I have a cow. I've never met her, which is kinda sad actually, but she produces some pretty lovely milk. Once a week in a secret location we pick up the milk which is locked up in refrigerators in a dark out of the way spot in the middle of the city. No money changes hands for the milk itself, its simply a by product of our ownership of said cow. Raw milk is what I'm talking about, which is illegal to sell. We own a share in the cow, but no milk is technically sold. These are quite extreme lengths to go through for milk, which is saying something for the number of people interested in this product. I'm sure you think I'm living on the edge with this raw milk thing. That's okay, while I won't be backpacking in Iraq or base jumping off a high rise anytime soon, there's a few calculated risks I'm happy to take. And raw milk is so worth it!*
Apparently raw milk is the enemy to all human kind, these days, and often takes a beating in the press, depending on what kind of press I should say. I tend to tune most of it out, mostly because I have some fairly strong opinions about the subject, which you won't hear about here. I've always wanted this site to be a "positive" forum and I've chosen to keep food politics out of it. There's plenty of other places to find that online. However, these farmers have had to go through a lot to make sure our raw milk supply is still safe and available to those of us who want it, and I think they deserve credit for it. Not many of us would voluntarily stack themselves up against constant governmental scrutiny and public misunderstanding while trying to make a living providing a product that, looking at the amount of milk at the milk-depot, has significant demand.
I didn't grow up on a farm. The closest I got to farm animals would have been the dairy cows at D- Dutchmen Dairy or the IPE as a child. I didn't know much beyond 2% milk until well into adulthood, so raw milk was certainly not something I was familiar to. Homogenized milk was simply "that gross stuff that Gramma drank" - she grew up on a farm, and knew something I wouldn't for years to come. I certainly wasn't accustomed to anything that tasted so decidedly of milk, and I really hated having a glass of milk with dinner, knowing early-on there were better things to drink with a meal - like wine!
This milk is just so lovely. The flavour is as milk should be - fresh, complex and sweet. With it in my fridge I've been enjoying an exciting foray into the world of homemade dairy products, including yoghurt. Raw milk yoghurt is the most amazing yoghurt you can imagine and it reminds me of the beautiful artisanal yoghurts I've enjoyed in France. Spooning a full fat dairy product out of the cutest little glass bottles with a morning croissant, is pure joy. And until I began making my own, it was difficult to find any yoghurt at home that even came close to the flavour of those dairy dreams.
This yoghurt is so easy to make, most of the time is simply waiting. What results is a pure yoghurt without any additions of sugar, stabilizers or flavourings. This means I can flavour as I like. Stir in a few tablespoons of homemade jam for instant strawberry yoghurt, add vanilla and honey to top your granola or fold in apple sauce to top your oatmeal. It also makes great frozen yoghurt!
I like to keep my gadgets to a minimum and this recipe is for those of us without a yoghurt making machine, because you simply don't need it. Yoghurt is a simple process of heating milk, adding a culture and then keeping it at temperature for a few hours. I use an electric heating pad for this, something you might find odd, but actually has many uses outside of its intended purpose. I first purchased a heating pad to keep my seeds warm when starting my own herbs indoors and since then it has been used for keeping tempered chocolate warm, helping bread dough rise, and now for yoghurt.
Here's what I do....
Homemade (Raw Milk) Yoghurt
Of course you can make this with any milk, but I would recommend Organic milk from as close to home as possible, and use a great tasting yoghurt as well without gelatin. Keep in mind homemade yoghurt will have a loser texture than storebought which uses gelatin and pectin to keep it more solid.
3 cups milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt, any fat content
1. Find a plastic bag large enough to hold your heating pad. The thicker the better, but don't worry, its not going to be hot enough to cause any damage to the plastic. You just want it to act as a sleeve to keep it clean.
2. Remove yogurt from the fridge. This will help it come to room temperature while you heat and cool the milk.
3. Heat the milk in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave for about 5 minutes on high or in a small saucepan on the stove top over med-high heat. Either way you want to bring it to just boiling and then remove it from the heat. Leave on the counter for about 30 minutes, this is about how long it might take to cool down to the right temperature in order to safely add the culture. Keep a thermometer in the mixture, and stir it often to facilitate cooling.
4. When the mixture reaches 110 degrees, pour into a 1 litre mason jar. Whisk in yoghurt to thoroughly combine.
5. Squish up your plastic wrapped heating pad into a bowl to snugly hold your jar wrapped in the heating pad. The bowl simple keeps the heating pad in contact with the jar. Switch on heating pad to med-high.
6. Do not disturb the mixture. Keep a thermometer in the mixture and keep it at 100 degrees F. You will start the heating pad at med high and then drop it down to medium. Adjust it as you need to. You may have to start it at high if the mixture has cooled down quite a bit, then turn down when it starts to rise. Too much heat can create a grainy product so a gentle heat is desired and keeping a consistent 100degrees is important. It will take about 5-8 hours for the yoghurt to set. When finished a clear whey will have formed on the top and when you insert or remove the thermometer you will notice a texture like a just set custard. Refrigerate several hours until cool.
7. When you have enjoyed most of your yoghurt, remember to hold back 1/3 cup yoghurt for your next batch.
*Even I know better than to serve raw milk to seniors, pregnant women, young children or anyone else immuno-compromised.