Homemade Yogurt: Cheap, Healthy, Easy — Yum!
Today we have a guest post by Tamy Pelletier. She’s an ex Coast Guard Officer and current kick ass mom to 3 kids. Read more about here and other Almightydad contributors here.
If you don’t eat yogurt, you should. But not just any yogurt will do. Yogurt rich in protein and Vitamin D and with the right amount of live active cultures is good for your digestive health. It makes a great snack, and you can use it in a multitude of ways in cooking and baking. Something not everyone knows is that making it yourself is fast, easy and inexpensive. I’m not sure I’d have been a believer if I didn’t try it, but homemade yogurt tastes better than store bought! Taste, cost, health, and versatility are all important to me when I’m looking for ways to feed myself, my husband, and our 3 small kids. Homemade yogurt fits the bill in every way.
My 16 year old niece and I have something of an inside joke going on about the way in which my son, Ryan, requests homemade yogurt – imagine a 4 year old, loudly, almost yelling, his yogurt request. “Can I have yogurt with too much brown sugar not mixed in …. Pleeease?!?!” It’s a loveable quirk (we all have them, right?). But, the funny thing is that I’m really not giving him a lot of brown sugar. He doesn’t know that a little bit goes a long way. He’d like for me to accidentally put in too much. One day, when he asked for more, I offhandedly told him I gave him too much already. Ever since then he’s asked for it that way, unknowingly always getting the same amount each time. The point, though, is that he asks for it. All of my kids do. (The other two just turned 2 and 6.) The yogurt we make is not an ultra sweet (it’s not sweet at all unless I add sugar), artificially colored, cartoon character licensed, tube of goo. It’s just good ol’ homemade plain yogurt with a teaspoon of brown sugar sprinkled on top for sweetness. Yoplait? Dannon? Pfffft!
Health is a priority in our family; but, with 3 growing kids, saving money is also important. The simple truth is that not all yogurt is created equal, and if you want yogurt that contains the correct amount of live, active cultures said to be good for you, you are going to pay a lot for it at the supermarket. You can check out the healthy benefits of quality yogurt here. Almost none of the yogurt marketed for kids has the amount of active cultures it should have. Sadly, unless you’re shelling out for the ultra high end, organic yogurt tubes or single serve cartons, which still have a lot of sugar in them, you’re probably feeding your kids expensive sweetened solidified milk. And, unfortunately, the same holds true for most adult yogurts, too. Always wanting more for less, my husband and I researched the best way to get all the beneficial active cultures without breaking the bank. There are lots of yogurt makers on the market. You don’t have to use them as there are ways to make yogurt without them. But, with our hectic lives, we decided to go with a yogurt maker. It was a good decision. They give you better control and they are prepare-it-and-leave-it devices, which yield the same results every time – no fuss, no muss. We are the proud owners of a Yogourmet yogurt maker, which we use about once every week for a constant supply of yogurt. It gives us the same reliable results every time. I’ve never used any other yogurt makers, but I’d certainly recommend this one because we’ve had it for years, and it’s always been reliable.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt:
Making yogurt is easier than you might think. All you need to start is the yogurt maker itself, milk (skim, whole or anything in between), yogurt starter (or a cup of yogurt with live active cultures), and a reliable thermometer. Make sure, when using a cup of yogurt for starter, that you see the LAC (Live Active Cultures) seal on the packaging. The LAC seal indicates that the yogurt has the right amount of active cultures in it. We like a thicker consistency, so we also add powdered milk and gelatin, which yields a very stiff yogurt, great for little kids who are still learning the finer points of balancing things on a spoon. The process is simple.
1. You heat the milk (and powdered milk and gelatin if you’re adding it) on the stove to 180oF and hold that temp for at least 2 minutes.
2. Then you let it cool until it’s between 108oF and 112oF.
3. Add it to your yogurt starter (or yogurt with live active cultures) in the yogurt maker and let it sit on your counter for 5 hours.
4. When the 5 hours are up, take the yogurt container out of the yogurt maker and put it in your fridge.
5. Once it’s cooled it’s ready to eat.
We usually use the yogurt for snacks (my oldest son adds a little jam to it instead of brown sugar) and smoothies, but yogurt is extremely versatile. Check out cooks.com for some ideas about how to use it in your cooking and baking.
Here’s the bottom line: We use yogurt instead of yogurt starter to start the process; it’s less expensive and more available. Estimating the cost of 8 cups of organic milk (see organic vs. conventional here) at $3.00 (which is what I pay for it), and one cup of yogurt with the LAC seal at about $1.00. The powdered milk and gelatin are less than 50 cents together. I end up making 8 cups of yogurt for about the price of 4 cups at the supermarket (that’s half the price for you math whizzes out there). Now, compare that to what you’d spend on quality yogurt tubes (which run about 4 dollars for 8 dinky sugar filled servings!) and you’ll see what I’m talking about! And mine tastes better … really, you have to try it, it does! The price, of course, drops even further if you’re using conventional, rather than organic, milk. “Okay”, you say, “but what about the price of the yogurt maker?” Good point! The machine will last you forever (or until we’re hit by an asteroid), and if you use it, it’ll quickly pay for itself. We read all kinds of reviews before we purchased one, and the Yogourmet was one that had MANY reviewers who have had theirs for 20-30 years, and counting. I plan to use mine at least that long! A $50.00 investment, spread out over 20+ years with at least 25 uses a year, you’ll pay for it in the first year.
In the world of helping your family eat their way to health, yogurt is a great step. It’s easy, it can be inexpensive, and with a scoop of brown sugar here, some fruit there, kids can hardly resist it!