A bit over a week ago, I had finished a round of making cheese and then soda bread. With around a cup whey still leftover from the bread, I sought other ways to use it while still fresh.
Note that I could have drunk it, as many people do, in a smoothie; however, I’m personally not fond of the taste of acidic whey.
Back to my point, I did find that you could potentially use whey for making yogurt. And then my brain started ticking even faster. Faster than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” I had yanked out both my Instant Pot and the user’s manual. The mysterious little button for “yogurt” had always intrigued me, but I had also feared the potential complexity of such an undertaking. Surely, it wouldn’t be that bad?
According to the recipe I had, it didn’t appear to have much in the way of smoke-and-mirrors at all: boil the milk, bring the temperature down, add a starter (in this case, whey), allow time to ferment, chill, and then store.
Simple enough. Or so trundled my “think-I-can” train of thought up the mountain of delicious discoveries.
Before I continue, a very special thanks for this post goes to Kim! Her kind donation to the blog went directly towards materials for the yogurt-making project.
Well, I did have an extra quart of goat’s milk that I needed to use soon… so I went for it.
Trial 1: The Slapdash Attempt
With only an idle note that one could use whey for yogurt, I halved a recipe to fit a quart of milk and got to it. Boiled the milk, prepped for fermentation, everything checked out. However, I had concerns that the thinness of the whey meant that fewer active cultures were sitting around the liquid. Without a way to know for sure, I doubled the amount for the ferment and set up the Instant Pot to go for eight hours. If all went to plan, I could have yogurt in four hours.
Did I mention I started this at about 7 PM on a work night? Oooooops…
Four hours later, as you might guess, yogurt I did not have. The notes from Simply Recipes cautioned that it could take up to twelve hours for something to happen and thus, resigned to the fate I had assigned myself, set several alarms throughout the night.
I promptly went to sleep and awakened in three-hour intervals, only to find more disappointment each time. By hour nine or ten, stuff had started to happen. To be more specific, a film had begun to form over the milk — which is normal — but it hadn’t yet shown signs of setting.
Fast forward to my normal wake-up time. I didn’t feel at all comfortable letting the Instant Pot continue fermenting away during my ten-hour shift at work. Part of my brain considered just taking the thing to work with me and monitoring it there, but I had a feeling that that wouldn’t go over well in the break room.
(I’m already considered quite the weirdo, which I don’t mind so much, but the resident strange-oid doesn’t need to bring her “science experiments” with her. The unfinished ones, at least.)
And so, with great consternation, and perhaps a few choice epithets, I dumped the lot in the sink.
A week passed, and during that time I tossed around ideas and hit the books, assessing my potential reasons for failure:
- The whey, while fresh, may not have had enough active cultures for fermentation.
- I potentially misjudged the ratio of whey to milk needed for the ferment.
- The yogurt didn’t have enough time to ferment.
Trial 2: The Yogurtening
As the week crept to the next Saturday with DMV-sloth level slowness, excitement grew to a fever pitch as I at last could purchase a new quart of goat’s milk at the farmer’s market and bring it home.
The new plan:
- Start the yogurt EARLIER in the day.
- Use a bit of store-bought yogurt with active cultures as my starter, and then build from there.
- Pray that I didn’t have to wake up throughout the night again to monitor the results.
With one attempt under my belt and a smattering of confidence that I could streamline the process the second time, I rolled up my sleeves and began anew.
This time, I boiled the milk successfully by 1 PM, and then I added a tablespoon of Fage yogurt. Yes, that means that this wouldn’t start out as 100% goat’s milk yogurt, but over time the starter would develop a higher percentage of goat vs. cow.
We’re also talking about a tablespoon to a quart here. It’s really not that much to jumpstart fermentation, in my mind.
After four hours, I was pleased to see that the active cultures had taken hold more rapidly and a skin had already formed over the milk. However, it was nowhere close to setting, so I continued to wait.
When 11 PM hit, I bit the bullet and prepared myself for another round of late night alarms. My best hope lay in a finished fermentation by the time I woke up, so that I could give the yogurt time to cool to room temperature and then toss it into the fridge on my way out the door.
Rude awakenings ensued at 2 AM, 4 AM and then finally at seven on Tuesday morning; once I punched my alarm the final time, I found that I did in fact have an Instant Pot full of yogurt. And gosh, did it smell wonderfully tangy, too!
All had fully chilled by the time I arrived home in the evening and removed it from the fridge. After considering the idea of straining it for more of a Greek-style consistency, I lined my strainer with cheesecloth and let it go for about two hours.
Unfortunately, not much whey had separated from the yogurty mass, but I fully admit to impatience after over 24 hours of work (despite very little hands-on during that time). Into a glass container it went after a good whisk so it could travel with me to work for breakfast, with a tiny portion in a separate container to use as starter for the next batch.
Lessons learned the second time:
- Yogurt-making is seriously a two-day affair. PLAN BETTER.
- Despite the aforementioned point, the “making” process remained ridiculously easy.
- Supposedly, fermentation and such will progress more quickly with fresher starter.
Will I do this again?
Heck yes. Yogurt is fun and tasty; moreover, I can research creative ways to use it in baking and cuisine as well as for the usual breakfast or dessert options.
Everyone needs a good dose of probiotics in their diet, so let’s see what making my own fresh yogurt does for me!
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