Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

June 25, 2008

Putting-up and making it yourself

OK folks, this is a long one so get comfortable. This weekend was a busy one around the house. We headed over to our local you-pick-it farm and picked ourselves 8 lbs of strawberries on Saturday morning. Yes I just talked about how many strawberries I've been getting from the garden, but were enjoying those fresh, or freezing them for later. These were picked at their peak of ripeness especially to be made into Jam. Below you can see that we also picked up some imported fruit as well.These two cases of Raspberries were something that we just stumbled on while at a local grocer later that afternoon. These cases contained 12 of the normal size containers and cost a mere 10.00 / case. You just can't pass up a good deal like that when your trying to stretch a dollar. First we smashed the fruit up to a pulverized consistency but not pureed. It's good to have some bits of fruit still in the finished product.
I pointed out to my son about half way through the process how much sugar is in each batch. 7 cups!!! Now maybe he'll understand why I cut him off on the jam once and a while. )He could live on it, I swear.) After adding pectin and cooking the fruit, we added the sugar and again cooked it for a little while longer. A~ and I worked together on this of course (we're such a team!) so one of us would be prepping and sterilizing jars while the other was filling some or cleaning utensils.
Here's the set up as we had it going Sunday afternoon. The Steel pot in the back was going for both sterilizing jars, and for extra water to top off the water bath after adding the filled jars. The large black pot is the water bath and other pot is cooking jam. We had a pretty good system set up I have to say, but that's not hard with a great partner. And finally, the finished products. 8pt. Strawberry, 8pt. Raspberry, 4pt. Strawberry-Raspberry. These will go a long way to keeping us in Jams for the year. There will be more, mind you, Blackberry and a little thing we named tombstone jelly, but more on that at a later date.
Here they are, from the left, Strawberry, Strawberry-Raspberry, and Raspberry.
So, now that those are done, what's a guy to do on a weekend afternoon when he already has sterilizing water going and the kitchen is already ablaze? Well he makes yogurt of course!!

I don't use a machine, I use very basic tools, but I've never had a bad batch yet, and it always comes out as the thickest almost custardy consistency. I have however read many peoples recounting of very difficult times doing this, and more often than not quiting and moving to a machine. So I figured I'd detail the way I do it and maybe help someone out.
I start with the basics,
1/2 gal whole milk (This is the first time that I actually even used store bought milk. The other times I have made this was out of milk that had been reconstituted from powdered milk. I did this as an exercise to establish the fact that it could be done if the need arose, and honestly I can't really tell a difference.)
1 cup dry powdered milk (You can use less, if you prefer a thinner consistency.)
2 tbsp Vanilla
8-12 tbsp sweetener (To taste really, I used 10 tbsp of splenda because it dissolves very well but I have heard that you could use honey or sugar too.)
Live yogurt culture. (This time I used Yogourmet cultures 2 packets. In the past I used some frozen plain yogurt that I kept from a good quality yogurt from the store. Of the yogurt I used enough to equal about a cup of starter. Note: when using a frozen culture, take it out a little while before you start to let it defrost. DO NOT microwave it to defrost, you will kill the culture.)

First I add the milk to a good stainless steel pot with a thick bottom. The thick bottom is important to keep from burning your milk. I heat it over medium high until it gets close to 180 F. When it nears this, I turn down to medium to keep from boiling it. monitor the temp, and don't let it go too much beyond 180 for a couple of minutes. (You can help keep it from burning or over-heating by stirring it while it is at max temp and watching the thermometer.)
While the milk is getting up to temperature, I fill the sink with water and ice to create an ice bath for the milk pot. After the milk has reached 180 and maintained it for a short time, I remove it from the heat and place the whole pot into the water bath to cool it quickly. This isn't necessary, but the milk needs to get down to between 125 and 130 F. If you don't cool it down enough, you will just sterilize the culture and will not get a good set on your yogurt. The other thing to do either before you start, or while the milk is heating or cooling, is to gather your additional ingredients. Once your milk cools to near the 125 to 130 mark, you want to be able to get the mixing done fairly quickly.
Take your milk out of the water bath, and ladle off around a cup to add to your yogurt culture, this is like a wake up call for it.
Next add the powdered milk to the remaining milk and whisk it in until it is as well mixed as you can get it. It's powdered milk so you won't get it all dissolved.
Pour the milk from pot through a wire mesh strainer into another bowl to filter out the chunks. To this bowl add your vanilla, sweetener, and the mixed up culture/milk and stir it up.
I like to put my yogurt into sterilized mason jars. I sterilize them because I figure I am dealing with a living organism here, I don't want it to have to compete with anything.

Here's the trick for incubating the culture. After I sterilize the jars, I pour the remaining hot water over a little cool water in a cooler like the one below. Close the lid and let it sit until your yogurt is mixed and poured into the jars. At this time, check the temp on the water to make sure that it's not to far above 130 F. Place the jars inside and cover them with a couple of tea towels. Next, close the cooler, and cover with a blanket of some kind. This insulates surprisingly well. I like to make my yogurt in the evening before I go to bed. I put it in the cooler and go to sleep. In the morning, Presto, yogurt.
There you go, this recipe made four pints of yogurt. The Yogourmet culture seemed to have a bit more tang than the other culture that I made but it's quite good. You can see the texture and quality of the yogurt that I came out with below. This is after letting it cool all day while I was at work.
It's thick, creamy and has a great tang, not at all like the bland, too sweet store bought vanilla. This morning I had some at work for breakfast with a little of the foam from the jam. Oh man, what a treat!
I hope this can either help or inspire you. It can be done. Good luck.


April said...

You made yogurt?! I, I, I want to make yogurt and then I want to put some of those yummy preserves on top.

Dang. I'm impressed.

P~ said...

April, I didn't know you stopped by here?? Go figure, I've been laughing at you, er um I mean enjoying your blog for ages. Just remember... You Can dooo eeet!

Sister said...

Big Man, I love you! Every time I read your blog I laugh and think, shit, are we really related? You are the older brother that I brag about and well I just love you and your family, I hope you know that! Very impressive, home made yogurt! Who knew? Big Man is a farmer, home maker, and a carpenter. A~ scored, so did you for that matter.

-Your sister

spelled with a K said...

This fellow syracusan made jam this weekend too! (not the same syracuse but perhaps connected in some multidimensional astrophysics sort of way)

that yogurt looks good by the way