Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Green Choices Wednesday - More Homemade Stuff!

We're making homemade yogurt! 

Any food product made at home from fresh ingredients is more enviromentally friendly than it's factory-made counterpart.  Just think of the resources required to operate and maintain a huge factory!  Homemade yogurt requires a very small amount of energy to produce.  It goes into our own reusable containers and doesn't generate plastic waste.  Yes, plastic is recyclable, but in many areas it's difficult or impossible to recycle anything except #1 and #2 plastic.  Manufactured yogurt packaging is typically #5.

In additon to being "greener," there are other advantages.  We have total control of all ingredients, and know there are no additives or chemicals added.  All that's required is fresh milk and yogurt culture, a thermometer, and heating equipment.  We can make a low-fat or no-fat variety just by using 2% or skim milk.  We used skim.  Yogurt culture is available as a dry powder, or any good yogurt with active culture can be used to get the first batch going.  I find the homemade product to be a higher quality, better tasting product, and it is also much less expensive!  Milk is converted to yogurt at a 1:1 ratio.  Think how much cheaper a pint of milk is than a pint of yogurt!

There are lots of yogurt recipes available on the internet.  The process involves heating milk to about 185 °F, letting it cool to 110 °F, adding the culture, and keeping the mixture warm for a few hours while the culture reproduces, thickening the yogurt.  Then it is ready to put into reusable containers and refrigerate.  We like to  flavor it by stirring in fresh fruit or a little homemade jelly or jam just before serving!

It's a common practice to use a double boiler, or a smaller pot inside a larger pot, to heat the milk.  We just carefully heated it in a single small pot, using a low heat setting.  After adding the culture, the mixture may be kept warm by covering with a heating pad.  Some people use a very minimal "low" setting on a crock pot.  One can find special equipment for yogurt making, or just use these common items.  We make small batches and have a small electric yogurt warmer that the yogurt cups fit into.

So, it's really easy, less expensive, better-tasting, healthier, and environmentally friendlier!  What's not to like?

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