Yogurt or Yoghurt, or Laban (arabic name mostly known in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine), or may be Zabadi (Egyptian version) is all refers to what is called the “Wonder Food”.
Yogurt, for long time ago, has formed an essential part in the diet of most middle eastern household. Making yogurt from scratch is regular activity and tradition, and until todays, even if it is easy to find at stores.
Yogurt simply is fermented milk which varies in taste, texture, and appearance depending on the specific bacterial culture used in fermenting, and the type of milk used. That’s why it considered naturally sour.
Making yogurt from scratch is easy and economic, only two ingredients are needed to make yogurt: milk and starter (yogurt culture)
Starter -Yogurt from previous homemade batch can be used as starter, it must have the active bacteria known as Lactobacillus acidophilus (some store type yogurt doesn’t have the active culture, it made by adding gelatin and starch as thickening agent, so try to avoid these type when choosing the starter to make yogurt).
Milk–Yogurt can be made with any animal milk (cow, goat, sheep), and nowadays there is the none dairy product milk that is using the soy milk to make the yogurt.
The cow’s milk is the most commonly used to make yogurt, it’s considered medium in thickness and flavor according to the other types of milk, also cows milk yogurt can be made with any level of fat content–whole, 2%, 1% or skim. Whole milk will always yield a better overall taste (richer) and texture (thicker) than lower fat versions.
In middle east, the sheep milk is widely used, it’s considered more sweet than cow’s milk, it is more thicker because the fat content is higher and more nutritious as Vitamins A, E, D, and K are found in milk fat.
The goat milk is the less in thickness and flavor than cows milk, more soar too, it has more water content compared to fat and protein.
temperature - The process of making yogurt require a suitable certain temp between 110-120 f for the milk to activate the bacteria and set it to work, also maintain the same warm temp for the whole incubation period to help ferment the milk.
Incubation Methods - Yogurt need between 8-10 hours to ferment in warm temp, this process called incubation. There are many methods that can be used to achieve the constant warm incubation temp that insure a thick yogurt:
I normally use the oven to incubate my yogurt, after adding the starter wrap the bowl with clean cloth and put it in the oven, preheat the oven to 5 min and then turned it off and let the starter do the magic. To keep the yogurt in constant warm temp I turn the light of the oven on and preheat the oven every 3-4 hours and turn it off.
It is very important too to keep the yogurt from any disturbing during the process.
Sometimes I use a cooler filled with warm water to incubate the yogurt especially if making the yogurt over night, the cooler will keep the water temp suitable enough to keep the yogurt warm to ferment.
Other methods found over the net is by using:
A food dehydrator
A crock pot
A heating pad
Health and Nutrition:
Yogurt is more nutritious than milk, a cup of yogurt a day keeps the digestive system healthy as it is utilized by the body as twice as fast as milk. No wonder it is called a natural antibiotic.
Yogurt is an excellent source of:
Probiotics (great for digestion and immunity)
Protein (content varies from batch to batch)
Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium (great for bone and teeth strength and overall health)
vitamins A, B, D, and E (for skin health)
In middle eastern cuisine, yogurt is used in everything from appetizers to salads to drinks. It’s customary to place on the table a bowl of fresh yogurt. It’s eaten on it’s own or spoon it over salads like Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate and Yogurt or dishes of cooked vegetables or grains, mixed with herbs to make thick sauces like Mint and Cucumber Yogurt Dip.
Cooked yogurt is very well known as many dishes use it as cooking liquid or sauce like Cauliflower and Beef stew with Yogurt Sauce.
It’s also used to make the yogurt cheese, a middle eastern well known thickened yogurt dip, and yogurt cheese balls (the recipe comming later).
I love the way my yogurt always turned out! Nice thick and creamy, smooth, sweet and tangy. It’s really magic.
I used whole milk, and add some cream for more fat content, heated it and brought it to about 115 f, added my starter yogurt (usually Dannon-plain) wraped it with towel and put it in preheated oven then turned it off with the light turned on. Every 2-3 hours reheated the oven for 5 min and turned it off.
Let the yogurt set and incubate from 8-10 hours depends how sour you like the yogurt, also long incubation make yogurt more thick texture and more sour. Then put in refregerator to cool and set.
Always save some yogurt as it can be used as the starter for your next batch.
1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup fresh cream (liquid whipping cream)
1/3 cup yogurt starter
Dash of salt
Place milk in heavy saucepan (not aluminum) over medium heat. Bring to about 120 f, being careful not to let milk scorch (no need to stir).
Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Milk is ready if you can count to ten comfortably when you immerse your little finger into the milk, about 110-115 f.
If milk is too cool return to heat and warm slightly, if too hot leave aside for a while longer to cool down. Blend yogurt starter with some warm milk, add it to the rest of warm milk, stir well.
Yogurt mixer may be left in the same pot to set. Cover with lid and a blanket. Place in a spot where mixture will not be disturbed for 8-10 hours, or until set.
Place in refrigerator to cool, taste will vary according to age of starter.