Tips Of The Month- Sept 2008

Natural Yogurt is a thick cream custard like product with an acid tangy flavour made by fermenting fresh whole milk, low fat milk or skimmed milk with a special culture of bacteria. Before the days of refrigeration, it was discovered that the goodness of milk could be preserved by fermenting it into yogurt. It apparently originated in the Balkans and was introduced into Europe during the 18th Century.

Nutritionally ,yogurt is similar to milk ,being rich in proteins, B vitamins ,calcium and phosphorus. It is widely acclaimed as a health food as it contains small amounts of healthy bacteria which help protect the body against infection and the effects of stress.

It is also a very versatile product as it can be used for cooking and baking and in both savory and sweet dishes. Commercial yogurt sold in cartons is readily available in supermarkets. They come plain or slightly sweetened and flavored with fruits. When buying the product ,always check the expiry date and ensure the carton is not damaged and the seal cover is intact.

If the seal cover is bulging ,the product has either not been properly refrigerated or its shelf life has expired. It may be convenient to buy ready made yogurt but it is really not that difficult to make your own. Besides, it is far more economical. To make prefect yogurt every time ,you have to understand a few important facts.
Like yeast, the living organism in yogurt is sensitive to high temperatures. For consistent results, check the milk temperature with a cooking thermometer before adding the yogurt starter or culture. The ideal temperature is around 41C to 43C.But it is not at all essential to have a thermometer as equally good results can be obtained by testing milk with your finger. It should feel warm and not hot.

Once the yogurt is added, leave the milk undisturbed in a warm place for the culture to act. Normally I prepare it before going to sleep.The culture is left overnight to ferment. The most 8 hours.

Don’t be tempted to use too much yogurt starter as the yogurt will turn sour and watery. To obtain mild and creamy yogurt ,the culture needs room to grow. Yogurt should never be left to incubate far too long as it will gradually turn sour.It should be refrigerated as soon as it sets into a thick custard consistency. Under proper refrigeration ,yogurt will keep for about a week without turning rancid.The surface of rancid yogurt is slightly pinkish in colour.

To start the first batch of home made yogurt,use commercial natural yogurt as your starter. From then on save at least a table spoon to serve as starter for your next batch .Once you start with the second batch you can start using milk powder to prepare yogurt .Mix milk powder to water ,stir until the milk powder is dissolved,then add in the left over yogurt to it. Stirring until the mixture is well combined, leave to ferment.