The Cuisinart Electronic Yogurt Maker with Automatic Cooling
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"Medical researchers are coming around to the startling conclusion that, in order to be healthy, people need more exposure to microbes, not less; and that one of the problems with the so-called Western diet--besides all the refined carbohydrates and fats and novel chemicals in it--is the absence from it of LIVE-CULTURE foods.
The theory is that these foods have a crucial role to play in nourishing the vast community of microbes living inside us, which in turn plays a much larger role in our overall health & well-being than we ever realized. Bacteria-free food may be making us sick."
- Michael Pollan, "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" -
Gut Bugs are My New Best Friends - BFF's
No fair. Whole Soy & Co.'s Plain Unsweetened Yogurt came into my life suddenly last Spring. I fell in love, & before I knew it, he had disappeared without so much as a good-bye or explanation. He had arrived in March, by June he was gone. His disappearance left a huge hole in my heart---uh, I mean my tummy.
I missed our easy breakfasts together. Our delicious savory Mediterranean lunches, mixed with tamari-roasted chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers & fresh dill. Our salads were a dinner delight - topped with Thousand Island Dressing. He had become "my main manna", my go-to-guy, turning into everything I wanted him to be.
I even went so far as to go public with the "new manna" in my life in "My New Manna - Plain Unsweetened Soy Yogurt is a Game-Changing Recipe Changer! Viva the Possibilities!"
The medical journal literature is fermenting with research on why yogurt is so good for us (& our kids), and the newly emerging research on the benefits of nourishing our gut microbiome has taken off.
Just because you've ditched the dairy, & said "no" to sweetened non-dairy yogurts, doesn't mean you can no longer enjoy thick creamy yogurt. There really is another way. Make your own!
For a layman's tour on the benefits of cultivating a healhty colony of gut bacteria, check out Michael Pollan's May 15, 2013 NYT Sunday Magazine article, "Some of My Best Friends are Germs"
Or give a quick listen to this fascinating 7-minute Public Radio Take-Away interview on "Why Bacteria Can Be Good For Us"
"Some of the newest scientific research points to the benefits of the bacteria that live inside all of us. It turns out that bacteria can play a critical role in fighting obesity, diabetes and infections and it can also help keep our immune systems strong." (The Take-Away, August 22, 2013)
Where Did "My Manna" Mr. Whole Soy Go & Would He Ever Return?
Long story short. Production problems at WholeSoy & Co. The company thought it could quickly find a new place to rent for its yogurt-making. When that didn't work, they decided to build a new plant. Here's the Whole "WholeSoy & Co." story. Not into "making your own yogurt? No worries. Looks like they'll return in late October or early November. In the meantime, I've made other plans.
I've met a "New Manna". I'm making my own and preferring the "new guy". He's so much better. There's no comparison.
Empowered by Home Fermentation - Homemade Yogurt, My Way
"Thousands of years on, we still haven't discovered techniques for processing food as powerful, versatile, safe, or nutritious as microbial fermentation."
- Michael Pollan, "Cooked" -
I'd already been thinking about making my own yogurt before WholeSoy & Co. stopped production. But, when they suddenly disappeared & "who knew when they'd return", I started researching the easiest way to make my own.
Thanks to the help of the savvy readers of my Facebook page I discovered "Cultures for Health", which makes a vegan yogurt culture (who knew there was such a thing?), chock full of all kinds of good live bacteria: Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Streptococcus thermophilus. (excuse any spelling errors)
Read all about the vegan yogurt culture here. It's a direct-set culture, which means that it is a one-time-use culture and cannot be recultured (i.e., perpetuated beyond the single batch). Direct-set cultures require no maintenance or care. Simply store the packets in the refrigerator or freezer and use the necessary portion for your recipe when it's time to make yogurt.
1 box of vegan yogurt culture contains 8 packets of culture. Each packet is used to make 1-2 quarts of yogurt. I use 1 packet to make 1 quart of yogurt at a time. $1.12 per quart. To save $$ I bought multiple boxes--but, don't overbuy. The expiration date for mine is 4/14.
What makes a yogurt culture vegan??
A vegan culture is "grown" on a vegan medium, unlike regular yogurt cultures, which are grown on dairy. This culture is made specifically to work with NON-DAIRY MILK. It's made to work best with soy or rice milk. Almond milk, "Cultures for Health" tells me, can be tricky.
Which non-dairy milks work best?
- Use Soy Milk with as little additives as possible: EdenSoy or WestSoy, original or unsweetened will work well. "Cultures for Health" recommended the addition of 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of a sweetener (I used maple syrup) when using UNSWEETENED soy milk to give the bacteria something to feed upon. NOTE 1/11/14: No need to add any sweeteners to unsweetened soy milk. It ferments with or without. Your choice.
- I prefer Organic EdenSoy Unsweetened. Just purified water & organic soybeans. It has the highest protein--12 grams. It also has the highest amount of fat, 6 grams per serving, but it makes a thick & creamy yogurt. The higher the fat content, the thicker the yogurt.
- I plan to experiment with EdenSoy Enriched with contains calcium, B12, D2, etc. UPDATE 1/11/14: EdenSoy Enriched produces a less rich, not-as-thick yogurt, compared to EdenSoy Unsweetened. EdenSoy Enriched also has a slightly orangey/yellow color, less aesthetically pleasing color. Advantage of EdenSoy Enriched is its added calcium + other minerals & vitamins that make it equivalent to the nutrititional content of dairy milk. I plan to experiment with just adding some powdered calcium citrate into the EdenSoy Unsweetened. NOW brand makes powdered calcium citrate.
- I've been successful with both the original organic Edensoy & original organic Westsoy--no extra sweeteners are needed with these, because they contain some already. UPDATE 1/11/14: I've discovered that even the EdenSoy Unsweetened needs no added sweeteners to properly ferment.
- Rice milk will work, according to "Cultures for Health". I have not tried this.
- According to the "Cultures for Health" staff person I spoke with, turning ALMOND MILK into yogurt can be trickier, fussier & would likely require more thickeners to get a good texture. I do plan to experiment & report back. No idea how oat, hazelnut, cashew, flax, or hemp milks will work. Lots to test out.
- Read more tips on thickening yogurt here.
A interesting word about Lactobacillus rhamnosus: Notice that it's one of the bacteria strains in this culture:
"A recent study performed in Ireland found that introducing a certain probiotic species found in some fermented foods to the diet of mice had a measurable effect on their stress levels & mood, altering levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
Precisely how the presence of a certain bacterium in the gut might affect mental function is unclear, yet the researchers found they could block the effect by severing the vagus nerve that links the gut to the brain." (pg. 328, Pollan. "Cooked" 2013.)
And lo & behold, a similar finding was recently reported in a new study on women eating yogurt. Humans, not mice! Eating yogurt regularly appears to reduce stress & anxiety. No promises, but still.... Read the actual study here.
Let the Yogurt-Making Begin
My First Attempt - Oops, Didn't Heat It Long Enough to Thicken - Kefir-Like, But Yummy
I was kind of clueless with my first attempt--and I "missed" the instruction to let it thicken on the stove-top after adding a slurry of soy milk & cornstarch. I got a thinner kefir-like yogurt. Tasty, but not what I was expecting.
Yogurt Success - Thick, Creamy, Delicious
My Yogurt Maker: The Cuisinart Electronic Yogurt Maker with Automatic Cooling $129.00 free shipping
Other Yogurt Maker possibilities:
- The Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker - makes yogurt in individual cups $39.99. Very popular.
- The Yogotherm Yogurt Incubator - A reliable way to make yogurt without electricity. 2 quart capacity. $39.95
- Find out more about yogurt-makers, here Sorry, I have no personal experience with either of these yogurt makers
- Some readers told me of mixed success making yogurt in a slow-cooker, or in a crock that was well wrapped in insulation & then placed in an oven that was preheated & then turned off.
Why I like the Cuisinart:
- It makes all the yogurt in one storeable BPA-free container that holds from 4-6 cups of yogurt.
- It's easier to pour the milk into 1 large container than into individual 8 ounce cups. I'm "pouring-challenged".
- It's easier to clean just one container than 6-8 small ones.
- You set the yogurt maker to ferment for 6-8 hours, & when fermentation is over, it automatically starts to chill the yogurt--which is an important part of the process. You can go to sleep, go to work, whatever, & know that the yogurt will keep chilling until you are ready to put it into the refrigerator. You don't have to hang around.
One Tub - When It's Done It Goes Right Into the Fridge with Its Cover
- A candy themomter to measure the temperature of the milk. It needs to heat up to about 150 degrees to thicken it with a cornstarch slurry. You DO NOT want it to get over 180 degrees. After it thickens, it needs to cool down to just under 110 degrees before you can add the culture. Any higher--& you'll kill the culture. (118 degrees I think is the "kill zone")
- A narrowish whisk (or a "whisker" as my grandson call it)
- A 2-4 cup liquid measuring cup.
- A saucepan that holds 4-6 cups of milk for heating up the milk. One with a spout is a plus.
- A 4 cup container of soy milk or rice milk with as few added ingredients as possible.
- 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of sweetener (I use maple syrup--2 tsp.) when using milk with zero-added sweeteners. It helps to feed the bacteria. UPDATE 1/11/14: I've STOPPED adding any sweetener to my EdenSoy Unsweeted Soy Milk. It doesn't appear to be necessary at all! Yogurt comes out fine without it.
- UPDATE 1/11/14 (I've increased the cornstarch for a thicker yogurt): 3-1/2 tablespoons of organic non-GMO cornstarch (regular works, too) per 4 cups of milk for thickening. (orginal recipe used 3 tablespoons) See recipe below for instructions.
- Alternate thickeners: Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of agar (a vegan seaweed that works like a gelatin) into 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil & cool before adding to 4 cups of milk. Allow mixture to cool down to under 110 degrees before adding to the milk. More agar might be desired for a thicker yogurt. Experiment. Agar thickens when it cools down. Everything you ever wanted to know about thickening yogurt can be found here.
Thickening the Yogurt with a Cornstarch- Soy Milk Slurry - Cooling to 105-110 Degrees
The Best Yogurt Recipe from Reader Lori S.
A big thank-you to my "yogurt mentor & guide", Lori S. I couldn't have done it without you. You paved the way!
Preparation Time: 12 minutes + time to cool the milk down to 105 to 110 degrees
Fermentation Time: 8 hours at 108 degrees (the Cuisinart takes all the guess work out of the process)
Cooling Time: 8-12 hours
Total start to finish yogurt time: from 17-21 hours
- 4 cups of organic soy milk (EdenSoy or WestSoy) I use the boxes. *see above for alternative milks
- 3-1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch UPDATE 1/11/14 (I've increased the cornstarch from 3 tablespoons to 3-1/2 tablespoons for a thicker yogurt)
- UPDATE 1/11/14: NO NEED FOR ANY SWEETENER with unsweetened soy milk. (original recipe) 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of maple syrup ONLY if you're using unsweetened soy milk. *I've made it successfully without any sweetener.
- 1 packet vegan yogurt culture (From Cultures for Health)
1. Pour 1 1/2 cups of milk (straight from a room temperature tetra box) into a saucepan and start heating it. Keep the temperature around medium. You DO NOT WANT THE TEMPERATURE TO GO OVER 150-180 degrees.
2. Pour 1/2 cup of the room temperature milk into a measuring cup and whisk in 3-1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch until dissovled well.
3. Once the milk in the saucepan starts to steam a bit, whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and continue to heat and whisk until you start to get some thickening, similar to a light gravy or sauce. I wait until it thickens like a pudding, with some little bubbles around the edges, but not a full boil! Do not bring to a boil. This is the longest part of the process. Maybe 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the rest of the carton of milk (2 cups), and let the whole pan rest until the temp comes down to at least 110 degrees. I usually wait until it's at 105 degrees, to be on the safe side.
SPEED COOLING TIP (updated 11/06/13 & 1/11/14):
METHOD 1: I now "speed cool" my saucepan of soymilk to quickly get it down to 105 degrees, by placing the saucepan into a bowl of cold water, just high enough so the "hot" bottom can cool off. I keep it in the cold water only for a few minutes, & then let it finish cooling down on the counter. Once the bottom of the saucepan has "speed cooled", it takes only about 5-7 minutes for the whole saucepan to reach about 105-110 degrees.
METHOD 2: I pour the UNHEATED 2 cups of remaining milk into the Cuisinart container. When the cornstarch-thickened milk has reached the right consistency on the stove, pour it directly into the Cuisinart container with the unheated milk. Whisk well. This speed cools the milk. Wait until the mixture cools to between 105-110 degrees before adding the culture. (updated 1/11/14)
5. When the milk has cooled to 105-110 degrees, pour it into the yogurt-making container BEFORE you whisk in your starter (Vegan Yogurt culture from “Cultures for Health”). This insures that ALL the culture makes it into the yogurt-maker. Set the Cuisinart yogurt maker for 8 hours of fermentation. It's a good idea to check how things are going at around 6 hours.
6. After the 8 hours, the Cuisinart starts chilling automatically (or after whatever number of hours you set for fermentation to last) The chilling is an important part of the whole process. Chill for 8-12 hours. This can be done in the fridge, too, but, I let the Cuisinart chill for 8 hours & then I put the yogurt in the fridge.
7. It’s nice & thick (& gets thicker the longer it’s in the fridge). Very creamy, & to me, it’s better tasting than WholeSoy& Co. But, that’s me.
*You can also thicken the yogurt with agar or pectin. But, for now, I’m happy with the cornstarch. For more information on thickening agents click here. Also, note, the higher the fat in the milk, the thicker the yogurt.
I know I have a lot more to learn, and more experiments to try out. I really feel strangely empowered by making my own yogurt, & I'm intrigued by all the other fermentation possibilities available on "Culture for Health".
Good Luck! Enjoy! And Happy Yogurt-Making Everyone!
Please Report Your New Findings. We're all now non-dairy yogurt scientists, sharing our data.
I see a new journal that needs to be published: The International Journal of Non-Dairy Yogurt-Making