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Experiments in Goat Yogurt

November 19, 2012

It is clear to most people who visit our home that Moose and I are geeks.  We don’t have a TV in our living room.  We have an 8 foot wide panel screwed to the wall with a black frame, so that the projector has a nice smooth surface to play on.  A length of white plastic loom covers the bundle of cables that snake from the projector to the outlet.  It has only been recently that the entertainment system plugged into those cables was moved into a nice fancy cabinet.  A nice fancy cabinet which is currently stuffed full of card, board, and video games.  Our study has two slick black desks side by side, arrayed with monitors, electronic accessories  and coffee cups.  In one corner, several sets of plastic drawers are filled with neatly coiled cables, electronic components, and tools.  My craft room has a whole wall of projects in progress, fairy wings tucked into one shelf, and a row of gaming books lined up neatly next to my collection of Stephen King hardbacks.

What is not so easy to see is that we are also geeks when it comes to cooking.  We love gadgets in the kitchen just as much as we love them in the rest of our home.  The closet in the hall where most people would put coats when guests come over is instead stacked with machines.  It is where my food processor lives when it is not in use.  It is the home of the crock pot, the cooler the crock pot gets carried around in, the waffle maker, the dehydrator, and the bread maker.  And now, it is home to my yogurt maker.

The making yogurt at home was one of those wacky ideas I’d stumbled across one day while looking up crock pot recipes.  As it turns out, you can use your crock pot to make yogurt.  It seemed like a pretty straight forward idea.  Get some plain, active culture yogurt, pour in some milk, leave it alone for a few hours.  I wondered if this was something that could be done with goat milk.  One of the local goat farms puts out some lovely strawberry and blueberry yogurts, but I still loved my key lime soy yogurts (when I could get them).  More importantly, the local goat farm put out a plain, active culture goat yogurt.  No sweetener, no flavor, nothing but pure goat yogurt.  So I poked around and discovered that not only could you make your own goat yogurt at home…  But there were fancy machines that would do it for you!  In individual serving cups, even!

After a good deal of research, I settled on this little number.  There were a lot of concerns expressed about the machines which used plastic containers, so I decided that I should probably go with glass.  The timer and automatic shut off were an important feature for me.  As was the date feature on the lid.  I wasn’t terribly worried about not getting around to eating the yogurt in time, but I thought it would be a nice thing to have.  Best of all, seven jars would be exactly perfect for one yogurt per work day, a spare for the weekend, and a jar to keep plain starter in until I needed it.

I also bought these delicious extracts.  Bonus: It came with a pumpkin pie flavor.  It needs a bit of doctoring to get a good pumpkin pie flavor, but the apple, blueberry, and key lime come out perfect.  I’m generally not fond of cherry flavorings, and this particular flavoring is no exception.  I could probably doctor up the peach to get a nice peach cobbler flavor.  That will likely be next week’s experiment, along with an attempt at making blueberry muffin flavored yogurt.  This week it’s key lime, pumpkin pie, and cinnamon vanilla.  Last week I tried a recipe which suggested putting a dollop of jelly in the bottom, but the jelly didn’t break up unless I smooshed it with a spoon.  Which probably has to do with the jelly I used more than anything else.

For the milk, I used Meyenburg Whole Goat Milk in the first couple of batches and a local goat milk for this week’s batch.  Thus far, the major difference seems to be the strength of the “goat” flavor to the milk.  The local milk has a slightly sharper flavor to it, which is something I’ll need to take into consideration on future recipes.  I should have realized that was a possibility, since I used this milk for my blackberry ice cream and had a similar experience.  I’ll be down at my sister’s house in The Big City for Thanksgiving and I’m considering trying convince Moose to swing by a couple of the goat farms which are on the way home from there.

So far, I’m pretty happy with this little gadget.  The yogurt comes out considerably more watery than cow milk yogurt.  However, since my starter yogurt is fairly fluid to begin with, I don’t actually see this as a flaw with the machine.  When you have as many allergies as I do, you get used to your food looking slightly different from everyone else’s.  Even if you don’t have allergies and you’re just the kind of crazy techno-hippie that likes the idea of making your own yogurt, I’d recommend picking up a yogurt maker.  With just a few minutes of prep each weekend, I can have breakfast for the whole week in flavors I love.  I can’t really say that I’m saving money quite yet.  I estimate it probably will be March or so before the initial investment of machine and materials is balanced by the long term savings of not buying individual yogurts each week.  Not too shabby, when you do the math.

Besides, you can’t really put a price on the thrill of experimentation and the joy of taking that first sip of something you made yourself.

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