Flavoring and Thickening Yogurt

Yogurt can be a refreshing treat, a delicious condiment, or a nourishing ingredient in a variety of foods. While many people enjoy yogurt fresh from culturing, some like to improve it by thickening or flavoring.

Thickening Yogurt

Depending on the type of milk and the culture you use, yogurt can be as thin and runny as cream, or as thick and solid as sour cream. Raw milk will usually produce a thinner yogurt than pasteurized milk. Here are some ways to produce a thicker yogurt.

Use milk with a higher fat content. The fat in yogurt is part of what makes it thick, so obviously whole milk will result in a thicker yogurt than skim milk. You can even use cream to make yogurt, or add cream to the milk to make a rich, thick, yummy yogurt.

Add milk solids. The coagulation of milk proteins is what produces the typical gelatinous texture of yogurt, so by increasing the proportion of milk solids, you will get a thicker yogurt. Powdered milk solids generally come in cow, goat, and soy varieties. You can add powdered (instant or non-instant) milk to the yogurt before adding the culture. For easy mixing, use a small amount of milk or water to reconstitute the powdered milk before adding it to the fresh milk. Using powdered milk alone, without fresh milk, may give you poor results because the powdered milk is highly processed. As a general rule of thumb, for every 3 to 4 cups fresh cow milk use 1/2 to 1 cup powdered milk solids. If using fresh goat milk or soy milk add 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered milk solids. Please note: when adding milk solids to yogurt, mixing protein sources as doing so can lead to unpredictable and often undesirable results. For example, when using fresh cow milk, it's most reliable to use cow-based milk solids; when using fresh goat milk, use goat-based milk solids.

Add thickeners. These can be added to the milk just before you add the culture. This is a process that’s most successful with direct-set cultures, or yogurt where you are maintaining a separate mother culture, since the thickeners may interfere with the yogurt’s ability to reproduce over successive generations. If you are using a re-culturing yogurt, another way to add thickeners is to wait until just after the yogurt has set up. Take out some of the finished yogurt to use for inoculating the next batch, then add the thickener to the larger batch before you refrigerate it.

Tapioca starch: For 3 to 4 cups of milk, dissolve 2 tablespoons tapioca starch into a small amount of heated milk when it has cooled down to culturing temperature. Add the small amount of milk to the larger portion of milk and mix well.

Ultra-gel (modified corn starch): For 3 to 4 cups milk, add 3/8 cups Ultra-gel to the heated milk when it has cooled down to culturing temperature and mix well to combine. While regular corn starch can be used, it's not particularly stable and can yield an odd consistency.

Gelatin: For every 3 to 4 cups milk, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of gelatin into the milk when it has cooled down to culturing temperature. Mix well to combine. Please note: the effects of the gelatin will not be noticeable until after the yogurt has set and has chilled in the refrigerator.

Agar: For every 3 to 4 cups milk, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon agar into 1/2 cup of water. Bring the agar and water mixture to a boil. Allow the mixture to cool sufficiently prior to adding it to the heated milk (just before adding the culture).

Guar gum: For every 3 to 4 cups of milk, add 1 teaspoon of guar gum to a small amount of heated milk that has cooled to culturing temperature, mix well, then combine the small amount of milk with the larger portion of milk. 

Pectin: For 1 quart of yogurt, pour 2 cups of heated milk that has cooled to culturing temperature into a blender. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of pectin to the blender (depending on the type of pectin), and mix for a couple of minutes to thoroughly incorporate the pectin. Now add the rest of the heated milk, then 2 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt as a starter. Blend at low speed just a little more (or mix by hand), then pour the blended mixture into your yogurt maker. You may find that you need to adjust the quantity of pectin depending on the milk or pectin you’re using. Sugar-activated pectin may require additional sugar in the milk to be effective. Calcium-activated pectin uses the calcium in the milk to set up.

 

Hold the milk at high temperature. When you are preparing the milk, heat it to 160°F or more (no higher than 180°F), and hold it at that temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before letting it cool to culturing temperature. The additional heating time denatures (breaks down) the milk proteins more so they will coagulate better. (If you accidentally bring the milk to over 180°F, simply let it cool back to 180°F before maintaining the temperature.)

Strain the yogurt. Make the yogurt as usual, including refrigeration to stop the culturing. Then strain it through a cheese bag or coffee filter, which will let a good deal of the whey drip out, leaving you with a thicker yogurt. (This is how traditional Greek yogurt is made.) Straining should be done in a cool place so the yogurt doesn’t spoil as it strains. (It can take a while!) Save the whey for culturing vegetables or adding to baked goods. You can also freeze the whey in ice cube trays and add to smoothies for extra flavor and protein!

Flavoring Yogurt

There is no end to the different ways you can flavor yogurt! Many people find that the addition of fruit or other flavorings turns yogurt into a delightful snack or dessert that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Remember to remove any yogurt you need for reculturing before you add sweeteners or flavorings.

Since yogurt is tart by nature, plain sweeteners are a popular addition to yogurt. If you prefer not to use plain sugar, there are a number of alternatives.

  • Raw or pasteurized honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Natural non-caloric sweeteners such as stevia or erithrytol
  • Chemical sweeteners such as Splenda, aspartame, or saccharine
  • Sweet ingredients like jam, fruit juice, or fruit syrup

Many types of flavorings are also compatible with yogurt, like vanilla, almond, chocolate, or other flavoring extracts.

Yogurt can also be flavored with non-sweet or even savory ingredients. Mint, lemon juice, garlic, and cucumber are common enhancements to yogurt. Saffron, cardamom, and nutmeg are also popular in some Middle Eastern countries. Other savory options include kimchi, truffles, and curry.

What Not to Do

It may be tempting to add more cultures to the yogurt in an attempt to increase the probiotic content, but this is rarely successful. Yogurt cultures are carefully balanced so that the strains work together to give a particular result in terms of taste and consistency. Adding additional strains can weaken or even kill off the yogurt cultures, and may even produce something that is harmful to eat. 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 

                                                
   
Homemade yogurt flavored with fresh peaches


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<td><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">&nbsp;</span> <br />
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Originally a simple fermented dairy product, yogurt now has many variations and personalities. It can be thin and runny, or thick and firm. It can be made from cow milk, goat milk, sheep milk, nut milk, soy milk, rice milk, and from numerous other creamy substances. In some countries the milk of buffalo, horses, yaks, or camels is used.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">For most of this discussion, we&rsquo;ll refer to yogurt in its original form: a fermented dairy milk. This was how yogurt was first developed, and most of the yogurt in the world is made this way.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Essentially yogurt is the product of beneficial bacteria fermenting milk and turning it into a thickened, acidic food that will stay fresh longer than milk itself, and that contains millions of bacteria that are welcomed by the human gut.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">The History of Yogurt</span></strong></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">The word yogurt comes from a Turkish word meaning to curdle or to thicken. Today it is spelled yogurt, yoghurt, or yogourt, with yogurt being the most common American spelling.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">It&rsquo;s probable that the earliest yogurt was made by accident in Mesopotamia around 5,000 BC, when milk-producing animals were first domesticated. The milk was likely stored and transported in bags made from the stomachs of these animals, and the digestive juices and bacteria in the stomach linings made the milk coagulate and become acidic. Not only was it a new and interesting food, but the acidity and helped to keep it edible for longer</span> <span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">than if it had just sat out in a bowl or jar.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">There is also some evidence of yogurt being used as a cleaning product and a beauty lotion as early as 2000 BC. The acidity of the yogurt helps clean away dirt and rust, and also helps clear away dead skin and nourish healthy skin cells.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Yogurt was a popular food in the Middle East for thousands of years, and has been a staple of the Eastern European diet. It&rsquo;s now eaten throughout the world, as a main course, a snack, an ingredient in many recipes, and a condiment. It has gained considerable popularity in America in the last forty or fifty years, in keeping with general trends toward organic, cultured, and nutrient-dense foods.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Yogurt can be mildly tart or quite sour, and can be thick enough to stand up on a plate, or thin enough to pour, or anywhere in between. It contains protein and calcium as well as a variety of vitamins. Additionally, the process of yogurt fermentation is very similar to the process of digestion, so it can be easily consumed.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Many people eat yogurt plain, while others prefer to mix it with fruits or vegetables, or to add flavors or sweeteners. It is used in a variety of recipes as a flavor enhancer or leavening, and frequently enjoyed as a refreshing drink.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Nutritional Content</span></strong></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Not only does yogurt contain the same amount of protein and fat as the milk from which it is made, it also contains calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. While numerous claims have been made regarding the health benefits and digestibility of yogurt, we don&rsquo;t comment on medical, health, or nutritional qualities of our products. However, a great deal of research on the subject is readily available on the Internet and in dozens of books.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">How is Yogurt Made?</span></strong></h1>
<p><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">&nbsp;</span></strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">True yogurt is made from animal milk. Theoretically, the milk of any mammal could be used to make yogurt.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">With care, yogurt cultures can also be used to ferment and coagulate non-dairy &ldquo;milks&rdquo; such as the creamy liquid obtained from nuts, rice, soy, or coconut. While these products are technically not really yogurt, they can be used and enjoyed just like dairy yogurt, alone or in recipes.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Put very simply, the process of turning milk into yogurt involves fermentation. Certain types of bacteria act on the lactose (milk sugar) that is in milk, and produce lactic acid. The lactic acid lowers the pH of the milk, and causes the milk protein to coagulate and make a firm mass. The acidified milk is an inhospitable environment for destructive bacteria, so the yogurt stays fresh longer than untreated milk.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">The bacteria that does this is called beneficial bacteria, because it supports digestion and is nourishing, as opposed to pathogenic (harmful) bacteria that causes disease. The beneficial bacteria is called probiotic. It&nbsp; is similar or identical to the type of bacteria that lives in the human gut and which is responsible for the process of food absorption. When you use live cultures, the probiotics stay in the yogurt, and the yogurt can then be used as a starter to make more yogurt.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Yogurt and Other Fermented Dairy Products</span></strong></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">There are many different ways that beneficial bacteria can be introduced to milk and make an entirely new food. The main difference between the different fermented dairy products is the bacteria used to make them, resulting in different flavors and consistencies.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Yogurt</em> can be cultured with a variety of different bacteria combinations, each of which gives the yogurt a characteristic taste and consistency. There are typically somewhere between the range of two to six different bacteria strains in yogurt, and they are similar to the bacteria found in the intestines.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Kefir</em> is a thickened milk made from little clumps of yeast, bacteria, and milk proteins that ferment the milk. There are about thirty different bacteria strains present in kefir grains. It has a slightly sour flavor and sometimes a faint effervescence. Koumiss is a similar product, made from mare&rsquo;s milk.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Buttermilk</em> is the name given to the whey that&rsquo;s left over when butter is made, but it more commonly refers to a milk drink made by adding bacteria to low-fat milk, producing a thickened product with a tangy flavor.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Sour cream</em> is cream or high-fat milk that&rsquo;s been cultured and thickened. It&rsquo;s very slightly sour, and usually quite thick. It was originally made by letting fresh cream thicken naturally as a result of fermentation from the bacteria present in the cream. When cream is pasteurized and has no natural bacteria present, it must be fermented with added bacteria.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Cr&egrave;me fraiche</em> is a European-style sour cream, slightly sweeter than what we are used to in America. It&rsquo;s also made by letting raw cream thicken naturally, or by adding buttermilk cultures to cream. Cr&egrave;me fraiche can be heated without curdling, unlike sour cream.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">In recipes, you can often substitute one cultured milk product for another and get similar results. In fact, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a thin, tart yogurt and a thick, sour kefir or a creamy buttermilk!</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Soft and hard cheeses</em> are also made by culturing milk over a longer period of time. Some cheeses can be easily made by straining the moisture out of yogurt or sour cream, while others require additional fermentation and culturing steps.</span></p>
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