Homemade Greek yogurtPosted: 6 June 2011
Greek yogurt is just a fancy name for drained yogurt.
Mine’s not truly homemade since it starts with store bought yogurt.
Recipes for drained yogurt usually tell you to use a paper coffee filter or a couple of layers of cheesecloth in a strainer. While that no doubt works it sounds rather messy to me. And the idea of the yogurt sitting in a paper filter or cheese cloth for hours doesn’t appeal to me for some reason. I have a reusable coffee filter that I’d forgotten about and it works perfectly. Since it worked so well I went to the grocery store and bought some more; the new ones are better than the old one because they have tabs that hold it up. The old tabless one needs to fit just right in whatever you put it in (to catch the drainage).
The main thing you have to watch out for is that you buy a yogurt that is not made with gelatin (kosher gelatin usually). Yogurt made with pectin works. If it’s made with gelatin it never drains. There may be other thickeners you’ll find in yogurts, these two are the only ones I have experience with. I’ve also used a yogurt that didn’t have any thickener, Pavel’s,1 and it worked well.
I also haven’t tried yogurt with fruit at the bottom or mixed in fruit. I think those all had gelatin in them. So that pretty much leaves me with plain yogurt. Which also means buying the big 32 ounce tubs. The local grocery store also carries a vanilla yogurt made by Mountain High.2 It is exceptionally tasty, drained or not.
But even the wonderful vanilla yogurt is going to get boring eventually so I’ve been experimenting with flavoring it. My first idea was to make a pumpkin pie flavored yogurt. Since the flavor of pumpkin pie is the spices, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, I made a mixture of that and put it in a little jar and then added 1 teaspoon of it to a large 2 pound (32 ounce, 907 grams) tub of the vanilla yogurt. That didn’t turn out so well. It wasn’t really bad but I think that the cloves and nutmeg don’t work well with the tart yogurt flavor. I want to try it again and replace both the cloves and nutmeg with 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of allspice.
My next experiment was to use the grated zest of two oranges and two lemons in plain yogurt, with some sugar added. I have a grater that grates very finely. The grated zest is pretty much a mush with this grater which is just what is needed here. That worked, sort of, except that I should have stopped at one lemon; it was definitely too bitter from the lemon. My other grocery store had these small lemons that were two for $0.25; bigger than a lime but smaller than the regular size lemon. It might also have been better if I’d used more sugar.
For sugar I’m using crystalline fructose. (Regardless of the unscientific and unsubstantiated fear mongering3 about it that you can find on the web.) The advantage of crystalline fructose is that it has a low glycemic index and it’s twice as sweet a regular sugar so you can use half as much with half the calories. For the orange and lemon experiment I used 1/4 cup of fructose. I’m now using 1/3 cup of sugar in all of my recipes when I use the plain yogurt.
My next experiment was 1/3 cup of fructose sugar and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom.4 That was excellent. Cardamon has a citrusy, lemony flavor so in one of the filters I added a teaspoon of my orange and lemon yogurt and stirred; that was even better.
The next spice I want to try is coriander.5 It may also work well with some grated orange or lemon zest.
I also want to try the orange and lemon combination with a tablespoon or two of honey mixed in.
Yesterday I bought a bottle of almond extract. That should be interesting with the vanilla flavored yogurt; the flavor of Dr. Pepper soda is just that, a combination of vanilla and almond.
The procedure I use for making the Greek yogurt is to add the sugar if I’m starting with a plain yogurt and mix it in well with an electric hand mixer. I then take a big spoon and mix it from top to bottom in case the mixer missed anything, also making sure I get the corner around the bottom. Next I add the flavorings and mix again with the electric hand mixer followed by the big spoon. Then I spoon it into the coffee filters which are sitting in clean yogurt tubs. The best yogurt tubs are the 2 pound ones from Karoun.6 They’re wider at the top so the coffee filter sits on its tabs. With the Mountain High tubs the coffee filter sits up high and can tip if you’re not careful. The Pavel’s yogurt tubs are the same size as the Mountain High tubs; not useful. Cover the filters with the original covers, with spots cut out for the tabs.
Put them in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Every so often you can pour off the yellowish clear fluid that collects in the tubs. (I pour it in a glass and drink it. Sounds and looks gross but it tastes good.) When you pour off the clear fluid you may also want to gently stir the yogurt; often the yogurt at the bottom of the filter will be thicker and have drained more than at the top.
When you buy your yogurt check the expiration date and get the one that has the date farthest away. When you add flavorings you don’t need to immediately put the yogurt in the coffee filters; let it sit for a day in the refrigerator and let the flavors develop, then you can taste it and adjust as necessary.