A teeming environment of microorganisms known as the gut microbiota lives in your gastrointestinal tract, providing many functions, including digesting food, fighting harmful microorganisms, and supporting immune function. Probiotics are organisms that foster the gut microbiota—but you don’t have to rely only on supplements to get a dose; fermented foods, such as yogurt with live and active cultures, are an excellent dietary source of probiotics.
Reviving an ancient tradition. While fermented foods may seem to be a new trend among health-food advocates, the prac-tice of fermenting foods dates back to 6000 B.C. Yogurt, in particular, has been around for thousands of years; it was first popularized in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Yogurt is made from lactic acid fermentation, the same process used to make sauerkraut. During this process, the lactobacillus species—a type of bacteria—converts milk sugars into lactic acid, which acts as a preservative and provides a healthy dose of live, active bacteria.
Make your own. The lactic acid fermentation process used to make yogurt is one of the most common—and easiest—fermentation methods to experiment with at home. The process is cost-effective and results in a delightful, creamy texture. Plus, you can make your own handmade cultured yogurt—filled with live active bacteria—without undesirable ingredients, such as sweeteners and artificial colorings and flavorings. Just follow these simple steps.
—McKenzie Hall, RD
DIY Cultured Yogurt
Large Dutch oven (or large heavy pot)
2 small towels
3 Tbsp plain commercial yogurt with “Live and Active Cultures” seal*
4 c milk
- Sterilize the measuring spoons, measuring cups, mixing bowl, whisk and Dutch oven in dish washer or very hot water.
- Pour the milk into the Dutch oven and heat over the stove until the milk reaches 180° F.
- Allow the milk to cool to 110°-115° F.
- Combine 1 c of the warm milk with the commercial yogurt in a small bowl and stir with whisk to combine. Add the yogurt-milk mixture back to the Dutch oven and stir until completely incorporated, but not vigorously.
- Cover the Dutch oven with a lid, wrap in towels, and store in a warm place (110°-115° F), such as an insulated cooler or warm (but not hot) oven for 5-12 hours. The longer the incubation, the thicker the yogurt will be.
- Transfer to the refrigerator and cool for 2-3 hours.
- Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy.
The yogurt should keep for approximately two weeks in your refrigerator. Use some of this batch to prepare your next batch.
*The “Live & Active Cultures” seal requires that yogurt contains a standard amount of lactic acid bacteria per gram at the time of manufacture.
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