Last Monday I mentioned the excitement we have at our house when the first local strawberries show up at our Farmers Market. Today I’m going to share something new that I’ve been making to set off my strawberries to perfection–homemade chocolate yogurt!
Yogurt is something I’ve long thought about making, but I wasn’t sure it was worth it. Even the fancy organic yogurt isn’t that expensive, and if you get it in the big containers, doesn’t create a lot of waste (unlike all the individual serving containers). However, for the past few weeks, one of our farmers at the Farmers Market has been fresh, hormone- and antibiotic-free natural milk from his neighbors who run a dairy (Mapleview Farms) but haven’t been able to sell as much since the stay at home owners. It’s great milk, but we don’t have anyone at our house who drinks milk by itself, so I only buy milk if I need it for a recipe.
However, my friend told me how much her son raves about the chocolate milk, so I started thinking about some kind of dessert I might make with it. Then it struck me–maybe this was a reason to try making my own yogurt!
I tried it for the first time last week, and it worked out so well! It was pretty easy, and tasted better than any commercial chocolate yogurt I’ve had. It’s not too sweet, it has a tang that isn’t overwhelming, and it has a really nice rich chocolate flavor. Plus it brings a creamy contrast to the tart early spring berries with relatively low sugar and calories.
I made my yogurt in the Instant Pot, which made things really easy. I just poured the chocolate milk into the Instant Pot without adding anything, hit the Yogurt button, then hit the Adjust button so that the digital display spells out “boil.” Put on the cover (this process does not involve pressure) and let it heat up, stirring the milk every 10 minutes or so. It’s supposed to take 30-40 minutes, but now that I’ve made it twice, neither time did the boil cycle really get to boiling for me. I just put it on Sauté, stirring constantly, until it gets up to a little over 180. I use a candy thermometer, but around 180 is when it is steaming, there are small bubbles all around the perimeter, and bubbles are just starting to come up in the middle. It is supposed to “cook” there for a couple of minutes, but you have to watch it–it is easy for the temperature to get to a full boil and the whole mixture rises and threatens to overflow the container. If that starts to happen, hit the off button and have oven mitts or a towel handy to get the inner pot out of the heating part ASAP.
Next, the milk has to cool down to around 100, 110 degrees; too much heat kills the bacteria. I put the pot in a big bowl of cool water and stir occasionally, and it usually cools down in about 10 minutes. Next, you need to put in the starter. You can buy dried yogurt starter in places like Whole Food or online, but I just use 1 tablespoon of a healthy, plain commercial yogurt (apparently it has to be ONLY milk and bacteria–no other ingredients) per 1/2 gallon of milk. If you make your own plain yogurt, you can freeze your own starter in tablespoons for later batches, but I’ve only made the chocolate milk yogurt so far.
You take out 1/2 a cup of milk to mix into the starter, then pour that into the entire batch. Stir well, stick the pot back into the heating unit, and hit the Yogurt button again. If it still says boil, hit the adjust button until it shows 8:00, which is the Instant Pot’s standard setting. You can use the adjust button to add time; the longer it goes, the tangier the yogurt gets. I’ve just used the standard 8 hours, which has worked out fine for chocolate yogurt.
The display shifts to 0:00, then keeps track of each moment your yogurt stays heated. Check back in around 8 hours, and it should be done. Next I stick the yogurt into the refrigerator to cool and thicken for a few hours or overnight. Then I put some cheesecloth into a colander, pour the cold yogurt in that, and let it drain for a couple of hours. The whey drips out and results in a lovely, thick, rich chocolate yogurt.
It’s not effortless, and it takes a day for the whole process. However, these days when we are staying at home all day long are a good time to experiment with it. There is really only about 10-15 minutes of hands-on time, so it’s a good project to combine with, say, cleaning up the kitchen (as long as you maintain proper hygiene practices).
So this was my lunch today: a fresh strawberry and chocolate yogurt parfait.
I took a cup of strawberries sliced into bite size, layered with 1/2 cup chocolate yogurt, and sprinkled a tablespoon or two of organic Love Crunch Dark Chocolate and Red Berries granola on top for a bit of crunch. It was delish! It is a light but surprisingly satisfying lunch, and is less than 250 calories (which isn’t bad for a dessert either). No pesticides, no hormones, no added sugar (although each ingredient has some sugar in it), no preservatives or other additives, with the main ingredients coming from local farmers selling at our local Farmers Market–so what’s not to love? Plus, it feels like you are eating dessert for lunch…and isn’t that exactly the kind of treat we deserve these days?