By Daniel Gritzer, Food & Wine
Greek-Style Yogurt"Making yogurt is all about getting two ingredients-a starter culture and milk-to interact in the right way," says Ron Marks. A trained chef, Marks is the founder of AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery, a company that recently began selling its thick, Greek-style yogurts throughout the South. Marks explains that a starter culture is a mixture of live, active bacteria that consume lactose, producing lactic acid (which creates a tangy flavor) as it transforms milk into yogurt. The trickiest part of the yogurt-making process is making sure that the cultured milk stays at the right temperature, between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. An electric yogurt maker simplifies the task, but you can improvise by setting the cultured milk near a warm radiator, in a slow cooker or even in an oven. After that, it's just a matter of time-anywhere from five to 18 hours. Here, Marks provides two options for making yogurt at home and shares several of his favorite toppings.
Delicious Recipes with Yogurt
Follow these simple steps to make amazingly thick and creamy Greek-style yogurt at home, from skim or 2 percent milk. The strained yogurt can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks and powdered yogurt culture can be ordered at culturesforhealth.com.
1 gallon skim or 2 percent milk, preferably not ultra-pasteurized
2 cups nonfat or 2 percent Greek-style plain yogurt with active cultures, at room temperature, or 1/4 teaspoon powdered yogurt culture
1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil. Set a large stainless steel bowl over the saucepan and add the milk; do not let the bowl touch the water. Turn the heat to low and gradually heat the milk, whisking, until it registers 180° on a candy thermometer. Keep the milk at 180° for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
2. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the milk cool down to 106°, stirring often. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 110°. If using yogurt, whisk it with 2 cups of the warm milk in a bowl until smooth, then add it back into the warm milk. If using powdered yogurt culture, sprinkle the powder all over the warm milk.
3. Whisk the cultured warm milk for 3 minutes. Fill several clean jars to 1 inch below the rim with the cultured milk. Cap the jars and place in the warmed oven (or a yogurt maker or other gently heated spot); the cultured milk should stay between 105° and 110° during the entire process. Begin checking the yogurt after 4 1/2 hours; it's ready when it is thick, tangy and surrounded by a small amount of clear whey. If using a pH meter, the yogurt is ready when it registers 4.5. Depending on how active the cultures are, it can take up to 18 hours for the yogurt to set and develop its characteristic tang. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled or overnight.
4. Line a large mesh colander or strainer with a moistened cotton cloth or several layers of cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Scoop the yogurt into the colander. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 6 hours, or until it reaches the desired thickness.
Four Great Greek Yogurt Flavorings
Cucumber Dill (Tzatziki) This thick garlicky sauce, made with strained yogurt, cucumbers, dill and lemon juice, is great slathered on warm pita bread, or as a condiment with lamb.
Mixed-Berry Conserve This thick raspberry-and-blueberry sauce is the perfect topping for yogurt, ice cream and even a piece of toast.
Ginger-Peach Conserve The warm heat of ginger perfectly complements sweet peaches in this thick fruit sauce that's delicious on yogurt, ice cream or even on a piece of toast.
Honey In a bowl, stir together 1 cup yogurt with 4 tablespoons warmed wildflower honey.
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By Daniel Gritzer, Food & Wine