My Big Fat Greek Yogurt
This week we’re exploring all things Greek yogurt, starting with this simple guide on how to make Greek yogurt in your oven (with just two simple ingredients)!
What is Greek Yogurt?
Okay, before we jump into what Greek yogurt is, let’s talk about the history of yogurt. Yay, food history! (P.S. I would watch the heck out of a show that combines Drunk History with history of food). Yogurt came to be right around the time when humans started drinking animal milk, which was just about the time when we learned to domesticate animals, so 8000 years ago. Back then, milk was stored in (brace yourself) animal stomachs. The natural enzymes and bacteria in the stomach would cause the milk to curdle and ferment, producing yogurt and cheese!
Yogurt has made it’s way into most nooks and crannies of the world, but it didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the 1950s and 60s, when health foods began to gain some traction. Yogurt, with its promise of being rich in probiotics and low in fat, became an American kitchen staple.
So what is Greek yogurt? Well milk is made up of casein and whey. Casein is what curdles and is used to make cheese and yogurt, while whey is the watery substance left when the milk curdles. Greek yogurt is essentially the same as regular yogurt with the addition of one critical step. At the very end, the yogurt is strained to remove the excess watery whey, creating a thicker, more protein-dense product…Greek yogurt! So while we call this variation of yogurt “Greek yogurt” in the U.S., you may see it called “strained yogurt” in other areas of the world.
How do you make Greek Yogurt?
Yogurt is a fermentation (just like our kombucha!), meaning it’s created by adding some bacteria to a sugar-containing substance and letting the bacteria eat up the sugar. The result of fermentation is always acid, gas, or alcohol. Fermentation of milk gives us acid, making for the distinctive tart flavor of yogurt.
To make Greek yogurt goes something like this.
Someday I’ll have fancy things like double boilers. Until then…we make do.
Sweet dreams, future yogurt.
First it’s normal yogurt…
…then it goes Greek!
How to Make Greek Yogurt
How to make Greek yogurt in your oven with just two simple ingredients!
- 4 cups whole milk*
- ¼ cup plain store bought yogurt ensure the container says “live” or “active” cultures, we need living bacteria to make this work!
- Some ice and water
- Medium pot with lid, aim for the heaviest/thickest pot you have
- Large pot
- Kitchen thermometer
- Mesh sieve
- Cheesecloth or thin dishcloth, coffee filters, paper towels etc. placed inside a mesh strainer
- Fill a large pot ½ full with water and set over medium-high heat. Place a medium pot into the large pot of water (or use a double boiler if you have one). We’ll warm the milk this way to prevent it from burning. Place milk into medium pot and heat to 185-200 degrees F (85-93 C), stirring frequently to preventing a skin from forming. This should take 10 to 15 minutes.
- Transfer medium pot with milk to an ice bath (I filled my sink with ice and water), to cool milk to 100-110 degrees F (37-43 C).
- Pour about ½ cup of the warm milk into a separate clean bowl. Mix in plain store bought yogurt, stirring until yogurt is well blended. Pour this back into the pot of milk and mix well.
- Cover pot with a lid, wrap in a towel to help keep in heat, and place in oven. Turn on oven light to keep warm, and let the bacteria do its yogurt making magic for 4 to 6 hours (or overnight).**
- At the end of its nap, you should open up your container to find yogurt! You can eat it like this, or strain it to make Greek yogurt. To strain, line a mesh sieve with cheesecloth (or paper towels, coffee filters etc), and pour yogurt in. Place over a large bowl and let strain in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight), until it’s reach a consistency you like.
- Scoop Greek yogurt from cloth and store in a clean, airtight container.
*Higher fat content in milk gives the yogurt a thicker consistency. Commercial low fat yogurts often have stabilizers in them to reproduce the thick, creamy consistency we all know and love. For the purpose of making yogurt at home, it’s best to use milk higher in fat.
**The oven light should be sufficient for keeping the milk warm enough for fermentation. You can also turn the oven on for 1 minute (just enough to warm things up an insy bit) every so often. We’re aiming to keep the milk/yogurt at about 100 degrees F (37 C) throughout the whole process.
Products to Help Make Greek Yogurt
Nutrition information for Greek Yogurt
per 1 container (170 g) of nonfat Greek Yogurt
- Calories: 100
- Carbohydrates: 6.1 g
- Protein: 17.3 g
- Fat: 0.7 g
- 22% Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): A water-soluble vitamin important in brain and nervous system function as well as red blood cell formation. It is only found naturally in meat and animal products, but can be made industrially via bacterial fermentation.
- 19% DV of Calcium: 1% of the calcium in your body plays a vital role in vascular contraction/dilation and nerve transmission and signalling. The other 99% supports teeth and bone structure and function.
- Added benefit: Straining out the whey removes much of the remaining lactose left after fermentation, making Greek yogurt a good option for those with mild lactose intolerance!
- McGee, Harold. “Fresh Fermented Milks and Creams.” On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Completely rev. and updated ed. New York: Scribner, 2004.
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Hi, I’m Sarah! We’re working our way through the easy vegetarian kitchen, one ingredient at a time. Learn more and follow along!
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