Mary Jo always treats herself to specialty yogurts when we are in Europe. The challenge is that she does not like fruit, well, most fruit. Some flavors she enjoys are mocha, pistachio, toasted coconut and her favorite is lemon. This recipe yields about 3 quarts of thick-rich-tangy-creamy-lemony MJ-worthy goodness.
Reserve some of the plain yogurt you make as a live-culture, and all you will need to make endless amounts of yogurt in the future is milk.
To make yogurt, you simply heat milk to 180-degrees F. (43-degrees C.), cool to 110-degrees F. and add a starter or bacteria (we are using live-culture yogurt). Fermentation happens during the five-hour incubation period in a warm water bath. The immersion circulator keeps the water at a constant 109-degree F. temperature and circulates it around the jars. The bacteria ferments the lactose (milk-sugar) in the milk and produces lactic acid, which gives the yogurt its tangy edge. The milk proteins coagulate and thicken the milk into yogurt.
After the five hour incubation period, you may reserve 3/4 cup of the yogurt as a live-culture for a future batch. It is best to use this live-culture as a starter for the next batch within a week or so.
We prefer thick-creamy “Greek-style” yogurt which requires straining off some of the whey. A handy tool for this purpose is a Greek Yogurt Maker (Strainer) which simply suspends a covered fine-mesh strainer above a reservoir that collects the whey. The longer you strain it, the thicker it will get.
I like to make and store my yogurt in French “Le Parfait” canning jars, as you can see in the above photo.
You now have thick-plain Greek-style yogurt. In the recipe below, I add sugar (or other sweeteners), lemon juice, salt and pure lemon oil to transform it into a nice tart and refreshing Lemon Yogurt. Other flavoring options are endless at this point.
For a sweet “breakfast” yogurt, add chopped fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate, espresso, toasted coconut, caramel or scraped vanilla beans. Savory yogurt options include dips (like Tzatziki, that I serve with my Greek Salmon), dressings and marinades. Lamb kabobs in the Mediterranean region are often marinated with a spicy-garlic yogurt. Garlic, herbs like dill, rosemary and cilantro, citrus, chilies and spices like turmeric, curry powder and coriander pair well with the tangy yogurt.
To make thick-creamy “Greek-style” yogurt, you need to strain off some of the whey. A Greek Yogurt Maker (Strainer) is a great tool for this job. It simply suspends a covered fine-mesh stainless steel strainer above a reservoir that collects the whey. This is the one I use.
Pure lemon oil is necessary to get real tangy lemon flavor into the yogurt. Now essential Lemon Oil is the brand I have used for years and it can also be used in atomizers and diffusers. When purchasing essential oils for cooking, make sure you get products that are food-grade not therapeutic-grade, and use them sparingly, as they are quite strong.
Lemon YogurtCourse: BreakfastDifficulty: Easy
- Heat 1 gallon of milk in a large pot on the stove, over medium-high heat. Using an instant read thermometer, bring it to 180-degrees F., stirring constantly. This step can also be accomplished in the circulating bath, but it takes a little longer.
- Cool the milk down to 110-degrees F. I use an ice bath if I am in a hurry.
- Loosen up the live culture yogurt by whisking it into 1 cup of the warmed milk in a small bowl. Stir the loosened culture back into the warm milk, and mix well.
- Divide the milk mixture between four 1 quart canning jars and place them in a 109-degrees F. water bath with an immersion circulator for 5 hours to incubate.
- Remove the yogurt from the water bath (reserving 3/4 cup of the yogurt if you plan to make another batch in the next week or so) and it is ready to eat at this point. It will be quite loose, so I always thicken my yogurt by straining it in a "Greek Yogurt Maker" (a fine mesh strainer that is elevated over a bowl) to catch the whey. You will loose 25-50% in volume, depending upon how long you strain it, but you will have a thicker-richer yogurt. Place the yogurt in the “Greek Yogurt Maker”, and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, longer if you like it even thicker. Discard or find another use for the whey.
- Place the yogurt in a large bowl and add sweetener to taste as desired; you can use granulated sugar, honey, agave or maple syrup, or even artificial sweetener. Using a citrus press, squeeze the juice from the 2 lemons and add it to the sweetened yogurt along with a few pinches of salt and about 12 drops of pure lemon oil. Mix well with a whisk.
- Transfer the completed yogurt to jars (I usually use three 1-quart jars) of any size and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.