Preservation 101: Making Yogurt

With the proper equipment and the right instructions, homemade yogurt can be quick and easy to make, not to mention extremely cheap. The process below takes me about 40 minutes to make 1 gallon of yogurt (not including the incubation time) and costs me around $2. If you can come by some unhomogenized milk, or even raw milk, you will be surprised at how much better your yogurt will taste!

HOMEMADE YOGURT
(The Cooks Next Door)
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Step One: Gather your equipment
You will need a large stock pot, a candy thermometer, 1 gallon of milk (or however much you want to make into yogurt), 1/2 cup yogurt to act as a starter, glass jars, a cooler (or other method of incubation), empty gallon jug for warm water.

Step Two: Heat the milk
Pour the milk into the stock pot and turn onto high. The goal is to get the milk somewhere between 180F and 210F. You DO NOT want the milk to boil. I usually take my milk to 180F.

Step Three: Cool the milk
Remove the milk from the stove and place in a sink filled with cold water and ice. (I prepare the sink while the milk is heating). Your goal is to cool the milk quickly to somewhere between 110F and 120F. Do not stop before 120F.

Step Four: Add the starter
Remove the milk from the sink and whisk in the 1/4 cup yogurt to act as a starter. I often use Dannon plain yogurt.

Step Five: Incubate
Pour the milk into clean glass quart jars (or other size). Cover and place in a cooler into which you have placed a gallon or two of warm water (temperature should be about 120F). You want the yogurt to incubate at around 110F for 4-6 hours. Leave the yogurt unbothered until its time is up (shaking about will not help the yogurt set). I often make yogurt at some point in the afternoon and leave it to incubate until I go to bed (this means 4-8 hours). Longer incubation is fine, but you will get a sharper taste if you leave it longer than 6-8 hours. I prepare my heated water and cooler while the milk is heating.

Step Six: Refrigerate
Remove your yogurt from the cooler and place in the refrigerator. You will notice that it is firm now and will become even more firm once cooled in the refrigerator. For thick, delicious, Greek-style yogurt you can drain the yogurt in cheesecloth for about 2-3 hours.

Step Seven: Enjoy!
My kids love to eat our yogurt with a spoonful of jam mixed in. I like maple syrup drizzled over and my husband always prefers his plain. I keep my yogurt for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.

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Preservation 101: Pumpkin Butter

For those of you who love both apple butter and the flavor of pumpkin, pumpkin butter is the natural next step! Think pumpkin pie on a spoon: spread on top of your toast, dolloped on your favorite scone, or even spooned over ice-cream.

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Pumpkin butter is a cinch to make! I made mine in the crockpot which made it a no-brainer and resulted in a pumpkin-pie-aroma floating through the house and 6 lovely cups of butter with hardly any effort. Now, contrary to apple butter, pumpkin butter cannot be processed (see the National Center for Home Food Preservation if you doubt that). So, that means you need to store your finished product in the fridge or freezer.

PUMPKIN BUTTER
(adapted from easteuropeanfood.about.com)

1 pound pie pumpkin, peeled and cubed or 1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (white or brown — or, you could substitute 1/2 cup agave syrup)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves

If using fresh pumpkin: place pumpkin and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the pumpkin has broken down. Strain through a sieve or food mill. If using canned pumpkin, omit this step and pick up below.

Combine pumpkin puree with sugar and spices, and choose one of the following cooking methods.

Slow Cooker: Place pumpkin mixture in a slow cooker with the lid partially off to let steam escape. Set at low and cook, stirring occasionally for 6-12 hours, or until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off the spoon when turned upside down.

Stovetop: Place pumpkin mixture in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 1-2 hours or until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off a spoon when turned upside down.

Oven: Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place pumpkin mixture in a heatproof casserole dish or roaster. Bake, stirring only occasionally, for 1-3 hours or until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off a spoon when turned upside down.

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Place hot butter into hot sterilized jars. Cover with sterilized lids and rings. Allow to cool and then store in the fridge for up to three weeks, or in the freezer for up to one year.

Makes 1 pint.

Note: I tripled this batch and used my crock pot. The first batch I made I left overnight, but felt it was too long. I made the second batch during the day so I could stop the cooking when I liked the consistency.

Preservation 101: Applesauce & Apple Butter

*THE GIVEAWAY WILL CLOSE AROUND 3 p.m. TODAY!*
Apples are prolific right now but won’t be in season in just a few short months. One of my favorite fall projects is making applesauce and apple butter. We enjoy the results of the preserving throughout the winter. I make an unsweetened applesauce and a sweetened apple butter.  This is a project that I usually do with my mom and or sisters.

Start with several bushels of apples – we use seconds which are less expensive and work very well. Seconds are the apples that may be bruised, funny looking, or a different shape; you can ask your local orchard if they have some available for purchase.

Wash and quarter the apples and put them in a large pot (8-10 quart) with a little bit of apple juice concentrate (about 1/2 c. undiluted) in place of sugar. Cook until the apples are softened and then pour them into a Victorio Strainer (if you do not have access to one of these, you would want to peel and core your apples before cooking them down and then you could mash them by hand or use a food mill).

The beautiful result – bowls and bowls of applesauce ready to be canned or frozen. We sweeten it with a little apple juice concentrate but no sugar.

This water bath canner holds 11 – 1/2 pints, 9 – pints, or 7 – quarts.

The apple butter bakes in the oven for several hours before being canned. We do use brown sugar in this delicious treat!

I love hearing the pop of the jars sealing and to see the rows of completed jars. But it works to freeze them as well – there are now plastic freezer jars made specifically for preserving or you could use freezer bags. If you do use jars, you must be careful to leave enough room for expansion when they freeze.

APPLE BUTTER
This makes about 1 qt. of apple butter – we adjust the recipe to decrease sweetness but it’s great with full sugar, too!

32 oz. applesauce
2 c. brown sugar (can do 1/2)
1/2 c. vinegar (if 1/2 sugar, 1/2 of this)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine ingredients in 2 qt. casserole and bake uncovered at 350 for 2 1/2 hours or until mixture is thick and almost transparent/translucent.

I use a variety of apple including Jonathans, Golden Delicious, Jonagolds, Fuji, and Winesap. The different batches are various colors based on the random mix of apples.