Homemade Yogurt, The Easy Way + How to Drain Yogurt for Thicker Greek Yogurt

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Homemade raw Greek yogurt, topped with honey and cinnamon.

 Over the past couple of years I have struggled with some fairly major health problems. leaving me with low energy most of the time, ranging to completely fatigued and exhausted on a bad day. Thankfully, the bad days are becoming less frequent than they used to be, but even on an average day I have far more project ideas than I have energy to put into projects.

This means, that while cooking healthy food is usually a priority for me, I really don’t like to make any of my projects  more involved or complicated than they have to be. Certain projects that others consider complex might fit nicely into my routine, but other projects, sometimes even one that don’t seem so complicated to most people, just seem overwhelming.

So, when I discovered a super easy way to make my own raw yogurt, I was thrilled. Yogurt is generally considered fairly fussy. Regulating the temperature is a pain and doesn’t seem to guarantee results no matter how carefully it’s done. Plus, I was on GAPS diet at the time, with little energy to spare, and a lot of special cooking to be done, and a lot of slowly fermented food needed on a regular basis. The idea that I could drop yogurt in a jar, add milk, and then just let the whole thing sit out in a warm spot to make yogurt was a relief.

Now, as simple as the process is, fermented foods do often have a bit of a finicky streak. You may immediately find a warm spot that happily makes yogurt without any problems, ever. More likely, you’ll have to try a couple warm spots to see which one ferments your milk at the speed which is convenient to your schedule. You may find that the warm spot on top of your fridge, that normally turns out yogurt like clockwork, overheats on your baking day, and the pervading warmth of the oven ferments your yogurt unexpectedly faster than normal.

To me, these inconsistencies are simply an expected part of cooking real and traditional food. Like making soup with leftovers, or marrying into a family that makes a lot of last minute plans, life is often something of a grab bag no matter how carefully we try to regiment it.

I have found this method of making yogurt to produce mostly consistent results, and the occasional batch of extra sour and thick yogurt, or runny yogurt can easily find their home in baked goods without dramatically disrupting the rhythm of my life. These odd batches of yogurt even seem to make fine starter for a new batch in most cases, as the inconsistencies are naturally evened out by the steady working of the natural probiotics and enzymes through slight disruptions of their routine.

If this sort of adaptation to changes in your life is not for you, I recommend googling ‘crockpot yogurt’ and continuing in your quest to bend the world to your will without detouring through my yogurt making method. Best of luck to you in that endeavor.

In the realm of adapting to changes, the video I have posted on  making yogurt is technically a fail video. It still demonstrates *how* to use my yogurt making technique, but in a moment of brain fog, I misremembered how much whey was needed for the amount of yogurt I was making, resulting in a less than optimal batch of yogurt. Feel free to both laugh at my fail and glean what you can from watching my methods.

Straining (or draining) the yogurt to make it thicker is completely optional, but since we really like greek style yogurt, and I find it really handy to have whey around for recipes (soaking whole wheat flour, ketchup, etc), I almost always do drain it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only is the yogurt completely natural, but making your own plain yogurt gives you the ability to make your own flavored yogurts without any unnatural sweeteners or additives. Obviously, you get an extra boost to your enzymes if you start with raw milk, but you can use this method for any type of dairy you generally use (I haven’t tested it with non-dairy milks) and meet your general health standards.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I’ll be honest here: homemade yogurt isn’t something my husband raves about. He actually kinda likes Yoplaits.

As for myself, I don’t hate yogurt, but I’ve never been a huge fan of any kind of yogurt, even including Yoplait (which baffles my husband). But, throwing a couple splops (yes, that’s a very specific measurement, why do you ask?) of yogurt into a smoothie is easy and doesn’t adversely affect the taste, and if I mix the homemade yogurt with sufficient honey and fruit, my husband doesn’t mind eating it, and in the right mood, I rather enjoy it.

Homemade Yogurt

1 cup of whey or yogurt

3 cups of milk

Mix whey or yogurt with milk in a quart jar. Cover and set in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Refrigerate.

To make greek yogurt: Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth or thin cotton (not terrycloth) dishtowel. Set on a bowl to catch the whey. Pour yogurt into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for a few hours, until it is your desired thickness. (You can also make yogurt cheese, which can be used as a cream cheese substitute, by draining the yogurt longer, until it’s very thick.) Using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, transfer yogurt to a jar or covered bowl and store in refrigerator. Pour whey into a separate bowl or jar and store in refrigerator.

 

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Tepache: A Fermented Pineapple Drink

Tepache: Fermented Pineapple Drink

Aldi often has fresh pineapples on sale for $1 or $1.29 each. Being the nerd and foodie that I am, I once weighed a pineapple after I’d cut off the top and rind and all the inedible bits to find out how much edible fruit was in a typical pineapple. It weighed right around two pounds, which makes the cost of the fruit on a sale pineapple 50 to 65 cents a pound.

Since my rule of thumb is that any food $1 a pound or less qualifies as cheap food, and I’m especially happy when I find basic, healthy food like fruit, veggies and meat in that price range, I began to make a habit of buying a pineapple or two whenever they went on sale.

However, despite that fact that I knew it was a screaming deal anyway, I started to wonder about all the parts of the pineapple I was throwing away. It seemed like rather a lot of waste. Wasn’t there any use for pineapple rinds?

Turns out , there is a use for them. Google turned up this recipe for tepache, a fermented mexican drink made from pineapple rinds, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.

Traditionally, tepache is mixed with beer, but on it’s own it seems to have a very low to non-existent alcohol content (depending somewhat, of course, on just how long  you ferment it). We’ve used in rum based cocktails a couple of times, but we also just drink it straight as a kind of pineapple soda or use it as a smoothie base.

 Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s fruit based, probiotic, contains cinnamon which is good for your immune system and blood sugar response, and you can adjust the sugar content down for a more tart, less sweet drink if the turbinado sugar disturbs your healthy food sensibilities.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I’ve said in other recipes occasionally, this isn’t one of those foods that we discovered and decided we had to keep it on hand all the time. It’s a nice change of pace, and it tastes good (and yes, it’s husband approved), but it’s not something I often find myself craving.

Tepache

1-2 cups turbinado sugar (1 cup for a tart drink, 2 cups for a sweet drink)

12 cups water

1 pineapple

cinnamon and ginger to taste (1/2-1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp ginger)

optional: clove and/or nutmeg to taste

Put the turbinado sugar and two cups water in a saucepan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool.

Rinse the pineapple lightly, but don’t scrub too hard, or use cleaners–you don’t want to remove the natural yeasts that start the fermentation process. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, then cut off the peels (see video for more detailed instructions in cutting up your pineapple). Save the pineapple fruit for another use. (If desired, when  you cut up the fruit you can add the core to the tepache.

Put the peels in a large bowl or crock suitable for fermenting. Sprinkle with spices. Pour in sugar/water mixture and ten more cups of water. Cover peels with a small plate to keep them submerged.

Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and set aside to ferment for 3-5 days. It should be bubbly and a bit foamy like this when it’s ready to referigerate:

tepache foamRemove the peels and pour the tepache into a jug or jar. Cap tightly and refrigerate for two to three days until fizzy. (You can also drink it right away if you don’t care about carbonating it.)

Cold Brewed Tea and Tea “Latte” Style Drinks

I know that most of you probably aren’t thinking, “Wow, I could use a nice tall glass of iced tea right now,” at this time of year. But the fact is, there are a lot of kinds of tea with really good health giving properties, and sometimes a variety of preparation methods helps to keep your enthusiasm from waning as you’re trying to drink tea regularly.

In particular, I find this method of brewing tea to make green tea a lot more palatable for me, and since green tea matches up point for point with many of my health problems and symptoms, I’ve figured I should really be trying to drink more of it. (Even if doesn’t taste all that great naturally.)

I discovered this method of brewing tea after trying Ree Drummond’s Perfect Iced Coffee. I figured if the method worked so well for coffee (and it does–you should try the coffee version too if you ever drink coffee) it should work for tea too.

Admittedly, unlike my homemade ketchup, this is not a healthy recipe that I constantly use and keep on hand. This is a ‘fun for changing up my normal routine’ kind of recipe that sees use when I feel like it. But, it’s kind of good to have an arsenal of healthy recipes that are fun and different too, instead of always having to turn to unhealthy recipes when you want a change from your normal routine.

I  use agave in this recipe. I’m not completely sold on agave’s healthiness. In fact, I’m sure it’s not as good for you as raw honey, and possibly not even as good for you as turbinado sugar. But it does have some attributes that make it handy for recipes like these, such as a more neutral flavor than honey, and an ability to dissolve easily into cold liquids. I’ve decided that for us, agave falls into that category of ‘eat lots of different kinds of foods, and it will probably all balance out’.

Yes, agave is high in fructose. It would probably be bad for you to eat it all the time. It might (or might not, depending on who you ask) be processed in such a way as removes all of it’s health benefits. Or, it might just be one of many options for a mostly natural sweetener that like everything else, has it’s pros and cons.

If you don’t want to use agave, you have a couple of options. for replacing it. You can make a simple syrup out of sugar (white or turbinado) and water. Or you can warm honey in a small amount of water until it dissolves easily into the water and stir that into the tea. Or, possibly, you could try blending honey into it in your blender or using an immersion blender and see how well that works.

The chai tea I used in the video really is the best chai I’ve ever had. It’s rooibos based, so it’s naturally caffeine free, and adapts well to various water temperatures and brewing times. (Meaning, if you tend to forget about your tea after you start brewing it and over brew it, this is the chai for you.)  If you’re interested in trying it, you can buy here from my friend Whitney’s Etsy shop.

I’ve made this recipe with both green tea and chai, and I also want to try this tea with spearmint and/or peppermint soon. I think it should work with any of your favorite teas.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Given the proviso about agave, I would definitely classify this as healthy. Tea and milk are both good for you, and you can adapt this the healthy sweetener of your choice if you’re willing to put a bit more work into it.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband enjoyed both the green tea and the chai tea versions of this drink I made, despite not usually being a fan of chai, and despite usually being skeptical of agave. I also enjoyed them both, despite not being a fan of green tea flavor, and being a huge fan of chai.

Cold Brewed Tea

1 tea bag or 1 TBSP loose leaf tea

1 quart cold water

This amount of tea makes a normal strength iced tea, or a very mild tea latte drink. If you want a stronger tea latte drink, double the amount of tea used.

Put the tea bag, or spoonful of loose leaf tea into a quart jar. Cover with water, put lid on jar, and let sit for 18-24 hours. Remove tea bag or strain tea through mesh strainer. Refrigerate until use. You can drink this plain, sweetened as you would iced tea, or make the following tea latte out of it.

 

Tea “Latte”

1 quart brewed tea

1 quart milik

1/2 cup agave

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate leftovers.