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DIY Greek yogurt

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So I just got back from Greece and have been suffering from a severe case of yogurt deprivation. Something, clearly, had to be done. I could not go on like this.

Yesterday I took the situation into my own hands and came up with the following very simple - almost too obvious to mention - solution:
I dumped an entire tub of good quality yogurt (in Canada Astro or Liberty) 2% (or 3%, if you're feeling thin) into a coffee filter contraption set over a bowl. Refrigerate for several hours or until thick enough (this is intensely personal) and then spoon back into the tub.

There. Thick Greek-style yogurt, inexpensive, easy to make and pretty darn delicious drizzled with honey. I only drained mine for 2 hours or so because I didn't want it to be super-thick - just creamy. I admit it doesn't have the exact flavour of real Greek yogurt but it was a damn sight better than anything I can buy ready made here. If I am ever feeling very lavish, I will use higher fat yogurt (Balkan style 5 or 8% would be good) but this is good enough for everyday.

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  1. Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? Their Greek style yogurt is incredibly dense. The whole milk yogurt is so thick it's practically cheese. I eat the fat free not because I care that it's fat free, but because it's the only one thin enough to eat alone.

    Be sure to look for the words Greek Style on the tub. TJ's has a bunch of different kinds of yogurt, but only the Greek really impresses.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pei

      There's no Trader Joe's in Canada so that's not an option for us. And I've never seen Total yogurt for sale anywhere either. However, my experience has been that Canada has some superior mainstream yogurts - better than most US supermarket brands. I used Astro 2% for my experiment - and it turned out creamy and delicious, if just a tad more tangy than the genuine Greek article. I would also try Astro's 3% or Balkan style; Liberty yogurt; and Elite yogurt (available in Toronto, at least). None of these are fancy-shmancy-priced, and they contain nothing except what is supposed to be in there.

      1. re: Nyleve

        I've never tried to make Greek-style yogurt, but agree fully that in general Canadian yogurt is far superior to most of what we get in the US. I don't know why that is, but we sampled lots of different yogurts on many trips to Quebec and loved almost every one we tried. Whole Foods has about 5-6 flavors of Liberte but that's all we can find locally.

        OTOH we have Byblos, my favorite yogurt of all - Greek-style, whole milk, deliciously rich and flavorful. Wonderful with just a spoon of local honey, or homemade preserves, or fresh fruit. Fabulous with lots of strawberries and honey churned into frozen yogurt.

    2. I hear you -- I was in Greece last month, and the yogurt was a revelation. Every morning I had a bowl drizzled with local honey and nuts.

      I've made yogurt 'cheese' before to combine with herbs for a party dip, and I thought I used a good brand, but the tang and creaminess were not at all close to what I had in Greece. Now I realize all the yogurt I've had here in the US has tasted of plastic and whey.

      I'll have to check Trader Joe's. It's too expensive to go back for my fix!

      1. Trader Joe's also carries the Greek brand Total. If you want to make your own, I find that the Dannon whole milk yogurt works best if I drain it for about five hours. The Stonyfield Farm yogurt does not work well at all.

        1. Total has been in the NYC area for about 10 years, but I think at this point is very widely distributed around the country, isn't it? (I don't know about Canada.) It's much better than strained American yogurt, and better than the "commercial" Greek-style yogurts I've tried. Sometimes you get lucky at Greek/other European delis selling it in bulk, too.

          Unfortunately, most American yogurt still suffers from the old "health food" legacy - it couldn't be too tasty or you wouldn't get that warm, fuzzy, martyr-virtuous feeling from eating it.;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: MikeG

            ;) I hear you on that. Personally, I'd rather eat all the fatty natural goodness in real yogurt than artificial, blah sweeteners and fake fruit added to American yogurt to make it palatable.

            PS. Total is my favorite yogurt, but costs about three times as much as Trader Joe's Greek Style, so guess which one's usually in my fridge.

            1. re: MikeG

              We have it in Miami and I would die without it.

            2. You can make your own yogurt from scratch (milk and leftover yogurt as a starter), and you don't even need a fancy yogurt maker. Here is a recipe from FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT By Mireille Guiliano:

              Homemade Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker Ingredients 1 quart whole or 2 percent milk 1-2 tablespoons plain yogurt as a starter or 1-2 tablespoons of a commercial starter culture (available at natural food stores) 1. Warm up the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles appear around the edge and steam rises from the surface. 2. Pour the warm milk into a large bowl to cool until the temperature reaches 110 to 115 degrees on a cooking thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, do what the locals do: the temperature is correct when you can keep your index finger in the warm milk for 20 seconds. 3. Put the starter in a small bowl, add some of the heated milk, and stir until well blended. Return the mixture to the large bowl, a third at a time, making sure to stir and blend well after each addition. End with a final stir, making sure all is well blended. Cover with a heavy towel and keep in a warm place 6 yo8 hours or overnight (a gas oven with a pilot light is fine, or placing a saucepan of hot water in the oven to raise the temperature will help if your home is not warm enough). 4. When set, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours before serving. If thicker yogurt is desired, empty chilled yogurt in a muslin bag or cheese-cloth, suspend over a bowl, and drain.

              4 Replies
              1. re: welle

                Back in my hippie days I - and everyone else I knew - had an electric yogurt maker. I used it to make yogurt but discovered that eventually the flavour deteriorates if you keep using your own homemade yogurt to innoculate each following batch. So eventually you have to start over again - not a big deal, but still. I also felt my homemade yogurt was never as tasty as the stuff I could buy. But of course I kept right on making it because it was what was done in those days. Eventually, in an unusual fit of common sense, I put my yogurt maker in a garage sale ($2) and have never made another tub. It's just not worth the time and effort, in my opinion, unless you have your own cow or goat (which we also had but that's another story altogether).

                1. re: Nyleve

                  Homemade yogurt and cheese depend entirely on the quality of the milk available. Most of the milk sold in supermarkets in the US is such awful stuff, it's not worth the effort. When I had raw guernsey milk available I used to make my own yogurt, cream cheese and ice cream. Now that was tasty.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    But--

                    a) if you use the superior-quality milk you probably have access to nowadays, and

                    b) you drain the result as you did in the coffee filter,

                    you might be pleasantly surprised.

                  2. re: welle

                    For another recipe that I find incredibly easy to make check out this site.

                    http://biology.clc.uc.edu/Fankhauser/...

                    I add some powdered milk to regular milk to make it even thicker. The recipe is really easy to do and only takes about 4 hours start to finish.

                  3. How much is Trader Joe's Greek-style? I've seen the Total for for quite a bit more, but the small containers are ($1.75? ish) in my neighborhood. (In this case, the big tubs are more expensive on a weight basis.) Even apart from the superior flavor, the cost works about the same as straining regular American yogurt since I have no use for the leftover whey. I don't regularly shop at Trader Joe's but if it's significantly cheaper, I'll check it out.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MikeG

                      TJ's is $2 for 16 oz, or 2.5 cups.

                    2. When I was a child, my parents would send me to live in the country with my aunt. She made fresh yogurt herself everyday day, and it was the best thing ever. Granted, like my mother used to say that aunt of mine was not too much talented or too industrious, she could make yogurt pretty well. So I assumed making yogurt was not a big deal. But it was a different country, non-commercial milk and different terroir, so it could be different making yogurt at home here in the US. I've been meaning to try- that's why I'd saved the recipe, but here in NYC there are so many ethnic or locally produced yogurts (not just Fage Total) so I never bothered making some for myself.

                      Tastes also change and food processing technology as well, maybe if you made yogurt today, you'd think it was the greatest thing you've ever tasted?

                      My apologies - I cannot thread properly, this was supposed to be a reply to Nyleve

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: welle

                        Possibly, possibly. But I feel that my newly discovered yogurt-draining process is such a huge step toward yogurty perfection that I don't think I'll bother with making the actual yogurt itself. And besides, we don't have goats anymore...thank god.

                      2. (reply to Pei, technical difficulties apparently prevent thread replies)

                        It's out of the way of my usual haunts, but I happened to walk by Trader Joe's yesterday evening and checked it out. It's $2.50 here, so the Total's "only" about 50% more expensive. As seems to happen whenever I go, the line was way too long to stand on for less than a cartful of groceries, but if I ever manage to get there when the line isn't monstrous, I'll try it.;)

                        1. though the straining method is also good - a lot of Greek butchers or sweets shops (in Toronto any number of stores on the Danforth) will sell you yogurt by weight.

                          1. If you are using the draining method, you might want to check out an indian store for good quality curd- here in NY/NJ they sell a product called DESI DAHI in large containers which in the whole milk version (all I have tried) is a very good yogurt and would be well suited to the process.

                            I am just getting to hate the average american yogurts - low or no far, sweetened, and stabilized - like the stuff my mom makes with skim milk and gelatin. Shudder.