I’ve recently gotten back into making yogurt. See, a year or so ago I mentioned I wanted to start making yogurt and my aunt gave me her old yogurt maker. And for a while there I was making a batch every week. But I kind of got out of it because it was sort of annoying to make. I’d used Bryanna’s method and Susan from Fat-Free Vegan’s method, and while both of them made consistently successful batches of yogurt, the adding of thickeners bothered me for some reason. It seemed like the whole process was a lot harder than it needed to be. Not that either method was difficult (they are very similar), and not that I’m one to shy away from difficult tasks in the kitchen, but when making staples on a weekly basis, I like the process to be as quick and easy as possible.
It was Wild Fermentation that changed everything. Sandor Katz claimed making soy yogurt was no different than making dairy yogurt (which I’ve never done but which looks very easy and never calls for thickeners), and he shared what I have found is the secret: adding less pre-made yogurt to the warm milk. And nothing else! He himself had read in another source that yogurt cultures don’t like to be “crowded” and that less is therefore more. All of the other recipes I’ve found for making soy yogurt call for 1/4 to an entire cup of existing yogurt to be mixed into a quart of soy milk. Sandor Katz called for just one tablespoon. And it works! No need for thickeners or fuss. It’s so easy I’m back to making it all the time.
1 quart soymilk, preferably freshly homemade
1 Tbsp soy yogurt, with live cultures (can be from your previous homemade batch)
I’ve already explained how to make soy milk, but I figured I’d document it again for this tutorial. But if you already know how to make your own soy milk or if you want to use commercial soy milk, just skip down to the “*******” below.
To make about a quart of soy milk, soak 4 ounces of dried soy beans over night (I use 4 handfuls, which is actually a bit more than 4 ounces). It’s not necessary, but I put the dry soybeans in the blender and pulse a few time to break them up. Then I add water to the blender and swirl it around, causing the hulls from the beans to float up to the top, which I then pour off. I repeat this a few times, then I top it off with water and soak the beans right in the blender.
The next morning (or 8 hours later), set a scant 4 cups of water over medium heat in a medium large pot.
Meanwhile, drain the soaked soybeans, then put in the blender (if they aren’t already there) with fresh water to cover by 1/2 to 1 inch or so. Blend very thoroughly.
Pour the blended soybeans into the water and stir. Heat over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the soymilk as it has a tendency to rise up and boil over very quickly.
If the soymilk gets very foamy on top, you can skim the foam off.
Meanwhile, set up your strainer. I use a 4-cup measuring cup (although I should really use a larger one, and I’ll show you why in a moment), a strainer, and a piece of cheesecloth. Set the strainer in the measuring cup and line with the cheesecloth.
When the soymilk is ready, pour it into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.
Now, usually I’m doing this with two hands and as the soy milk filters down into the measuring cup, I lift the strainer out of it to make room for the milk. I didn’t take into account that this time I’d be taking photographs and not have two hands, so I didn’t lift the strainer and the soy milk overflowed. Oops! If I were any smarter than I am, I’d be using a bigger receptacle in the first place, but I like using something that has a spout and that’s what I have.
I sort of close the cheesecloth up into a sack and bounce it up and down on the strainer, settling the bean pulp – or okara – and pushing most of the soy milk out. I don’t worry too much about squeezing all of the liquid out because I’m trying to keep this process as fast as possible, but you can get really into it and mash it with a potato masher if you’d like.
Here’s the okara. You can save it for another purpose, although if you’ve been a reader for a while you’ll know that I have issues cooking with okara so I’m not going to think any less of you if you throw it away or compost it.
The worst part about making soy milk, by the way, is cleaning up the pot. It requires a lot of scrubbing.
You now have soy milk. If that’s all you’re here for, you’re dismissed. You can add a sweetener if you’d like. Frankly, I don’t bother any more. I used to add agave nectar or maple syrup or even a bit of sugar, but the only things I use soy milk for are the occasional loaf of bread (I use water more often, however) and putting on breakfast cereal and most cereals are already too sweet as it is.
Back to the yogurt.
******* If you are using pre-made soy milk instead of making it now, gently warm it – in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave – until just before boiling: about 180 to 190 degrees. Then follow the instructions below.
If you have one, stick a thermometer in the soy milk. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. You want the soy milk to cool to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This took about 45 minutes for me (though you can speed it up by putting it in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath). If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick your finger in it. If you can leave your finger in without burning it, it’s cooled sufficiently.
While the soy milk is cooling, sanitize and prepare the container(s) in which you’ll be making the yogurt. You can do this by running them through the dishwasher, or you can either submerge them in boiling water for a few minutes, or do as I did and rinse them out with boiling water.
If you are using a yogurt maker, plug it in and set the sanitized container(s) inside. The warmth will help any water clinging to them evaporate and it’s helpful for the containers to come up to temperature before adding the yogurt.
If you don’t have a yogurt maker, there are many incubation ideas floating around the internet. What I’d probably try first is the oven, using either the pilot light of a gas oven or the light bulb of an electric oven. I’ve never used this technique so I’m not going to discuss it, but you’ll find plenty of ideas if you google it.
When the soy milk is cool enough, whisk in 1 tablespoon of pre-made soy yogurt. If using store-bought, make sure it contains live cultures; it will say so on the container (Whole Soy does). You can also use a tablespoon of your previous batch of homemade yogurt. I’ve read that after six rounds of using your own yogurt, you should make your 7th batch using store-bought again to refreshen the culture, but I haven’t really tested this out because I haven’t managed to make yogurt for 7 consecutive weeks and have had to buy new yogurt before that anyway. When you buy the commercial yogurt, you should make sure it’s plain flavored, although since you’re using so little, I imagine you can get away with a flavored variety if that’s all you can find. I’d probably use vanilla if I couldn’t find plain.
If the soy milk gets foamy or bubbly when you whisk it, you can skim the bubbles off to prevent your yogurt from containing bubbles.
Pour the soy milk/yogurt mixture into your prepared containers.
Incubate. I’ve seen it said both that soy yogurt takes less time and more time to set than dairy yogurt. Having never made dairy yogurt, I can’t tell you which is correct. But I did notice that since using this thickener-less method, my yogurt’s actually been setting in less time than it did before: in as little as 4 hours. This picture was taken after 6 hours. It may have been ready in 4 hours, but Brachtune and I sort of ended up taking a little nap and I didn’t check it.
I happened to be flipping through The New Farm cookbook yesterday for an unrelated reason and came across their yogurt making section. Their method is similar to this except they call for more pre-made yogurt. But they did include a little trick for telling if your yogurt is done. If, when tilted to the side, the yogurt comes cleanly from the side of the container, it’s ready. It’s probably hard to see here, but that’s exactly what my yogurt is doing.
Refrigerate for about 3-4 hours, during which time the yogurt will further firm up, before eating.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy yogurt is mixed with granola, sliced bananas and other fruit, and drizzled with agave nectar.
I know this has been very long, but if you’ve made it this far, I shall reward you with pictures of Brachtune being beautiful.