12 vitamins, and folic acid. It also contains strains of L. acidophilus (friendly bacteria), a probiotic. Probiotic means ‘pro life.’. Yogurt is believed to support the health of the digestive system, reduces constipation, eliviates vaginal yeast infections, and boosts the immune system. Homemade yogurt is also believed to be the best food to ingest after a bought of antibiotics.

Scientific studies suggest that the l’acidophilus in pill form contains dead bacteria, therefore useless in producing any healthful benefits. Many sources also reveal that cold, store bought yogurt in tubs is low in L. acidophilus, as well. Especially the versions containing sugar and fruit.

So, homemade yogurt is an important food to add to your diet. The key is to find a store bought version that you like. You can use a ¼ cup of this one as your starter culture. This way you’ll be able to make homemade yogurt with a taste profile that you enjoy.

Every morning I eat a bowl of homemade yogurt topped with a combination of cereals and grains. The combination sets my digestive track up for the day, boosts my immune system, and cleans my colon. A well flushed colon allows one's body to digest food, thus utilizing the nutrition in the ingredients more efficiently. A great aid during weight loss.
I also use my plain homemade yogurt in salad dressings, dips, and sauces. How about a citrus salad with ginger yogurt dressing? Or grilled salmon with a citrus yogurt sauce? The internet is a great source for finding a whole bunch of yogurt recipes.

Tonight I’m making lemon garlic pork chops with yogurt sauce. A delicious vegetarian course is curried couscous with roasted vegetables and cilantro yogurt.

If you love frozen homemade yogurt, invest in an electric ice cream maker.

Here’s my recipe for homemade yogurt:

Homemade Yogurt
Makes 1 quart

1 quart whole milk
1 tbsp plain gelatin (from bulk food store or supermarket)*
¼ cup favourite plain yogurt from supermarket

*You’ll only need to use the gelatin for you first and maybe second batch of homemade yogurt. (Always keep a ¼ cup remaining of fresh yogurt to be use as the starter culture for your next batch.) By the time you get to making your third batch of homemade yogurt, using ¼ cup of the culture from the batch before, you won’t need the gelatin.

Turn on your electric yogurt maker. Pour milk into a large pot on the stove. Heat on high until milk starts to steam. Reduce heat to low. Do not let the milk boil. Leave milk to simmer on low for 30 minutes. Skim of the milk skin from the milk. Pour milk into your yogurt maker container and let cool to room temperature. Remove about ½ cup of milk from the container. Add geletin to this ½ cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Whisk this ½ cup of geletized milk back into the larger container of milk. Now whisk your ¼ cup of your favourite store-bought plain yogurt into the container, as well.
Place the lid on the container and set inside the yogurt maker. Let the milk ferment for 8 to 12 hours. The longer the milk ferments, the higher the acidity level in the resulting yogurt. If you like tangy yogurt, leave the mixture to ferment for 12 hours. Once fermented, transfer the container of fermented milk to the refrigerator. The cold stops the fermentation process. Let the yogurt set for 6 to 8 hours.

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