Author Archives: Anna Paige

Beginner’s Guide to Making Yogurt

If you’ve ever tried looking up the instructions for making yogurt on the Internet, you probably became overwhelmed rather quickly by all the different recipes and techniques. It seems like everyone has their own way of doing it. For a beginner, it can be too confusing to sort out what works best–and to anticipate where things might go wrong!

Fortunately, the Homesteader’s Supply staff has come up with a tried-and-true method for making the creamiest, most delicious yogurt ever! Once you try making yogurt our way using any of our yogurt cultures, you’ll never want to eat store-bought yogurt again.

Bavarian_yogurt

A Word about Our Yogurt Cultures

We carry a variety of yogurt cultures, including Bulgarian, Italian, and ABY-2C. The main differences between them are in the flavor and the viscosity. Some are more sweet, and some are more tart. Some are thinner, and some are thicker. If you like a very thick yogurt with a mild, sweet flavor, try our Italian culture.

An Overview of the Process

The process of making yogurt comprises five simple steps:

  1. Heating the milk
  2. Cooling the milk
  3. Measuring and adding your chosen yogurt culture
  4. Incubating the yogurt
  5. Refrigerating the yogurt until it’s sufficiently cooled to eat

Here’s What You’ll Need

You will need the following:

Step 1:  Heat Your Milk

  1. Pour the milk into the stainless steel pot. If using a thermometer that attaches to a pot, making sure the tip of the thermometer isn’t touching the pot. (If using a digital thermometer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)
  2. Gently heat the milk on medium until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner.

Be careful not to overshoot 180 degrees. It’s better to go slowly rather than to try to turn up the heat too much and then not be able to get the temperature to stop climbing too fast.

Step 2: Cool the Milk

Allow the milk to cool to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. You can do this by allowing the pot to sit on the stovetop (if cool) or counter. Alternatively, immerse the pot in a cold water bath to speed up the cooling process. If you choose to do this, however, be sure monitor the temperature very carefully so the the milk doesn’t cool below 115 degrees!

yogurt_110

Yogurt culture is similar to yeast in that the milk needs to be within a certain temperature for the culture to work properly. If the milk is too hot, it will kill the yogurt culture. On the other hand, if the milk falls below 100-115 degrees, the culture won’t get activated.

 

Step 3: Measure and Add the Dried Yogurt Culture

The amount of dried yogurt culture you need depends on the amount of milk and the type of culture you’re using. For example, in this recipe we are using two liters/quarts of milk, so we can use one envelope of our dried Bulgarian yogurt culture. If you are using a different type of yogurt culture, be sure to read the package directions to determine how much to you need.

Once you’ve measured out the appropriate amount of dried yogurt culture, add it to the cooled milk as described below.

It’s important to mix the yogurt culture in very thoroughly; otherwise, your yogurt might separate. The most reliable method is to start by sprinkling the dried yogurt culture on top of the warmed milk and letting it sit there for a minute or so until it dissolves. When the dried culture has dissolved completely, mix it into the milk. Make sure the culture is distributed evenly throughout. If you start mixing before the dried culture has completely dissolved, it can clump; and then you won’t be able to mix it in thoroughly.

Step 4: Incubate the Yogurt

It’s important to keep your yogurt as close as possible to the ideal temperature of 105 degrees for at least 10 to 12 (or up to 24) hours so the beneficial, health-promoting bacteria in the culture can multiply. This process is called incubating the yogurt. The longer you incubate the yogurt, the fewer carbohydrates it will have because the bacteria feed on the sugars naturally present in the milk. And, a longer incubation period results in thicker yogurt!

This step is easy if you have a Yogotherm or VitaClay yogurt maker. All you have to do is transfer the yogurt into the provided container and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

yogotherm

Things can get a little trickier if you don’t have a yogurt maker, but it’s still relatively easy to set-up your own incubator environment using readily available supplies. Be sure to transfer your yogurt into an appropriate container first! Large Mason jars are a good choice,

We recommend insulating the container of yogurt with towels and placing it in a cooler to keep the heat from escaping. You’ll want to fill any extra air space in the cooler with additional towels (or clean rags) to maximize the insulation. Then, set the cooler in a very warm place.

Ideally, you want to keep the temperature of the yogurt as close to 105 degrees as possible during the incubation period. Under normal conditions, the temperature will drop very slowly over time. It probably won’t fall below 80 degrees, though, and that’s okay.

Step 5: Refrigerate the Yogurt

When the incubation period is over, your yogurt is ready to be refrigerated. If you’re using Mason jars, be careful the temperature doesn’t drop too quickly or the jars might crack.

Allow your yogurt to cool in the refrigerator for at least six hours. During this period, the yogurt will thicken. If the yogurt has separated, you can stir the liquid back in.

For thicker yogurt, you can drain off some of the whey. The easiest way to do this is by using cheese cloth to strain it. You can put the yogurt in cheese cloth and hang it over your kitchen faucet, or suspend it over a bowl and let it drain until the yogurt becomes very thick. If you let most of the whey drain out, you’ll end up with delicious yogurt cheese! Simply scrape the yogurt off the cheese cloth, whip it until it becomes very smooth, and then add herbs, spices, honey, or whatever flavorings you like. Place it in the refrigerator to cool, and in a few hours you’ll have scrumptious yogurt cheese! It’s delightful on crackers, with chips, on sandwiches, etc.

yogurt cheese

Incidentally, some folks like to thicken yogurt by adding a few tablespoons of powdered milk before heating the milk; however, some experts claim that powdered milk has damaged proteins and recommend avoiding it.

When your yogurt is nice and cool and has reached the desired consistency, it’s ready to eat. You can enjoy it with fruit or whatever flavorings or sweeteners you like.

yogurt_spoon

 

Q & A: How to Thicken Yogurt

Question: Why do the directions on the package of yogurt culture say to add three tablespoons of dry milk powder to each liter of milk before heating for a firmer yogurt? I’ve noticed that some other recipes give similar advice, too. But, the directions on your website say to use just milk and yogurt culture. In fact, you explicitly state, “No other added ingredients!”

Jerri’s answer: You can add dry milk powder if you want, but there’s no need to. Your yogurt will come out thicker if you incubate it longer.

Yogurt can come out less thick if you don’t thoroughly mix the culture throughout the milk. When that happens, you get a runny layer near the top and thicker yogurt underneath…or even the exact opposite. All you have to do is mix the two layers together and refrigerate, and it will thicken.

One tip for getting a good mix is to sprinkle the dried yogurt culture on top of the warmed milk and let it sit there until it dissolves. This usually only takes about a minute. Then, mix thoroughly. If you start mixing before it dissolves, the dried culture can clump, and then you won’t be able to mix it in thoroughly.

Another reason why your yogurt might not thicken properly is because it didn’t incubate long enough at 105° F. In other words, the temperature decreased too quickly. You need to find a warmer place to keep your incubating yogurt.

And then, of course, using milk with less milk fat, like lowfat 2% milk, will yield a thinner yogurt. The same thing happens with raw milk if the cream has been skimmed off the top.

Q & A: What Kind of Milk to Use for Making Yogurt

Question: I want to use the best quality milk for my yogurt. Can I use raw milk? I’ve heard it’s a lot healthier than regular, store-bought milk.

Jerri’s answer: The main reason why raw milk so healthy is because of all the enzymes it contains. The very best raw milk comes from organic, grass-fed cows and has the most enzymes.

Individual enzymes have different functions. For example, lactase and amylase break down the sugars and other carbohydrates in raw milk, making it easier to digest. Phosphatase releases the phosphorus your body needs to absorb the calcium. Lactoperoxidase forms an anti-microbial complex that helps prevent pathogens from growing in raw milk. And lipase breaks down fat. Raw milk also contains catalase, which aids in cellular waste management.
All these beneficial enzymes are destroyed when milk is pasteurized. Milk is heated to the appropriate temperature for the type of pasteurization process being used. Ultra-pasteurization is the most common method. This process heats milk to 280° F for two seconds. Traditional pasteurization takes less heat and more time. Even so, milk is heated to a minimum of 161° F.

When making yogurt, you need to sterilize the milk by heating it to 165-180° F. This kills all the bacteria, both good and bad. That way, when you add the yogurt culture, you are culturing your milk with specific lacto-bacteria. That’s why our yogurt comes out the same every time. Many folks use raw milk for yogurt and heat it to only 105-115° F before adding the culture. Sure, some other types of lacto-bacteria are probably present, but your yogurt will most likely turn out ok, or even good. Usually, with yogurt, no matter what type of milk you use, the enzymes will be gone when you heat it to 160° F or higher; but, hopefully, the beneficial bacteria will compensate. Some folks with lactose intolerance cannot tolerate yogurt–even when made from raw milk that has been heated to 160° F. People just have to try and see what works for them.

So, for the best quality yogurt, use organic milk from grass-fed cows. It’s up to you if you want to use raw milk or milk that has been pasteurized. Whether you use cream-top or homogenized milk is also a matter of personal preference.

How to Prevent Holes from Forming in Homemade Cheese

Happy Halloween!

Before we get to the meat of this article…or should I say the cheese?…we thought we’d share a little Halloween trivia with you!

cheese_fingersFun Fact #1

Halloween is thought to have originated around 4000 B.C., which means it has been around for over 6,000 years.  

Fun Fact #2

Halloween was influenced by the ancient Roman festival Pomona, which celebrated the harvest goddess of the same name. Many Halloween customs and games that feature apples (such as bobbing for apples) and nuts date from this time.

mac_and_cheeseFun Fact #3

According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.

Fun Fact #4

Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween. Other girls believed they would see their boyfriend’s faces if they looked into mirrors while walking down stairs at midnight on Halloween.

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Pumpkin Carving Contest – Win a $50 Gift Certificate!

Calling all artisans, aspiring artists, and pumpkin lovers everywhere!

Enter our Pumpkin Carving Contest for your chance to win
a $50 Homesteader’s Supply gift certificate!

pumpkin contest

Contest Rules

  • Post your entry photo (or video) as a comment to the Pumpkin Carving Contest post on our Facebook page. The post will be pinned to the top of our page, and will appear as the first post on our Timeline for the duration of the contest. By the way, now’s the perfect time to Like our page, if you haven’t already done so!
  • Even though we’re officially calling this a pumpkin CARVING contest, your pumpkin may carved, etched, or decorated however you like.
  • You may submit as many entries as you like, but please post them individually, one pumpkin per comment.
  • You must submit only your own work.
  • Contestants must be at least 18 years old to win. However, children’s artwork is acceptable if submitted by an adult.
  • Promotional entries are not acceptable for this contest.
  • This contest ends November 15, 2015.

How the Winner Will Be Decided

The winner of the $50 Homesteader’s Supply gift certificate will be chosen by Homesteader’s Supply staff. The number of Facebook “Likes” an entry receives will greatly influence our final decision.

Copyright Ownership

When an entry has been posted on our Facebook page, the copyright belongs to Homesteader’s Supply. Do not submit entries that have already been submitted elsewhere unless you own (or have regained) the full copyright and you have the permission of any third parties involved.

We reserve the right to publish the winning entry, as well as the prize winner’s first name and last initial, in our Newsletter.

Need Help?

For professional pumpkin carving tips, see our Weekly Newsletter for 10-17-2015.

After you’ve reviewed the rules, submit your entry here.

——————-
Anna Paige, HS Social Media Marketing Manager

 

 

 

 

Preserving Your Food Like a Caveman

People have been dehydrating food since cavemen started spreading pieces of meat, nuts, and berries out on rocks to dry in the sun. Dehydrating might just be the oldest method of preserving known to man, but it is still one of the best. Thankfully, we no longer have to wait for a sunny day to dry our food so we can store it until we need it.

Dehydrating Produce

If you live on a homestead or are fortunate enough to have a large garden, then dehydrating veggies and fruits is probably on your to-do list for fall. You can dry bulk produce, or make healthy and delicious snacks like crunchy “cheezy” kale chips in your dehydrator.
Cheesy Kale
Dehydrated veggie chips add extra nutrition and crunch to salads, and are a healthy topping for soups. When dried until brittle, veggies can be crushed into a powder and then used to flavor foods like burgers and smoothies. Similarly, dehydrated fruit can be made into fruit leathers, or added to cereal or smoothies. Or, it can be eaten out of hand as a snack.

Did you know it’s important to not to dehydrate produce at temperatures higher than 105 degrees Fahrenheit?

Gentle, dry heat preserves living foods like veggies and fruits without killing them. Temperatures above 105 start cooking the food, which destroys important enzymes and results in some loss of nutrients.

Dehydrating Meats

You might even want to try your hand at making jerky or pemmican. For the uninitiated, pemmican is a high-energy food that hikers often take on long treks, especially in cold weather. It’s a wonderful food for preppers to keep on hand because it keeps practically forever. Pemmican consists of powdered dried meat mixed with rendered fat, with maybe a few berries added. The Inuit people have been known to live on nothing but pemmican and melted snow for weeks at a time. If you’d like to try making pemmican, Mark’s Daily Apple has a great recipe, complete with photos.

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