Knowing how your food is made is equally as important as knowing where it comes from. I know (because I am a culprit of this myself) it is easy to get caught up on the labels that have been plastered on products all over the grocery store shelves. However, what labels usually don’t tell you is how the product was made; how much processing it went through, what other products have been added to it and exactly how it came to be on your local market shelf.
Knowing the origin and production process of the food you put in your body can help connect you with the earth, people, plants and animals that feed you, as well as helping ensure that every last bite is going to make a positive impact. Buying organic, sourcing as locally as possible and trusting the producer and distributor that provide for you is a great fist step, but nothing can outweigh homemade foods you have a personal hand in from start to finish. Not only do you know exactly what goes in, you know and can control the details of the entire process.
Realistically, I realize that it is close to impossible to make everything you eat from scratch, but learning how to make a few of your favorite staple foods can be a fun process that also benefits your health. One of my favorite foods to make at home is yogurt. I hardly go a day without a bowl of yogurt and my favorite granola that my father makes and sends me in gallon quantities on a regular basis. Since I eat it so regularly, and yogurt is commonly a food that is highly processed and can contain a lot of additives when not produced well, I thought it would be a good one to undertake at home. Homemade yogurt has a great original taste and texture that you can’t find in the store bought version. Use good quality organic milk to ensure your final product is as filled with nutrients and beneficial probiotic bacteria as possible.
1 Quart whole milk
3 Tbsp plain organic yogurt
Heat milk to 105 degrees (any lower can promote growth of harmful bacteria and any higher can kill the good probiotic bacteria). Remove from heat and thoroughly stir in yogurt.
At this point, unless you have a conventional yogurt maker, you have the option of using a thermos, a warm oven or a heating pad. I prefer to use my oven because I find it is the easiest to regulate temperature in.
Pour the milk mixture into a clean ovenproof dish or jar and set in a 100-degree oven for 6 hours. This method works especially well with gas ovens that have a pilot light that keeps the oven at a warmer temperature. Use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is not too hot or cool during the process.
If using a thermos, pour the milk mixture into the clean thermos, wrap with a towel or blanket for extra insulation and let sit for 6 hours. If using a heating pad, place the pad in a box or insulated cooler with the jars of your milk mixture. Let sit for 6 hours and use a thermometer to regulate the 100-degree temperature. After the 6-hour incubation period of your choosing, remove the jars and test the yogurt.
If your incubation was too hot the yogurt can curdle and get very stiff. If you did not incubate for long enough or the temperature was too low, the yogurt will be very runny. After successful incubation, store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to one month. If you desire, add fruit, honey or jam for flavoring right before consumption. Your yogurt will last longer if not exposed to any additional ingredients during storage.