Thursday, January 30, 2014

Soy Yogurt at Home

Yes, it's been forever since I added to this little page of mine.  Life has been percolating along nicely.  I will say that since our little one has been free to eat soy and gluten, I've not felt the intense need to search out allergen-free options for him, so I've been absent from here for a little while.   

Of course, it's not true that he's allergen free.  He still can't have uncooked dairy, nor can he have any tree nuts.  But since we've long been comfortable with the lifestyle of rice or soymilk vs. milk and sunflower seed butter vs. tree nuts and peanuts, life feels essentially... normal.   

Then again, I now have a 4-year old vegetarian on my hands!  He's an "animal protector," in his words.  The only exception ~ and we saw him struggle with this decision for about a week ~ is that he still eats bacon.  "It's the only animal I still eat."  You GO little man!  He has embraced tofu, miso soup, and nearly the entire frozen vegetarian section of Trader Joe's.  After his early years of homemade-only eating, he's an adventurous eater and this cornucopia of packaged options is a little overwhelming for all of us... but a home cooked meal is still thankfully the norm.    

But with the humdrum of many days, we have been starting breakfast with a very expensive item that I wondered ~ would it be possible to make it at home?  The item:  Soy Yogurt.   

Delicious, creamy, sweet, full of protein.  What's not to love?  The price tag.  Each 6 oz container ranges from $ .99 to $1.09.  If given the opportunity, this child will eat several yogurts in one sitting ~ and that becomes mighty pricey.  

So I set out to try something new, and I'm back to tell you about it!  

Homemade soy yogurt is easy.  Heat up the milk, let it cool to the right temperature, add the yogurt starter, and keep it at a stable temperature for a while for the bacteria to culture.  Refrigerate, then eat.  Really, its that simple.   When I made the batch you see here, I didn't mind so much that our little guy at 3 cups of it in a row.  In fact, I was sitting next to him, grinning.

Homemade Soy Yogurt
The basic recipe:
  • 4 cups non-dairy milk.
    In this case I used soy, but you could use rice or coconut or almond...
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy yogurt as starter
    Ideally plain and unsweetened / no fruit
  • Optional: 1 packet of gelatin -or-
    agar-agar powder (to make vegan)
  1. Heat milk on medium heat stove to just under boiling, stirring occasionally.  I used a digital thermometer to track this.  If you decide to as well, make sure you're keeping the thermometer away from touching the pan.  Perching it on a wooden spoon did the trick for me.  
  2. While the milk is heating, wash the containers well. These came with the yogurt machine, but you could also use mason jars.  
  3. When the heat reaches nearly boiling (at least 180 but better around 190-200 F), turn off the stove. 
  4. Optional:  Add 1 package of gelatin or agar agar powder to make a firmer yogurt.  If you don't this will be pretty runny - but it will still be just as delicious
  5. Let the temp slowly cool to between 100-110 F.  (~ 42 C) Any hotter, and the good bacteria you're trying to cultivate will not grow! Alternatively, you could cool the milk in the fridge a little more quickly.  
  6. At 110 F, add the half cup of starter yogurt to the mixture and stir well.  Don't stir so much that there are resulting bubbles... just make sure it's evenly distributed
From here, you have a couple options:

Option 1:  If you have a yogurt maker: 

  • Pour the mixture into sterilized yogurt cups that came with the machine.  I use a mason jar filling funnel to make the process a little less messy.  
  • Turn on the machine and set the timer for around 8-10 hours.  You could also just let it sit overnight.
  • When your time is up, turn off the machine and open one of the containers.  It should smell and look like yogurt!  Put the containers in the fridge for at least 3 hours, where the yogurt will firm up a little more.   

    Option 2:  The Oven Method
    • Heat your oven to the lowest temp you can (My oven is 140) and then turn it off.   Turn on the light inside the oven - it'll keep the interior warm all night. 
      1. Pour into sterilized mason jars and cover. (Hey, we're not canning here... just cover with screw-on lids and or rings/tops, but no need to process in a hot water bath!)  
      2. Line a large earthenware crock or dutch oven with a tea towel.  Place your mason jars inside. Cover with another tea towel, and then cover the crock with its own cover. 
      3. Put the crock inside the turned-off oven and close the door.  
      4. Leave overnight.  
      5. In the morning, open one of the containers.  It should smell and look like yogurt!  Put the mason jars in the fridge for at least 3 hours, where the yogurt will firm up a little more.   
      • Enjoy!  Add whatever flavors you enjoy:  honey, jam, fruit are all great options.    Not only is the yogurt delicious and allergen-friendly, but the cost difference is astounding!

      Here's a comparison:

      Comparison         O'Soy       Soy Milk             Milk      Organic Milk
      oz               6               32               64                      64
      cost  $           1.09  $           2.99  $           3.89  $                  5.99
      cost per ounce  $           0.18  $           0.09  $           0.06  $                  0.09

      Some useful references I've found about general yogurt making, dairy and non-dairy:
      - Granny Miller - Crock Pot Yogurt (dairy) 
      - Stephanie O'Dea's Crock Pot Yogurt (dairy)
      - There are some GREAT ideas at Waking Up Vegan about alternate milks, thickeners and flavorings! (non-dairy)

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