There are so many pleasures that come from buying foods in their freshest and purest form. You’ll have fresh bread baked from stone-milled grains (found at your local grain mill), preserves and jams from in-season fruits, and jars of canned in-season veggies to line your cupboards. Yum! Preparing meals with straight-from-the-farm ingredients can take a small commitment of time each week to preserve or use foods when they're freshest, but the health benefits are immeasurable.
Yogurt has so many health benefits...
Just like with grains, fruits and veggies, there are also ways to use fresh local milk (besides pouring it on your Cheerios). I wouldn't recommend trying to churn your own butter, or making your own wheel of cheese ....leave that to the experts, but you can make your own yogurt. Yogurt has so many health benefits, that it deserves a spot in your daily regimen. Yogurt contains protein, fiber, probiotic bacterial cultures for digestive health, vitamin D, calcium, and the list goes on.
Here’s a quick comparison of the ingredients in both regular and organic store-bought yogurt.
Ingredients in regular store-bought yogurt (ex: Dannon Light & Fit Cherry Yogurt):
- nonfat yogurt
- vitamin A
- vitamin D3
- natural flavorings
- Modified food starch
- fructose (if chemically derived –Dannon doesn’t specify)
- kosher gelatin (made from ground up animal parts - Pectin is the preferred, plant-based
- modified corn starch
- artificial flavorings
- caramel color (same cancer causing caramel color as in soda?)
- malic acid
- potassium sorbate
- red 40
- blue 1
- sodium citrate
Ingredients in organic store-bought yogurt (ex: Stonyfield Plain Yogurt):
- Cultured pasteurized organic whole milk
- pectin (this is plant-based as opposed to gelatin which is animal-based)
- vitamin D3
If you’re trying to live organically and provide the best quality foods for your family, organic yogurt is the way to go. However, buying organic yogurt every week can get pretty pricey, plus there is so much waste as you empty the little yogurt containers every day, that while you’re doing right by your body, you may not be doing right by the environment. Making your own yogurt is beneficial not only for saving money and protecting the environment, it is also a great way to use seasonal fruits, and experiment with different flavors as they are in season (Apple cinnamon yogurt?). Additionally buying whole milk from a local dairy farm brings the organic locavore process full circle.
The process of yogurt making is surprisingly easy...
For organic yogurt making, you'll want to start with milk that's from a farm which practices pasture-raised farming methods so your yogurt will be free of rBGH and other bad stuff. The process of yogurt making is surprisingly easy and can benefit your family in so many ways. What would you say to turning 6oz of store-bought yogurt into 1 quart of homemade yogurt...6 times over? It’s true! See the attachment at end of this article for details on how to make homemade yogurt.
To make yogurt, you'll need a few things (many of which you probably already have).
- 2 tablespoons of store bought yogurt
- 1 ice cube tray
- A wire whisk
- A sauce pan, at least 4 qt capacity
- 1 quart of farm fresh milk
- 1 electric heating pad, preferably without an auto-off feature
- 1 thick bath towel
- 1 quart sized jar with a tight fitting lid (mason jars work great!)
- A thermometer that will read temperatures between 90° F and 110° F (candy or meat thermometer should be fine).
Preserving yogurt starter:
Before you begin, preserve the remaining store bought yogurt. Yogurt freezes very well, and the active cultures in yogurt will survive for many
months in the freezer.
With a clean ice cube tray, use a tablespoon of water to measure the volume of each cube in your tray. Some cubes hold 1 tablespoon, but others hold 2 tablespoons. Once you know the volume of your cubes, you'll know how many cubes to use the next time you make yogurt.
Fill the cubes in your tray with organic store-bought yogurt, leaving 1oz (2 tablespoons) out to make yogurt, then set in freezer. If your tray doesn't have a cover, you might want to pop the frozen cubes from the tray and store in a freezer bag.
Ok, now that your starter is preserved, let's get to the fun part!
YOGURT DIRECTIONS (PDF)
Flavoring with the seasons:
Winter – Apple cinnamon, Clementine, Cinnamon Pear
Spring – Mango, Banana, Pineapple, Strawberry
Summer – Apricot, Currant, Blueberry, Cherry, Concord Grape
Fall – Cranberry, Pomegranate, Sweet Potato (you gotta try it!)
Flavoring homemade yogurt is always to taste. I encourage you to mix flavors and even add vanilla extract, cinnamon, or minced ginger for added flavor (and added digestive support). Some fruits are best heated first with some sweetness added; others are perfect straight from the market. Remember plain yogurt is a bit tart (at least for my taste), so I always sweeten with either honey or raw sugar.
Berries work best when heated till there natural juices form a light syrup. Add some raw sugar during the heating process to sweeten and enhance the natural flavors, then mix into the plain yogurt. Again, this is to taste. Think pie filling ….
Tree fruit (Pear, apple, cherry, apricot):
Divide the fruit in half. Puree the first half in a food processor with some honey (or preferred sweetener), then chop up the other half. Mix directly with plain yogurt.
Highly acidic fruits (orange, pineapple, clementines):
Acidic fruits can react with the yogurt and cause separation. In this case I’d recommend adding some pectin to emulsify the two so they will blend well. Add small amount of pectin to chopped or pureed fruits, blend well, then add small bits of yogurt to the fruit mixture. If they separate after vigorous mixing, add more pectin until the two blend nicely.
Seeded fruits (pomegranate, concord grape, currant):
Remove seeds from fruit, use a food processor to get a soft puree, leaving some chunky fruit bits if desired. Sweeten with honey or preferred sweetener, mix directly with yogurt.
The final step….ENJOY!