Until recently, I had always used a yoghurt maker and UHT milk to make my weekly fix of yoghurt. Lately though, I’ve been inspired to try alternate methods of making it and to find ways of achieving a thicker consistency.
When I was growing up, I remember my grandmother’s Greek neighbour would often bring over her homemade yoghurt over for us to try. It was wonderfully thick and creamy, almost cheese-like in consistency. The yoghurt I made in my yoghurt maker just did not compare in any way. I tried prolonging the fermentation period and even experimented with different full-cream milks to no avail.
After conducting some research, I figured out why my previous efforts to achieve a thicker consistency had been in vain. My grandmother’s neighbour did not have a yoghurt maker and based on the information I came across, I doubt she cared about extending the fermentation time. Her yoghurt would always arrive at my grandmother’s place tightly wrapped in a cloth. In hindsight, I realise the purpose of that cloth. That is, to strain and remove all the whey from the yoghurt. This was the secret to her thick yoghurt. There was no need at all to add cream, milk powder or any other thickening agent as many recipes claim.
Here is how I’ve been making my Greek-style yoghurt:
- 1 litre fresh full cream milk
- a yoghurt starter[i]containing active yoghurt cultures (streptococcus termophilius and lactobacillus bulgaricus)
- a heavy-bottomed saucepan
- a whisk
- a cooking thermometer
- a colander
- a muslin cheesecloth
- a large bowl
- Bring milk to just below boiling point.
- Remove saucepan from heat and leave to cool until milk is 37-40 degrees Celsius.
- Add yoghurt culture to milk and whisk it into milk mixture thoroughly.
- Cover saucepan with lid and wrap a blanket or tablecloth around it.
- Place covered saucepan in a warm place (such as a cupboard or an oven that has been turned off for a while) and leave to ferment for at least 7-8 hours.
- Place colander inside large bowl and line it with muslin cheesecloth.
- Pour yoghurt mixture into cheesecloth.
- Put bowl with colander in refrigerator. Leave yoghurt to strain for at least 2 hours.
[i] You can choose from three types of yoghurt starter: 1. A natural commercial yoghurt (preferably full cream) with a use by date as far into the future as possible; 2. From a yoghurt you have made yourself; 3. From a freeze-dried yoghurt culture (available from chemists or specialist health food shops).