The Yogurt Diaries 2

It’s snowing in Paris – miniature flakes scurrying down from a surprisingly bright white sky. And it’s below freezing – maybe not the best time to be writing about yogurt – too cold for anything from the refrigerator. But, it’s been a yogurt factory around here and I have some stories to share.

Like I said last time, I didn’t know anything about making yogurt a month ago. Maybe I should have done at least an Internet search to see what other people had to say about this – it really isn’t like me to begin a project with such blinders on. I usually launch into a thorough “market study” before delving into a cake, for example. The Yogurt Project has been different. I’ve only gotten my information from what I’ve heard… and most recently, from the neighborhood cheese shop.

Basically, I tried a few different combinations of milk (whole, demi) and, what I’ll call, “starter yogurts.” Most batches turned out well, except for the night the electricity went out and the incubating yogurt was left to sit for hours without a heat source. Decided it was best not to eat those.

One combination I especially liked was Candia Grandlait frais, pasteurized milk (I have this thing about the UHT or ultra-heat treatment milk – a whole post on its own – and haven’t tried that for this project) and “la fermière” yogurt. I’d always boil the milk for about 10 or 15 minutes, let it cool, and then let the yogurt “cook” for about 8 hours. I even reused my homemade yogurt as a starter in future batches.

Result: Nice consistency, not too liquid. Smooth texture and taste.

So, all was going quite well, me in my merry little yogurt world, until…

…I was in the cheese shop waiting to buy some Emmenthal (for my first Reuben sandwhich in years) when I overheard the woman in front of me buying raw milk to make yogurt. My ears perked up and, of course, I ended up buying the exact same milk and “starter” she did.

To cut the chase, this was one of the best batches yet: raw milk and a plain yogurt from the fromagerie Beillevaire.

I also learned from this visit to the cheese shop that I didn’t need to boil the milk. Actually, I shouldn’t boil it! Raw milk, unlike pasteurized, naturally contains “good” bacteria, vitamins (notably vitamin B12), and enzymes (that help your body assimilate the nutrients found in the milk). Also, it’s easier to digest that traditional store-bought milk. As it was fresh from the producer, boiling the milk was not necessary and would lessen the health benefits. The vendor explained that this milk could be consumed without any problem for up to five days (after that boiling would be a good idea). This made the entire yogurt making process so much easier! I simply mixed the milk in a bowl with the “starter yogurt”, poured it into the yogurt pots, and let the machine do its thing for the next 8 hours.

Result: A smooth, kind-of-liquid yogurt with a nice subtle flavor – not too strong or sour. I drank some right out of the containers and poured others over muesli. Unlike the first batch I made (also with raw milk), this one wasn’t as “intense” and could be eaten on a daily basis.

I’m happy with these finds, but still have lots of questions: Do I have to boil pasteurized milk? Do I need to sterilize my pots each time? What if I want to branch out and make something other than plain yogurt?

I’ll keep you posted, and would love to hear what you think!

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