Usually when we discuss sous vide cooking, we’re talking about cooking perfect meats like steak or pork chops. So it may seem counter-intuitive to discover that sous vide yogurt is also extremely popular. Here’s some info on yogurt and how to make your own using your sous vide machine.
Yogurt has become one of the most popular fermented foods in the world. Many different cultures have their own variations and use for this versatile and delicious fermented milk product that has a history going back over 8000 years. Yogurt originated in Central Asia where herders would store fresh milk in pouches made from animal stomachs. The enzymes present in the stomachs combined with the warm ambient temperatures in the region transformed the milk into a creamy and tangy product. This transformation increased the shelf life and nutritional value of the milk which quickly became a major part of their diet.
Despite its long history, yogurt only really started gaining popularity in the United States during the 1940s. Now in most modern grocery stores, the yogurt cooler has the most varied selection of products in the dairy aisle. Sadly, much of the yogurt being sold today is full of artificial sweeteners, flavors, and thickening agents.
If you enjoy yogurt and other fermented foods but haven’t experienced making them yet, you’ll see that homemade yogurt is one the easiest and quickest fermented foods that anyone can make. It’s so simple to prepare that many people are making it at home with the aid of food dehydrators, crock-pots, and even specialized yogurt making machines.
Today, with the availability and versatility of sous vide technology home cooks can reap the rewards of this technique that was once only used by chefs at high-end restaurants. Making yogurt with a sous vide machine is super easy and produces great tasting results.
Sous vide yogurt is surprisingly simple to make and produces consistent results that will save you the trouble of hunting through the myriad of yogurt varieties available at todays supermarkets. By using sous vide equipment you’re able to create the perfect environment for making this healthy fermented product.
The only ingredients that you’ll need to start making homemade yogurt are milk and a starter culture, which you can easily obtain by using plain unsweetened yogurt with active cultures. The most common cultures are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus but there are other strains available online or at your local health food store. You’ll also require some glass jars or food-safe plastic or metal containers with lids. This yogurt can be made in 5-12 hours with only about 20 minutes of active prep and very little cleanup.
Making Sous Vide Yogurt
First, set your sous vide machine to 113F or 45C degrees and make sure that the water level is not too high because you’ll be putting the jars in the bath and you don’t want the sous vide machine to overflow.
Wash and dry your jars or whichever container you’re using to make the yogurt. This step is important to ensure that there is no contamination and transfer of undesired flavors or pathogens.
Fill the jars about 90% full of the fresh milk (whole milk works great but low fat works fine as well, or you can even use almond or coconut milk if you prefer a dairy-free alternative).
Put the milk into a saucepan and place it on the stove over low heat. If you heat the milk too fast it will result in a grainy texture from overheating, so make sure to heat gently and stir often. Use a kitchen thermometer for monitoring the temperature of the milk as it heats. Warm the milk until it reaches 185F 85C. At this point, the milk should be steaming and you’ll notice some bubbles forming on its surface. Try not to boil the milk, you just want it to reach 85C. If you want to make raw yogurt it’s possible to skip this step but the finished product will not be as thick as the heated one.
After the milk has reached 185F / 85C remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool down to 115F 46.2C. If you aren’t feeling patient you can place the saucepan in an ice water bath and stir it, this way it should cool down rather quickly.
Remove about one cup of the milk to a bowl and stir in the active yogurt starter. For every quart of milk that you’re using, you’ll want to add 2 tablespoons of starter yogurt. Make sure that it’s mixed in well then add it back to the rest of the heated milk. Fill the jars with the inoculated milk and seal them.
Put the filled jars in the water bath and set a timer for 5-12 hours. The longer the amount of time that it spends in the sous vide, the sourer it will taste as you’re giving more time for the culture to convert lactose in lactic acid. If you like the taste of tangy greek style yogurt than 10-12 hours is usually best. You can open the jars and taste the yogurt during this time until it reaches the level of sourness that you prefer.
Once you are happy with the taste, give the yogurt one final stir, and place the jars in the refrigerator to thicken up and slow the lactic acid production. You can also experiment with adding some natural flavors like maple syrup, homemade preserves or spices like cinnamon at this time, just mix in your flavors then refrigerate the yogurt.
To make a thicker Greek style yogurt just spoon the yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, then place the strainer over a bowl to collect the whey and put the bowl in the refrigerator for several hours at which point you’ll notice that the yogurt has lost some liquid and gotten thicker. Don’t discard the whey, it makes a great beverage or addition to smoothies or baking recipes. You can also use the whey as a starter culture for other fermentation projects like sauerkraut or kimchi.
Save a few spoons of your plain, unsweetened yogurt to use as a starter for the next time you plan to make a batch. Homemade yogurt usually lasts for two weeks in refrigeration.
Sous Vide Yogurt Recipe
1 quart or fresh whole milk (preferably organic)
2 Tablespoons of plain unsweetened organic yogurt with live cultures
Fill the water reservoir and set your sous vide machine to 113F 45C degrees.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and place on the stove over low heat.
Stir the milk often and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. Once the milk has reached 185F / 85C, remove it from the heat and leave to cool until it’s 115F 46.2C.
Remove about one cup of the milk and stir in the 2 tablespoons of live yogurt or culture to this portion.
Add the inoculated milk back to the rest of the milk and pour it into your clean glass jars or other food safe containers.
Place the sealed jars into the sous vide water bath and set a timer for 5-12 hours.
After the time is up and you’re happy with the taste of the yogurt, give it a stir and place into the refrigerator. The yogurt will thicken up and be ready to enjoy in about 4 hours.