The hardest part, for me, about maintaining the vegan lifestyle is giving up yogurt. I love that stuff. Especially the Greek kind. Aside from the fact that it's high in protein (organic Oikos Greek yogurt has 25 grams per cup) and full of friendly bacteria, it's also pretty tasty with granola and fresh raspberries. I live in a small town, almost smack dab in the center of the United States. I've only met two other vegetarians in my life and not a single vegan so my options for convenient vegan food are pretty much nonexistent. When HyVee opened up, it brought in a new way of eating for this town's (very few) health-conscious people with their "Health Market" section and small selection of organic produce. HyVee does sell nondairy yogurt, the Silk brand, but it is kind of expensive and it just doesn't taste good at all. To me, it's nothing like the yogurt I missed, so I'd rather do without. They recently got the coconut yogurt, which I love but it's almost $3 a carton and it only has 1 gram of protein.
So what's a vegan girl to do?
Just make it my damn self.
This was quite an adventure, but I was very happy the way it turned out. Most of the yogurt in the US is made with thickeners and stabilizers, although some dairy kinds are thick on their own (like Greek, which has a lot of the extra water gone). My homemade yogurt was more like kefir, so I bought some tapioca flour to thicken it. In the end though, I decided that I liked it added to my smoothies as is (and now I have a pound of unopened tapioca flour in my pantry... hmm...). I was so proud of myself that when my mom came over for coffee I pulled it out of the fridge, "MOM!! SMELL MY YOGURT!!". She then held her nose, but I persuaded her and she was surprised at how lovely it smelled ("kind of like ice cream"). Anyway. Let's get started with the yogurt making.
Warning: Yogurt is a very picky process. That's why they have those fancy yogurt makers. I however, am poor, so I just used a crockpot and a candy thermometer. I think I would like to get a yogurt maker eventually, just because the crockpot method requires a lot of supervision. However, if you want to try it out, this method works fine. I have only used this method with Silk Almond unsweetened milk, which is already kind of thick. If you try this, keep in mind that it won't look like yogurt from the store. It will be thinner and more like kefir (a cultured, yogurt-like drink). This is a great way to get some more probiotics in your diet.
In a medium-ish sized crockpot, place a large, capped jar. Fill the crockpot with warm water up to the halfway point in the jar. Place a candy thermometer (or any other kind of thermometer) in the water, cover the crockpot, and place it on low. The water needs to be at 105-110 degrees the ENTIRE TIME the yogurt is incubating. The jar also needs to be prewarmed to this temperature.
For this recipe I used:
2 c. Silk Almond milk
1 Tb. starter culture (can be from a previous batch or from a vegan packaged yogurt)
This is a good ratio of milk to culture. Adding more culture will not make it more potent. It will actually make it less potent because the bacteria will crowd themselves out and die off.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk up to almost boiling. DON'T let it boil. I'm not really sure why, and it might be more related to dairy yogurt-making, but I don't want to risk ruining a batch, so I just do it anyway. Lol. I used a candy thermometer to check the temperature and I took it off the stove at about 200 because the temperature will continue to rise a little bit more. You will need to stir occasionally while the milk is on the stove.
After taking it off the burner, set it aside and let the temperature cool down to 105-110 degrees.
Step 3:Once the milk has cooled to the proper temperature, pour it into the prewarmed jar from the crockpot. Stir in the culture, cap the jar, and place it into the crockpot.
Incubate the yogurt for 3-5 hours. The longer it incubates, the more tangy it will be. You must check the temperature in the crockpot often in order to ensure that it says in the proper range. If it gets too hot or too cool the culture will die out. When the temperature got down to 105, I would turn the crockpot on low for about five minutes to let it warm up. The temperature will continue to heat up inside for a little bit so I usually turn it back off when it gets up to 108. I usually check the temperature each half an hour. Don't stir the yogurt while it's incubating.
Step 5: Once the incubation period is finished, place the jar in the fridge and let it sit undisturbed for 12 hours. After this time period is up, feel free to stir in any fruit, sweeteners, starches (such as tapioca flour), or protein powder. Once I'm ready to toss it in a smoothie, I just give the jar a stir and measure it into the blender. It will be thinner than store bought kind but it's good for your tummy. It will keep up to five days in the fridge.
I'm also going to going to try the easy way by stirring an opened probiotic capsule into some almond milk then setting it aside for a little bit. Eventually, I'll probably just buy myself a yogurt maker. Or maybe I'll get some water kefir grains and make some fizzy probiotic sodas like I saw on the Green and Crunchy blog (which is now, unfortunately, disabled and lost in cyberspace). Mmm. That sounds like a plan.
Has anyone noticed that I finally learned how to name a link? Bwahaha!! Also, once my oven gets fixed I'm going to make some French dip seitan sandwiches and some gingery, brothy things. I'm also going to make a bunch of potstickers and freeze them. I saw a video of Maangchi (ahhaha!! Link!!!) making some Korean dumplings and she made it look super easy. I'm not quite sure when I'll get around to it, but hopefully soon (actually, I think I'm just craving ginger because I miss my beloved raw ginger kombucha. I need it back on the market now!!).
Oh, and my mom's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. There was a tasty looking Japanese spread in the September issue of VT so I'm probably going to make that for here. I'll post about all that too. Have a great day!
UPDATE (2/20/2011): I've just ordered a dehydrator with an adjustable thermostat and removable trays, as soon as it arrives in the mail, I'm going to be making myself a batch of yogurt! I'm going to be doing an entire post centered around it!