How Do I Set My Yogurt Right? Vitaclay's Quick Fix For Your Yogurt Problems + Easy Slow Cooker Recipe

yogurt maker

Is your yogurt not turning out right? Does it seem runny or separate or too foamy? Is it too sour or not sour enough? Is it thick enough? Why does it have a funny smell? We know how frustrating it is making trying to make a perfect homemade yogurt only for it to end in disaster, so we outlined a few tips on how you can overcome common problems. You can use the VitaClay Express cooker - an all-in-one crock pot, slow cooker, and pressure cooker, and now yogurt maker to achieve the perfect homemade yogurt. 

What do you need?

In order to have your yogurt set correctly, you begin with milk and starter culture.  Starter culture is typically freeze-dried yogurt that contains live active bacteria that differ in flavors or in a multitude of beneficial bacteria. Though there are many varieties of yogurts out there to choose from, each having their own unique characteristics, these variants share the same benefit of producing a cultured dairy product loaded with food enzymes, high B vitamins, and valuable beneficial bacteria.  Once cultured with a powdered starter, the yogurt you have prepared can be used as your starter to make your own homemade yogurt. Note that this does not apply to raw milk yogurt. You will also need milk commonly from any mammalian milk, cow’s and goat’s milk.

Note: Don’t be tempted to add more cultures to the yogurt to increase the probiotic content, this won’t guarantee success! Yogurt cultures have been precisely balanced to achieve a particular result in terms of taste and consistency. Additional strains can weaken or even kill off the yogurt cultures. In the worst case scenario, it may even develop into yogurt that is not safe for consumption.

The difference between ‚ÄúThermophilic‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúMesophilic‚ÄĚ yogurts.

There are a few differences on how yogurts¬†can be made. For instance, thermophilic yogurts are ‚Äúheat-loving‚ÄĚ and cultures best at slightly elevated temperatures of 108 ‚Äď 112 F. ¬†Yogurt bought at the stores and Greek and Bulgarian yogurts fit into this category. ¬†On the other hand, mesophilic yogurts culture best at room temperatures¬†of 68 ‚Äď 78 F. ¬†These include viili, matsoni, piima and other styles.

When is your yogurt done?

Now, you've decided to try to make yogurt. How is it? Once you culture your yogurt following the recommended period of time (8 to 12 hours for thermophilic, and 24 to 48 hours for room temperature yogurt), you’ll notice that portions carve away from the sides of the container when you tilt the container.  This means that the proteins have coagulated. That’s when you’ll know your yogurt has finished culturing. That’s it, it’s done!

Why is my raw milk yogurt runny or lumpy?

Though runny or liquid texture is a natural state of raw milk yogurt, there are other reasons why this happens. First, raw milk is rich in food enzymes that keep digesting the milk, which produces runny or liquid yogurt. Second, raw milk’s proteins may not have been successfully denatured through heat.  Milk denatures its proteins through scalding or pasteurizing allowing them to be reorganized and better coagulated while in the culturing process. There are also instances that your yogurt separates or gets lumpy. This happens when yogurt is cultured at a very high temperature for too long, or when it’s done with an unreliable or compromised starter culture. If this happens, the first thing you can do is remove the whey by straining it, then using a whisk, beat the yogurt solids in a bowl until it turns smooth.  Note that you should use a purchased powdered starter or a fresh starter no older than 1 week as the cultures in yogurt may deteriorate and may not be as effective at culturing milk after a week. This will affect the outcome as to the style of yogurt you want to achieve. Always culture yogurt at the right temperature according to its style, shown above.

Too sour or not sour enough?

It’s frustrating when you can’t get the desired taste out of your yogurt. At times, it gets too sour, while other times it’s not sour enough for your preference. When culturing yogurt, the temperature and duration of culturing affects the taste; the hotter and the longer time it’s cultured, the more sour it may become. If this happens, you can culture it at a lower temperature and for a shorter period until the desired flavor is achieved. If you like it sourer, you can simply culture it longer until it acquires the sourness you prefer. But you should remember when culturing time is increased, the yogurt may separate or turn lumpy.

My yogurt is foamy/stringy and it smells like beer/bread!

If this is your outcome, it’s possibly contaminated by yeast which could be from baking or wild yeast that is naturally present in your home and on your hands. You can prevent this by using only clean equipment and maintaining good hygiene in the kitchen. If you love baking yeast-based bread (including sourdoughs), you should skip doing so on the day you make yogurt. This will ensure there is no cross-contamination.

Avoid getting grainy or gritty, even moldy yogurt!

The weird gritty or grainy texture of yogurt usually indicates that the milk is heated too fast. So the next time you make yogurt, give time for the milk to come to 180 F more slowly. Heating the milk slowly results in creamier yogurt. Having a moldy yogurt, on the other hand, is a rarer incidence when making room temperature yogurts. This happens when using jars and utensils that aren’t thoroughly clean, using old milk which is not properly heated and cooled down following correct culturing procedure, or when a compromised starter culture is used. If there are molds in your yogurt, it's better discard the yogurt and begin anew with a new starter using clean materials and following correct guidelines.

Can all milk be used to make homemade yogurt?

You can use any mammalian milk to make traditional and room temperature yogurts.  There’s no need to make adjustments to the recipe as they will all come out the same way. Cow’s milk and goat’s milk are commonly used for this style. As for yogurts made from non-dairy milk, looking for a starter culture designed for non-dairy milk is another worry. Though non-dairy milk can also culture, they don’t thicken naturally compared to dairy-based yogurts. You’ll need to add gelatin, agar or another thickener.

Ensure quality; heat your pasteurized milk!

Pasteurized milk can possibly become contaminated with stray microbes during packing after pasteurization is complete. Scalding pasteurized milk prior to making yogurt is effective to ensure you get the best quality of your yogurt.  Bring the milk to 180 F and then cool it down to the appropriate temperature to kill any stray microbes. You can rest assured the milk will not be contaminated as it cultures.

Make yogurt thicker

Using whole milk or adding cream to your whole milk yogurt can make it thicker. You can also add milk powder but take note, it’s refined and has oxidized cholesterol, so if you’re not confident about using it, then don’t. Straining your yogurt can make it thicker too. Do this by placing a fine-mesh sieve over a large mixing bowl lining the sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth or a single layer of butter muslin (if you have one) then pouring the yogurt into the muslin-lined sieve letting it sit until your preferred thickness is achieved (about 6 to 18 hours). Straining removes some of the water, leaving the fats and proteins behind so, the longer you drain the whey, the thicker your yogurt will become. Note: Don't discard the whey as there are lots of ways you can make use of it.

You can also use these thickeners:

Milk Solids (from cow,¬†goat, and soy varieties): You can add this to milk before heating and culturing. For fresh cow milk, 3-4 cups fresh cow milk¬†should use¬†¬Ĺ-1 cup powdered milk.¬†For fresh goat milk or soy milk, add ¬ľ-¬Ĺ cup powdered milk. When using milk solids, you don‚Äôt need additional heating or additives. Also, it does not introduce other ingredients. Note that since powdered milk is processed, it‚Äôs not suitable for raw yogurt.

Gelatin: You may also add this to milk before heating and culturing. For every¬†3-4 cups milk,¬†sprinkle¬†1 tablespoon¬†of gelatin¬†into 1 cup of cold milk.¬†Gelatin must be¬†activated first by heating it to at least 95‚ĀįF. Mix them well to combine.¬†Make sure when culturing yogurts at room temperature to allow the milk to¬†cool to the culturing temperature¬†before you add starter culture. Using gelatin lets you achieve a very thick, commercial-style texture with a neutral taste.¬† This is great to use on raw milk yogurt as it doesn‚Äôt need to be heated beyond the raw threshold. The only con for this is that it‚Äôs not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

Pectin:Prepare this thickener in¬†milk before heating and culturing. To make¬†1 quart¬†of yogurt, pour¬†2 cups of milk¬†into a blender then add¬†1-2 teaspoons pectin¬†(depends on the type of pectin), and blend until incorporated.¬†You may then add¬†it to the rest of the milk and¬†heat to 140‚ĀįF.¬†Cool¬†to culturing temperature and¬†add culture. This is the best option for vegan yogurts which acquires consistent results, gives texture similar to gelatin and can be very thick. For those who have a citrus allergy, this is not advisable. The standard (sugar-set) pectin has a great effect on the flavor of the yogurt and it requires large amounts of sugar. This is not suitable for making raw yogurt.

Agar:This is added to milk before heating and culturing. For every¬†3-4 cups milk, dissolve¬†¬Ĺ teaspoon powdered agar¬†into the milk then heat¬†to¬†190‚ĀįF¬†and hold for¬†10 minutes.¬†Cool¬†to culturing temperature and¬†add culture. This is low allergen and good for vegan options but not suitable for making raw yogurt. Note that the texture may be inconsistent and may also require a longer heating period to work properly.

Guar Gum:Add this to milk before culturing or to yogurt after it's cultured. For every 3-4 cups milk, add 1 teaspoon guar gum to cold milk before heating and culturing. You can also add it to milk after heating, but make sure the milk is cooled first. Another way is to add 1 teaspoon guar gum per 3-4 cups of cultured yogurt. Guar Gum does not require heating to work, so it’s convenient for making raw yogurt. The texture is not smooth compared to other methods and it requires thorough blending to avoid lumps.

Tapioca Starch: Add this to milk before heating and culturing. For¬†3-4 cups of milk, dissolve¬†2 tablespoons tapioca starch¬†into the milk and¬†heat¬†to¬†140‚ĀįF.¬†Cool¬†to culturing temperature then add culture. Tapioca starch is easier to find than other products and it‚Äôs a good choice for vegans.

Note:It can be very inconsistent and will fail if overheated, but it must reach at least 140‚ĀįF¬†to work.

Arrowroot Starch:Add this to milk before heating and culturing. For¬†3-4 cups¬†of¬†non-dairy milk, dissolve¬†1¬Ĺ-2 tablespoons of arrowroot starch¬†into the milk and¬†heat¬†to¬†140‚ĀįF.¬†Cool¬†to culturing temperature and¬†add culture. This is a good option for non-dairy milk but not recommended for use with dairy milk.

Ultra-Gel¬†(modified corn starch): Add this to cooled milk after¬†heating milk and before culturing. For¬†3-4 cups¬†milk, add¬†¬ľ cup Ultra-gel¬†to the milk¬†after¬†it has been¬†heated¬†and¬†cooled.¬†Mix¬†it well to combine. It‚Äôs easy to find and does not appear to require heat to work giving consistent results. It‚Äôs highly processed, though. You can also regular corn starch, but it is not particularly stable and may yield an odd consistency.

Adding fat to your yogurt may help make it thicker. The use of whole milk will result in a thicker yogurt than skim milk. You can also add cream to the milk or use it in place of milk to increase the fat content. Since the heavy cream is too low in lactose to sustain an heirloom culture long-term, make sure to refresh the starter in whole or 2% milk after 2-4 batches if you decide to use this as an option.

Problem solved? I bet you’re excited to make it all right and just started taking notes of what you just need. You might be wondering what should you try first. Well, here’s a bonus from VitaClay!; we have an easy slow cooker recipe for yogurt Go for healthy options with this Vegan Coconut Yogurt best cooked in the Vitaclay slow cooker which functions as a yogurt maker!

yogurt recipe for pressure cooker

Get the recipe here:

Enjoy cooking!

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