I'd long known that yogurt, with all of its beneficial bacteria, was good for me. But given my long-time dairy and digestive woes, it wasn't something that had been part of my daily diet -- until three months ago.
I read a book called "Breaking the Vicious Cycle," which talks about achieving intestional health through a Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).
The author, Elaine Gottschall, was a biochemist and cell biologist who specialized in the study of the effect of food on the human body. She found that many people who have intestional issues have lost the ability to digest disaccharides (white sugars) and polysaccharies (starch) because their intestines are lined with mucus. The enymes needed to break down these sugars and starches can't get passed the mucus. The result? Yeast and bad bacteria multiply and change these carbohydrates in ways that actually injure the intestines.
With the SCD, sucrose, lactose and starch are eliminated and the only carbohydrates consumed are predominantly single sugars (glucose) found in fruit, honey, certain vegetables and properly-made yogurt. Why? Glucose requires no digestion. Therefore, it's more likely to be absorbed by the cells of the small intestine. The predigested sugar can then pass through the cells, go into the bloodstream and nourish the entire body.
You might be asking yourself: What exactly is properly-made yogurt? According to Gottschall, who passed away in 2005, it's yogurt that's been made from scratch and fermented for 24 hours at 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. The combination of the time and temperature activates the beneficial bacterial enzymes and allows for complete digestion of the lactose, a happy finding for folks like me. Too, Gottschall said there are far more good bacteria in homemade yogurt than commercial.
The book inspired me to try making yogurt at home, so my first order of business was to buy a yogurt maker.
Yogurt Maker ... and the Sequel
I read countless online reviews, and all of their praise pointed to the Yogourmet. Reviewers loved it for the fact that it makes 2 quarts of yogurt in one plastic container, doesn't have a finite timer, and comes with a thermometer and a cotton bag for making yogurt cheese.
I bought one on Amazon. And it was great for all the aforementioned reasons -- until it broke after only three uses. I called the folks at the company that sold it through Amazon, but they refused to send me a new one or refund my money. It soured me on wanting to buy another Yogourmet, so I looked for an alternative.
The sequel? A Euro Cuisine, which I purchased at Williams-Sonoma. It's around the same price -- $50 -- and a much better machine. To date, I've used it at least a dozen times, and I highly recommend it. It produces a deliciously tangy yogurt in seven 6-ounce glass jars.
The digital timer on the Euro Cuisine is also great, but unfortunately it maxes out at 15 hours, so you have to set it twice. Also, it makes less yogurt per batch -- a total of 42 ounces. And some might argue that the individual jars are a bit tougher to clean than the Yogourmet. But I think the smaller jars result in a better texture, one similar to Greek yogurt, so it's worth any additional elbow grease needed to clean the small jars. The Yogourmet produced a much runnier yogurt.
Making the Yogurt
I'll admit: Although I was inspired by Gottschall's claims, making yogurt from scratch seemed daunting. Aside from having to buy another machine for the kitchen, I was concerned about all the steps involved and the time commitment.
Now that I've done it more than a dozen times, I laugh at the fact that I was ever worried. It's simple, and the flavor and health benefits are well worth the steps.
This isn't my recipe. It's the one Gottschall wrote in "Breaking the Vicious Cycle." The only modification I made was to the measurements. The Euro Cuisine can hold at total of 42 ounces of yogurt, so I adapted the recipe to fit that machine. Gottschall didn't specify using organic milk and starter yogurt, but I recommend it.
1. In a medium-size pot, bring 42 ounces of low-fat (2%) organic milk to a simmer, stirring often to prevent scorching.
2. Remove from the heat, and place a candy thermometer in the milk. Cool until the milk has reached room temperature (64-77 degrees Fahrenheit). I like to stick the pot of milk in the freezer to speed the cooling process. In the freezer, it takes about an hour to get the milk down to the right temperature.
3. Pour about 3/4 cup of the cooled milk into a small bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup of starter yogurt (any organic, unsweetened, unflavored yogurt from the store that contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus, L. acidophilus and S. thermophilus). Once combined, pour the mixture into the larger pot of cooled milk. Whisk to combine.
4. Using a funnel, fill each jar with 6 ounces of the milk mixture.
5. Place the jars in the Euro Cuisine yogurt maker, and cover with the lid. Plug in the machine, and set the timer for 9 hours. Once the 9 hours is up, reset the timer for 15 hours. The yogurt must be fermented for a total of 24 hours to ensure proper digestion of the lactose.
6. After 24 hours, place the lids on the jars and refridgerate. The yogurt will last for up to one week.
Topping Your Yogurt
You can certainly eat this yogurt by itself if you dig super-tart flavors, but I prefer it with homemade fruit sauce.
My boyfriend, Matt, came up with one that uses summer-season fruits. He calls it Cherry-Berry Sauce. The name and flavor are just as sweet as he is. To the fruit he adds honey, which is comprised of single sugars and is, therefore, SCD-approved.
If I may gush for a moment: Matt, nicknamed Super Silent G, is the amazing photographer behind so many of the beautiful photos on The Concentric Circle. I'm forever grateful for his creative eye, infinite and unconditional love, and willingness to be part of this blog. And I love that he loves to cook for me! I think you'll agree that his recipe is top-notch.
(Tops 7-8 servings of yogurt)
8 ounces organic cherries, pitted and chopped
16 ounces organic strawberries, chopped
6 ounces organic blueberries
6 ounces organic raspberries
1/4 cup honey
In a medium-size pot, cook the fruit and honey over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The juices will be bubbling. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for another 12 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, and allow the sauce to cool. Transfer to a container, cover and refridgerate for up to one week.
Am I Following a Strict SCD?
The short answer is no. My diet is mainly comprised of lean animal proteins, veggies, fruit, nuts, nut butters and, of course, properly-made yogurt. But I still enjoy pasta and bread on occasion. And I love my dark chocolate. I've found that moderation is the key for me. If you're interested in the SCD, click here for more information.