Using Fage as a starter for homemade yogurt?
I have 0% Fage and 2% fage as possible options as starters for my homemade yogurt. The problem is that I've heard lots of conflicting opinions on using Fage as a starter. Some people say it didn't work, others say it didn't. What's the final verdict? Have you had success using Fage as a starter? What other brands do you suggest using as a starter? Does it make a difference in the taste?
I've used Fage as a starter, but the final product is not that similar to Fage-- if you want that great texture/richness, I think you'd need to add either cream or cream and milk powder to the milk, ferment, and then strain for a while with a weight on top of the yogurt. Generally I use an organic plain yogurt as a starter (read the label to make sure it doesn't have any thickeners or additives)- I've used Horizon brand most recently.
Any yogurt (plain) will work as long as it has 'active cultures'. Fage should work great. My favority starter, though, is Stoneyfield plain organic.
I use 2% or skim milk and do not add powdered. I let my fermentation go 12+ hours, then drain off some of the whey (strainer lined with cheesecloth) to make a very thick 'fage-like' yogurt.
There are several websites that posted the amount of active yogurt culture by brand. Fage has only a small amount. Stonyfield has the most.
I make Fage yogurt -- or at least that style of yogurt, but I don't drain it at all. Instead, I add a fair amount of milk powder to the milk, and also culture the yogurt for
15 hours. Both help create extra thickness.
My (long) report with tips and tricks I learned is here:
re: maria lorraine
I'm not sure that having more active cultures in the starter will make better yogurt. When I make bread, I get significantly better flavor using less yeast and letting it develop for a longer time. And when making beer, it's generally better to underpitch than to overpitch.
Then there's the question of the strain of the bugs. Presumably the cultures in Fage aren't genetically identical to the cultures in other yogurts. I don't know whether this makes a difference in flavor, but it might.
Finally, I haven't been able to make yogurt I like using milk powder (but I haven't tried that hard). My childhood aversion to the smell of powdered milk has convinced me that it's just easier to strain. And I can use the whey to make bread or pizza dough, so there's nothing lost.
To the OP, I've successfully used Fage as a starter on many occasions. My other go-to starter is TJ's Greek Village yogurt. But regardless of your starter, you just have to be patient and pay attention. Instead of a clock or timer, just use your senses. Let the stuff sit until it's good and thick, and then strain it if you want.
I had the same bad experience with powdered milk, so I scouted for the ratings and reviews of various brands before I made my first "Fage" batch. The Lucky supermarket brand is great for flavor, and lends both additional thickness and protein to your homemade yogurt.
On timing and thickness: 12 hours was really good -- thick -- but 15 hours was
perfect -- even thicker -- and the flavor was rounder, tangier, more complex.
Fage and other Greek and similar style yogurts are strained, so to get that texture, you need to strain in a cheesecloth after culturing, reducing the total volume by about half. That's why it costs more than other yogurts. If you strain it long enough, reducing to about one quarter the original volume, you get a nice yogurt cream cheese.
As it happens I made a batch of yogurt last night with Fage 2%, and the results were okay, but not as firm as I like for regular, unstrained yogurt. There's some variation from batch to batch, so maybe it was just the yogurt I had on hand.
I usually like Brown Cow plain whole milk yogurt as a starter culture.
I no longer remember the details but did once upon a time learn about the different types of cultures and found that Chobani has a wider mix of cultures compared with Fage and included at least one type that some people feel is particularly beneficial for gut health. (Sorry I can't remember more, but if you're at all concerned, I'm sure there are other yogurts that contain it as well.) I can't taste the difference either way, but as another poster noted, it's really the straining that makes Greek yogurt so good more than any particular culture. www.lehmans.com has a yogurt strainer that makes this especially easy, though I still line it with a paper towel before using it.