Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

Ancient Culture

I am not Catholic.  I am pissed off.  I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.

This is Day 19.

…but it’s Sunday, which isn’t counted in Lent, so I’ll take a little holiday from talking about Monsanto.  I’ve been experimenting with some new sources of nutrition lately, including grassfed beef liver (fail) and raw milk yogurt (win).

I talked last week about the benefits of raw dairy, primarly to dispel the government-promoted myths about the “necessity” of pasturization.  Incidentally, did you know that pasturization destroys phosphatase, making calcium unavailable to the bones?  Said calcium is instead deposited in muscles, joints, and blood vessels.  Great.

Raw milk, on the other hand, offers not only a panoply of vitamins and minerals, but also beneficial enzymes and bacteria.  Better yet, the health benefits of raw milk are multiplied by the process of lactic acid fermentation — which is why I went hunting for a source of local, grassfed, whole, raw milk in the first place.  I wanted to make yogurt.

At first, the idea of intentionally leaving a quart of milk in a warm place for half a day sounded insane.  And disgusting.  But consider this:  Beneficial bacteria trump pathological bacteria every time. 

Here’s an experiment for you:  Set out a pint each of raw milk and pasturized milk.  Smell them after 48 hours.  Which would you rather eat?

Not only is raw, fermented dairy safe, it actally confers magnified benefits including enhanced nutrient bioavailablity, reduced lactose content (the friendly bacteria eat the milk sugar during fermentation, which is why yogurt tastes sour), improved intestional health, and strengthened immune system.  Read more on the subject in this excellent post by Emily Deans, M.D.  No wonder fermentation has been used for thousands of years not just for preservation, but for healing.

I took my first shot at homemade yogurt last Saturday, following this recipe from Nourished Kitchen.  The resulting product was tasty, flavored very much like the Greek yogurt I used to innoculate it. 

However, it wasn’t particularly pretty.  Unlike the thick, creamy product you buy at the grocery, my yogurt was rather runny, featuring small, white lumps floating in whey.  I gathered from a bit of googling that this is common.  Suggested solutions included:

  • Add powdered milk to the yogurt.  (Eww.  No thanks, for so many reasons.)
  • Use less starter, because the bacteria need elbow room to grow and using too much is counterproductive.  (Sounds reasonable.)
  • Add gelatin to the yogurt.  (Many reject this on textural grounds, and so did I.)
  • Use half milk, half cream to make yogurt.  (Sounds delicious, but expensive, and raw cream is hard to find.)
  • Add pectin to the yogurt.  (Ah.  There’s a thought.)

For yesterday’s batch, I modified my technique to implement #2 and #5 above.  I used 3 Tbs of live yogurt to innoculate the 1-quart batch (I didn’t measure last week, but probably used a bit more).  And, I added 2 teaspoons of pectin, dissolved in a tiny bit of warm water, to the heated milk just before putting it in the jar to ferment.

This morning, I have an improved product.  The flavor is milder (maybe a little too mild — I think I’ll let it ferment a couple hours longer next week) and the texture more consistent.  The lumps and watery whey are gone, replaced with a still-thin, but smooth and white, perfectly respectable yogurt.  (Next time, I might try adding a little more pectin to thicken it up more.)

I love how simple this is.  Active time?  About 20 minutes per batch.  Cost?  $3.99 for a half-gallon of raw milk.  That’s the price of a quart of pre-fab Greek yogurt around here.  Benefits?  Myriad.

I should note that fermented dairy is still insulinogenic (all dairy is), so it may not be the best choice for someone whose primary goal is loss of bodyfat.  In a metabolically healthy person, however, it looks like an ideal post-workout snack…which is exactly what I’ll be doing with most of mine.  It’s delicious over a few berries, topped with chopped, raw almonds.

Up next?  I have my eye on cultured butter ala Mark’s Daily Apple, maybe some goat cheese, and other fermented products like saurkraut and preserved lemons.

Tomorrow, though, it’s back to the Monsanto Project.  Be sure to check out the coffee posts if you missed them over the weekend.


10 responses

  1. Ah, I’m happy for the breather from Monsanto. The futility of trying to avoid those bastards is getting depressing!

    March 27, 2011 at 10:42 am

    • LOL No kidding — but I’d rather know than not.

      March 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

  2. Sarah

    I haven’t made yogurt in years, but I read recently that the Greek-style yogurt is so wonderful in consistency because it is strained through cheesecloth – maybe that would help yours feel creamier and thicker, plus really consolidate the curds, and you may not have to add pectin… just a thought, though. I’m no expert. Thanks for so many great posts, and all the best to you.

    March 27, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    • No, you’re exactly right — I just forgot to mention that one! I hear that works very well, but you only get a small amount of yogurt, which is why I decided not to do it. (The whey you drain off can be used for smoothies and things, but I’m not much of a smoothie drinker and I can’t figure out what else to do with it.)

      March 27, 2011 at 6:27 pm

  3. We make our yogurt by leaving it in the oven with the light on overnight. Ours usually comes out like custard with a tiny bit of whey around the edges. That can either be mixed in for a creamy consistency or left as is. I love to eat is warm. Sometimes I can almost slice it. No pectin needed. Yum!

    March 27, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    • Hmmm. Interesting. How many hours would you say your yogurt ferments, Simrat? (I read that after about 8 hours, it doesn’t get thicker, only more sour. Does that sound right to you?)

      March 28, 2011 at 7:19 am

  4. That time frame is possible. Straining it through a cheesecloth makes it more like sour cream. I’ve gotten to where I don’t really like store bought, creamy yogurt much anymore. I am more used to simple, homemade with no additives. 🙂

    Making it with raw milk will be the next step. I contacted a local farm that sells raw milk. I am on her waiting list, as she has no spots for new customers. We do just barely bring our milk to a boil before making yogurt though, then let it cool to skin temperature. How did you warm yours?

    March 28, 2011 at 7:38 am

    • I warmed it on in a saucepan on the stovetop, to 110F (since it’s raw). I gather that you do need to boil pasturized milk, as you do. I wonder how that affects texture…hmmm…

      I hear you on prefering the real stuff to storebought “perfection.” 🙂

      March 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

  5. You are so hardcore giving up Monsanto. Congrats!

    I’ve always wanted to make my own yogurt. I just might, now that I can get my hands on raw milk. Would making Greek yogurt out of it be the same as if you made it from store-bought yogurt?

    March 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    • Hi Mimi! I haven’t tried making Greek yogurt, but I hear the straining process is quite effective at making a nice, thick, creamy product, just not very much of it. I seem to recall reading that a quart of “regular” homemade yogurt will yield about a pint of “Greek” homemade yogurt — which is probably less than if you strained storebought yogurt, because the storebought stuff is thicker to begin with, usually because it contains thickening agents.

      March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

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