My First Creamery Experience: Working (Theoretically) with the Milkmaid! (Part 1)
8 AM this morning I anxiously awoke, excited for my first adventure with a new cookbook. Louella Hill’s book “Kitchen Creamery: Making Yogurt, Butter, and Cheese at Home” sparked my motivation to pursue my love of cooking (and she herself provoked my creation of this blog!) I read her introduction intently, trying to draw in all of the information my morning-mind could handle, before I decided to start easy: Yogurt.
I had decided actually yesterday to do some sort of creamy substance instead of starting right with cheese. In fact, the first part of her book (marked “easy”) is mainly Yogurt and Kaffir! I read the first recipe as well as the variations, and decided on my first pick of my new start in the creamery business: Bulgarian Yogurt.
Why Bulgarian Yogurt?
Before Bulgarian Yogurt I had heard of just a two things: What I call “Regular” (American, processed, junk-kind) and Greek Yogurt. Clearly between the two, Greek won my heart, as well as my stomach. After doing a comparison sheet, I found that Greek Yogurt had more health benefits than regular yogurt (High protein, low carb, less sodium, lower sugar).
Then, the variations section of Hill’s yogurt recipe came. I was too excited: Do I want to make it extra rich? Extra thick? Extra Tangy? Greek? The last option on the page caught my attention: Bulgarian style. I couldn’t help myself. I had never heard of Bulgarian Yogurt in my life! (And apparently, a lot of people haven’t. I only found one brand in the market labeled “Bulgarian.”)
Then of course, I had to do a little comparison sheet again. Though it may not have that thick consistency that I love in Greek Yogurt, one thing did catch my eye:
“Trimona Bulgarian Yogurt is NOT strained whereas ALL Greek Yogurt is. Why should YOU care? Well, by straining it you remove one of the most important natural ingredients in yogurt: the WHEY. This nutritious liquid substance contains protein and minerals such as Calcium.” -Straight from the Trimona Bulgarian Yogurt’s website home page.
Not only that, but the “mother” culture of all yogurts, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, was actually created in… well… Bulgaria!
What can I say? I got excited. I wanted to try out something new. So that’s what I did! My first ever home-made yogurt, and I choose to make it Bulgarian! How unique, right?
The process seemed a bit intimidating at first: Heat to this temperature, remove from heat but keep at this temperature though it may rise up ten degrees, just don’t let it get lower than the original temp, transfer to cold and reduce temp as fast as possible, incubate, refrigerate.
But I must admit, it was a lot easier to do than I initially expected.
After cleaning my surfaces, it was instructed to heat my milk to 180 Degrees F, stirring every few minutes. I remembered at her cheese demo that she explained never to over stir. It was then that I made a mistake, and realized I misunderstood what she was explaining. She didn’t want to over stir because it would pull apart the curds. Here, I didn’t want to over stir because then it would take longer for the milk to heat up. Originally was under stirring! It wasn’t until I felt a big buildup of something on the bottom of the pot that I realized I had goofed. But my mom made a good point: “Don’t scrape it off. You don’t want whatever it is down there to be in your yogurt.”
And I made sure not to pull off any of that gunk. I was only on step two and already made what I thought was a big boo boo.
We waited and waited for the milk to heat. Mind you, we weren’t even using the right thermometer! We were, in fact, using a candy thermometer (which made the idea of candy making come to both of our minds as we sat for 30 minutes waiting for this milk!) But finally, the time came and the milk was heated. We quickly turned off the heat, covered the pot, and waited. Instructions said up to 25 minutes depending on how thick we desired the yogurt to be. I decided 20 was a good number.
Now it was time to cool down the milk! I set it in my sink that I had filled with cold water and mixed it for around 8 minutes until finally the temperature reduced to where it had to go. I was a bit scared, to be honest. During the 20 minute sitting time the milk had gone 20 degrees lower than where it should have stayed, though I wasn’t aware because I had taken the thermometer out… I blame the 15 extra minutes of it sitting there.
Out of the sink and into the 4 quart size containers. For my “yogurt incubator” I followed one of her many suggestions of home-made incubators. I put a large box on a cooling rack (I added the cooling rack. A bit smart, if I do say so myself!) Inside the box I put a towel, then a heating pad, then another towel. In went the yogurts before I closed the box and set another towel on top! Then, 6-8 hours in the incubator they went.
I spent some time out running errands with my boyfriend. Every time we stopped back home, I literally ran over to my “incubator” and hugged it due to my excitement. I couldn’t help it! I was producing a huge batch of something I never thought in my life I would have the ability to make… and here I was making it. When the incubation was done, I moved the yogurt into the fridge.
Now, I await anxiously for tomorrow morning when I open a tub and have it with some home made granola.
A little aside: If you want to learn more about Louella Hill and her work, check out her website!