Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Troubleshooting Slow-Cooker Yoghurt and Home-made Ginger beer.

I've talked about making yoghurt in a slow cooker, and making ginger beer, and after a few attempts, I wanted to share what I've learned so far, if some of you have made attempts and been discouraged.

Slow Cooker Yoghurt Troubleshooting
  • I've only used pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) but I hear that you shouldn't use ultra-pasteurized.
  • Among pasteurized milks, it's easier to use Whole Milk when you're starting out your yoghurt-making life. Once you get the hang of things and if you like, you can use 2% or 1% milk.
  • Amongst Whole Milks, some work better than others. For example, Crescent Ridge milk works well, but Trader Joe's organic milk works less well.
  • It's hard to get Whole Milk Yoghurt in the U.S.; most are reduced fat. It's ok to use whatever plain yoghurt you can find. I would recommend trying different personal size plain yoghurt until you find one that works well. Once you have good yoghurt you can reuse the yoghurt you have for the next batch. Greek yoghurt sometime works really well, but again, it seems to depend on brand a bit. Stonyfield has been good.
  • Temperature matters a lot. Add the yoghurt to the milk just as it dips below 110F, and try to slow the cooling process. I usually put the oven on for a moment until it gets warm-ish, then switch it off and put the towel-wrapped slow cooker in for the day (if I started the yoghurt first thing in the morning) or the night.
  • Once you've tried a couple of times, it get really easy. You may not need all the above info to be successful, it's just if you've tried and it hasn't worked too well.
Home-Made Ginger beer Troubleshooting
  • My first ginger beer batch was made exclusively with powdered ginger. It was really good, if a little bit sweet.
  • My second batch was made with a mix of powdered ginger and very finely diced fresh ginger. It was ok, but less fizzy and gingery.
  • My third batch was made with finely diced fresh ginger only. It was really awful.
  • The lesson I draw from this is that it's better to use powdered ginger. It's more concentrated and there's nothing there to ferment. But the freshness of the powdered ginger matters a lot. If you aren't a big ginger user, I'd recommend going to a store with bulk spices (such as Harvest or Whole Foods) and getting just enough for a batch. It should cost about $1.00.
  • Use less sugar than the recipe requires, until you find your sweet spot.
  • Weird stuff growing in the ginger beer hasn't been a problem. If it tastes good, I'm pretty confident only the yeast fermented.
  • I'm going to experiment with pineapple juice as sweetener. I'll let you know how it goes!
Thoughts? Other fermented/cultured foods you've been trying out?

This video made me want to make beer just so that I had the leftover grain to use in bread:

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