If there’s one thing just flowing in abundance in Fila Naranjo, it’s cows. Cows on cows on cows.
And well, of course, coffee. But besides coffee, ganado (livestock) and dairy products are the community’s biggest income generating activities.
Ganado, including pigs, chickens, and beef cattle are raised to be sold for their meat to local families and distributors.
Dairy products, mostly made from cow milk, are made into the 3 Costa Rican dairy staples: queso (cheese), natilla (sour cream) and leche (milk).
And sometimes you can even get some fresh goat milk after your neighbor’s cabra (goat) has a baby.
Yeahhh we’re both drinking your mom’s milk
But like I said, dairy products here, in the community and in the country, are mostly made from cow’s milk.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of cow’s milk. I never have been. It’s something about the smell or the creamy cow taste that’s always made me cringe. So I’ve always used alternatives like almond, cashew, or soy milk.
Well I’m not living in a world anymore where the grocery store down the road is stocked with nut milk varieties and dairy alternatives; I’m living in the deep countryside of Costa Rica where chickens run free and the only milk I’m getting is served up warm and fresh from the local cow down the road.
So I’m rolling with it and trying to use the resources that are in my community.
Now I will never be the type of person to just sit down and drink a glass of milk (what am I, 80?) but there’s a lot of things you can do with milk that make it a little more easier to stomach and digest.
And believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to make yogurt.
Not only is homemade yogurt simple and rewarding, yogurt is a fermented milk product, offers several health benefits:
- Yogurt contains less lactose than milk and is easier to digest
Yogurt contains “live” probiotic bacteria, which improve digestive health and increase immunity (just like kombucha)
- Yogurt is high in Calcium and Vitamin B
- Yogurt is high in natural fats and proteins that will keep you full and satisfied longer
Although a simple process, making yogurt can be finicky because the fermentation period is dependent on temperature and involves live bacteria.
And those little creatures just do what they want to do.
But, if you’re consistent with your technique and find the method that works for you in your climate, you will have your own homemade, tasty creamy yogurt in less than 24 hours!
And plus, you’ll save money making your own yogurt at home while reducing your plastic use from purchasing yogurt in the store.
THINGS YOU WILL NEED:
- A pot to heat your milk
- A cooking thermometer (you can get by without it but can be tricky)
- Small bowl
- Towels for wrapping your yogurt while it sits during fermentation process
- ½ gallon of milk
- 2 tablespoons of already made yogurt with live cultures or a yogurt starter
*this can easily be doubled, tripled or reduced depending on how much you want to make.
1. Pour ½ gallon milk into pot and begin to heat slowly over low to medium heat. Make sure you stir the milk frequently to prevent the bottom from burning. Heat the milk to 180 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you will heat your milk until you see bubbles starting to form on the outer edges of the pot.
2. Once milk is heated to 180 degrees F, turn off the heat and let the milk drop to 110 degrees F (or until the milk feels warm but not too hot).
3. When milk hits 110 degrees F, take out ½ cup of the warm milk and mix with 2 tablespoons of yogurt in small bowl (gently stir so you don’t harm any of the live bacteria in the yogurt). Make sure you use yogurt that has active live cultures. An organic, plain yogurt will give you best results. I’ve read that Stoneyfield is great to use.
4. Pour milk and yogurt mixture back into large pot with rest of milk and stir with care.
Place your pot somewhere warm and wrap a towel around it to maintain warm temperature and leave for 6-12 hours.
5. If you live in a warm climate, your yogurt should be fine wrapped up somewhere in the house. If you live in a cooler climate, let your yogurt sit somewhere warm, like the oven (turned off) or the bathroom. I fill up a cooler with boiling water, let it sit to warm up, dump the hot water out and place the pot of yogurt inside the cooler to ferment.
6. After 6 hours, check and taste your yogurt. The longer you let the yogurt sit, the thicker and tangier it will get. I let mine sit the entire 12 hours.
7. After the taste is to your liking, take out and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours. If the yogurt is too liquid-y after it has cooled, you can strain it through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter before or after chilling..
I let my yogurt strain for 1 hour through coffee filers to thicken.
You can then add fruit, granola, coconut, cinnamon, or honey to spice things up!
If you want to flavor your yogurt, you can add jam or make a simple syrup from sugar and fruit and mix with your plain yogurt. Learn more about how to flavor your yogurt here.
If you really get into making yogurt, consider buying a yogurt maker (only $20!) to streamline that finicky process which I am totally going to do after the Peace Corps.
Recipe adapted from New York Times.
Did you yogurt not turn out? That’s a bummer. I’m no expert so visit this website for troubleshooting and additional tips.