Homemade Bulgarian Yogurt (Part 2)

I decided not to photograph my first yogurt making attempt by myself because I didn’t want to add pressure process. Truthfully, I had a few snafus with my first try and part of that is due to my inefficient multitasking.  I was making bread, weeding the garden and “watching” the milk pasteurize… well, it over boiled (212 F/100 C) and made a complete mess, but that wasn’t the most disheartening element. The milk spilled onto my digital thermometer (which I am slightly obsessed with) and caused it to go funky.  I didn’t realize this until the next day when I took it out of the bundle of fermenting yogurt jars, which means that my yogurt didn’t ferment at the 86 F (30 C) like I had intended.  The yogurt did set and was pretty good, but I needed another batch to be compare probably due to the low fermenting temperature.  My daughter didn’t have any issue and proceeded to eat the rest of the jar with a little muesli.

I manage to recalibrate my thermometer with the help of my husband.  I did a few tests to ensure that it was calibrated: I put it in boiling water and it hit 212 F/ 100 C, then I put it in the oven and checked it against my oven thermometer and the set oven temperature and all seemed OK. Though I still didn’t trust it 100%,  I was now ready for my second attempt, which I will photograph and apply my knowledge from my first and subsequent attempts .
First thing you need is to find a source for your milk.  My mother in-law has a connection that delivers raw milk to our house every Tuesday, which is convenient or you can find milk sellers around town very early in the morning (if you live in Bulgaria).
Because of the incident with the thermometer, the milk that I had delivered ended up sitting in fridge for 3 days, while I worked on my thermometer and I think the waiting negatively effected the final outcome of the yogurt. So, here are the steps that I followed, which I cross referenced with McGee’s On Food and Cooking.

Homemade Bulgarian Yogurt

Raw Milk (I use 4 liters)
Large stainless steel or enamel pot, with a lip, heavy-bottomed is preferable.
Sterilized jars with lids.
Digital thermometer
Woolen blankets to wrap jars

Pour milk into pot and heat on stovetop at a medium-high temperature.  Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon because certain metals might react with the milk.  It is important to cook the milk to give the yogurt a firmer or more congealed constancy. This can be achieved by a prolonged boil or adding dried milk powder and keeping the temperature at 185F/85C for 30 minutes or at 195F/90C for 10 minutes.  Obviously, I over boiled the milk on my first try, but on my second try I maintained 195F for 10 minutes.

Skim off the butter/fat frequently and save for butter making

After that I let the milk cool to about 100F/38C.  During the cooling process, I frequently skimmed off as much of the fat clusters as I could see, which I reserved to make a really small amount of butter.  Then I poured the milk into the clean jars.

More butter for skimming

To the heated milk about 95F – 90F/35-32C I added a healthy tablespoon of the older yogurt for a starter and stirred completely, screwed on the lids tightly and wrapped up my “baby”.

I was so focused on the milk tempurature that I forgot to find some wool blankets and instead I thought I would experiment with some of the many children’s beach towels that are all over my house thanks to my future architects/ tent makers. I also had a freezer bag, which I hoped with also help lock in the heat.  Then wrapped my thermometer up inside of the the yogurt bundle, so I can monitor the warmth.

Layer one – Dora
The “baby”
Layer two – Arial
The final layer

According to McGee, if you want to have a firmer yogurt with less whey (the clear/yellowish liquid that forms on the yogurt)  The optimal fermenting temperature is 86F/30C for the bacteria to form strong bonds then allowing the yogurt to ferment for about 18 hours.  I had trouble maintaining the temperature and by the end the temperature inside my bag was about 70F/21C.

After the 18 hour resting period, I put the yogurt in the fridge to chill until someone was hungry, which didn’t take long.  My daughter Maya is my best taste tester.  She uses yogurt in lieu of milk, so instead of cereal with milk, she has cereal with yogurt.  When I first open the jar, I skim off the left over butter/fatty bits that I missed to reveal the silky white goodness that is homemade yogurt.  I took a taste before giving it to her, just in case I did something wrong, but no it was delicious.

In my opinion, the greatest difference in yogurt outcome rested with the heating process. The yogurt had a firmer texture and tasted better, almost sweeter when I let the milk boil over (by accident).  I am wondering if the prolonged boiling caramelized the lactose in the milk, which gave it that subtle sweetness?  I am going to make some more yogurt tomorrow and I have a new trick up my sleeve about maintaining the fermenting temperature… stay tuned for part 3!

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Author: caseyangelova

Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria www.caseyangelova.com

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