Homemade Yogurt ~ Simply the Best!

I can't remember the precise reason why or even when I decided I needed to try my hand at making my own yogurt.

I think I may have read something that waxed poetic about the sheer deliciousness of homemade yogurt.

Do you know, once I made my own, I believed every word of what I had read. Quite frankly, I had tired of grocery store yogurt many years ago.  I couldn't even stomach grocery store brands anymore, so I hadn't ate yogurt in a very long time.

The first spoonful of homemade yogurt was deliriously delicious.

My first foray into home yogurt making was with raw milk.  I knew that most yogurt recipes required the milk to be heated to near boiling.  But raw milk has highly beneficial nutrients, such as conjugated linoleic acid and friendly bacteria and enzymes, and I didn't want to destroy any of these nutrients in my yogurt-making process.

My Google search for "how to make yogurt with raw milk" took me to the Nourished Kitchen website, and since that inital search,  I've found many other natural food reasons to like this website.

If you'd like to read more about making yogurt with raw milk, you can read Nourished Kitchen's post.  The farm where I sourced my raw milk is quite a distance from me, so I don't always have raw milk.  But that's another taste sensation for another blog post, another day.

I've also made yogurt with regular ole organic milk from the grocery store.  And I've made it with a combination of milk and heavy whipping cream, which of course means more fat and calories (but yummy!)  And I've made my own greek yogurt too.

Every different combination I've used has produced phenomenal, delicious yogurt.

So what are the benefits of homemade yogurt?  First, the obvious: no preservatives or unnecessary additives!  For the most part, you know exactly what you have put into your own yogurt. Secondly, the probiotics in your homemade yogurt will be fresher than anything you could buy in the grocery store.

Here's some yogurt making basics...

First, I bought a yogurt maker from Amazon. After much research, I decided on the Euro Cuisine YM80 Yogurt Maker.  I liked the fact my yogurt would be in 7 individual jars, and that these jars are glass, not plastic.

Since that initial purchase, I think I might like a 2 quart yogurt maker better, only because lately I've been dumping all 7 jars into a large sieve to strain out the whey and have a greek yogurt consistency.  No sense having 7 separate jars when it all gets lumped together in the end anyway!

Ingredient-wise, all you need is milk and yogurt starter.  Your options for yogurt starter are freeze dried packets you can buy at Amazon (and probably elsewhere), or about 6 oz plain yogurt which you can get at the grocery store.  Be sure the plain yogurt you choose for starter is as organic and simple as possible, with live cultures.  Check out the ingredient label before you buy!

Once you've made your yogurt using the instructions that come with your yogurt maker, you can add all kinds of fruits and/or flavorings.  Personally, I just add a wee bit of vanilla and some stevia or agave nectar sweetener to each individual serving as I eat it.  My goal is to keep it as natural as possible. Sometimes I throw in a few fresh strawberries.  It's so awesomely delicious.

Next, I wanted to try to thicken up my yogurt more, so I bought some cheesecloth and after I made the yogurt, I let it sit for an additional 5 hours or so in a metal sieve lined with the cheesecloth over a bowl.

Basically, what you are doing is straining out most of the whey, so your yogurt will have a very thick, greek-like texture.  This is my new favorite yogurt.  Some people call this "yogurt cheese".

Oh, and all that whey you'll have in your bowl?  It's good for a LOT of different things, and I just happen to have another link to help you out with that.... check out The Prairie Homestead for 16 Ways to Use Your Whey.

I don't have a specific recipe here for yogurt because it's so easy, and quite frankly, you can find recipes all over the world wide web, especially for thermophilic (heated) yogurts.  And if you buy a yogurt maker, you'll get instructions on making yogurt with your yogurt maker.

But perhaps you want even easier yogurt recipes, such as Matsoni or Viili, which are mesophilic (room-temperature) yogurts and do not require a yogurt maker for temperature regulation.  I haven't tried these yet, but I'd like to try the Matsoni yogurt soon.

Still on my yogurt wish list:  Cuisipro Donvier Yogurt Cheese Maker (easier to make Greek yogurt with one of these) and The Book Of Yogurt by Sonia Uvezian.

Any questions?  Fire 'em at me, and I'll do my best to answer.  Or maybe you've already made your own yogurt and have advice for me - tell me!

I'll remember to snap a few photos the next time I have a yogurt making session, which will be soon.  I miss my fresh yogurt!

Good grief... I didn't realize I had this much to say about yogurt!!!

Easy Homemade Dog Food

Making your own dog food isn't as difficult or time-consuming as one might think.  And in many cases, it's the best thing for your 4-legged friends!

I've made my own dog food in the past.  When my dalmatian became super sensitive to most store bought foods, I began making his dog food.  The only store bought food his system could tolerate was a canned version called Spot's Stew.  It was $2.99 a can and I could NOT afford that on a long-term basis.  That was in 2003.  I have no idea what it might cost 9 years later!!!

And so my dog food recipe journey began.

I researched high and low, on the internet and in my own dog reference books, and eventually came up with several winning combinations that suited him.

Did I write those recipes down? Nooooo.  And I wish I would have!

Because now Tori seems to be more sensitive to what I've been buying for her and Trixie the last 5 years or so.  They both eat Merrick dry food and canned foods, but I also supplement them with Evo canned food.

I finally figured out several months ago that Tori was becoming sensitive to the Evo.  This is a high protein, back-to-nature type of canned food, and my brain process told me that since the girls were getting older, they probably didn't need the high protein any longer.

Sure enough, as soon as I took Tori off the Evo canned food, she didn't seem to be vomiting as much.

But she still vomited SOMETIMES.

So I revisited my homemade dog food, and I eventually decided on a simple recipe that seems to work for her.  I just top-dress her Merrick dry food with some of the homemade food.

I also give mix up one egg into Tori's food everyday.  Trixie and Ringo sometimes get an egg -- just depends on how many eggs we are getting from the guineas.

Trixie and Ringo are still fine with the Merrick canned food, so I just discontinued the Evo canned food shipments, and changed my monthly dog food shipment to include one 30# bag of Merrick dry food, one 15# bag of Blue Buffalo senior dog food, and one carton of Merrick canned food.  I started mixing the senior dog food with their Merrick dry food this year, since all 3 dogs are about 9 years old now.

Side note:  I've been getting my dog food from Petflow.com for the last year or so now and I love getting my shipments automatically every month!  If you want to give it a try, use coupon code oz49 and receive free shipping on orders over $49.

Tori's homemade dog food contains:
  • chicken
  • brown rice
  • peas
  • one chopped apple
That's it.  Simple.  It works for her.

At first, I was buying whole chickens, sometimes getting even the organic whole chickens at reduced prices when they were close to their expiration date. But it was sooo messy in the oven.

So I recently switched to buying a family pack of chicken thighs for about the same price as the whole chicken.  I dump them all into a large Dutch oven on the range top, and simmer in some water at a low temp til done.  I let them cool on a large platter, and then tear all the meat off each thigh.

While I'm getting the meat off the chicken thighs, I throw about one cup of brown rice into the chicken stock in the Dutch oven and let that cook.  Then I throw in all the chicken meat, plus about 1/2 cup of peas, and one chopped up peeled apple.  I let it all simmer awhile, til the peas are no longer frozen and the apple is soft, then I ladle the food into Glad storage containers.

Dog food on right... that's strawberry-blueberry jam on the left.

One container stays in the fridge for the next few days of feeding, while the other two containers go in the freezer.  I would say each recipe lasts me about 10 days or so?  I've never really measured the end result nor calculated how long it lasts.

Because in the end it really doesn't matter.

I love our fur-kids and I don't mind making dog food when it becomes necessary!

If you'd like to visit some dog food recipe links, here's a few to get you started:
Allrecipes Homemade Dog Food Recipe
Home Cooking Information including Raw, Organic, Holistic and Supplements
WebMD: Healthy Dogs - Homemade Dog Food (information only, no recipes)