This is for my friend, Laurie, who I promised to post this for over a year ago… I am a slow poke…
If you have traveled this lovely journey at all, your research into good intestinal health may eventually lead you to learning about all the great benefits of cultured foods and probiotics, and that may lead you to think about getting some great yogurt. Which is a great plan, if you can eat cow milk products. There are lots and lots of options out there for the “moo juice” crowd. However, there are only a couple of brands of soy yogurt and a rice yogurt that are both dairy and gluten free. Now, I am not knocking them at all. They are great tasting, my family has enjoyed them, and they have the “live” cultures you want in a yogurt. However, they may be a bit cost prohibitive at your store and what if soy is not an option you can use? At our house we try to rotate our food choices as much as possible (and not go nuts planning) to minimize depending too much on any of the high allergen foods. Now what?
You know I love to experiment. I had been toying with the idea of making my own yogurt for a while. Everything I read made it sound like cow milk yogurt was pretty easy. I thought maybe I needed a yogurt maker (I didn’t want to spend the cash or get one more appliance) or needed a starter (all starters I found at first were dairy based), so I shelved it for a bit. But the idea kept nagging at me. At some point my cook book addiction brought me to Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, and I was set free from the yogurt maker plan! In the book great ways to ferment and culture veggies and fruits are demystified and there are many vegan options also. Not everything is gluten and dairy free, of course, but so many options are offered, it’s really does not affect how useful this book is. It is a GREAT guide to live-culture foods. Being the food freak I am, I love it!
So, in the spirit of experimentation, I decided to make a coconut yogurt, not really sure how it would work out. Was I surprised and overjoyed to discover the coconut milk makes a great yogurt with the right mouth feel and taste. And, using the guidelines in Wild Fermentation, it was really simple to make and takes very little time. Below is the recipe I use. I originally used a live culture soy yogurt for my starter as that is what I could get quickly at the time. As I only used a tablespoon originally and I have kept saving a tablespoon from each batch for the next continuously since for many batches over the past year and a half or so, I don’t know how much soy protein would be even left in my yogurt. You can get a dairy free yogurt starter from G I Pro Health, and apparently G.E.M. Cultures carried one, but I couldn’t find it at the site at this time. If anyone knows of another one, I’ would be glad to hear about it.
Coconut Yogurt – adapted from Wild Fermentation from the dairy yogurt recipe
**Edit 5-13-09: I now make my yogurt by whisking in 3 Tablespoons Tapioca starch into the coconut milk before heating. It makes for a great consistency and takes care of the variables in thickness during fermentation. If you make coconut cream cheese from this thickened yogurt, I find it takes about twice as long to drain.
Quart canning jar with lid
lnsulated cooler (I use a soft sided one)
large heat resistant container (such as glass) with a cover, that will fit in cooler leaving room for the canning jar
Clean kitchen towels
4 cups coconut milk (NOT light)
1 tablespoon gluten and dairy free live culture “yogurt” (If you use So Delicious plain coconut yogurt as the starter, I find that you should use the 6 Tablespoons. You can use the entire 6 oz. container if you culture 42 oz. of coconut milk (3 cans or 5 1/4 cups). I haven’t used a probiotic capsule yet, but read that you should use 1/4 teaspoon to one capsule per cup of liquid depending on the brand.)
The first thing I do is set up my cooler. I use a soft sided cooler so that the glass measuring bowl with a lid that I have will fit. I line the bottom of the cooler with clean kitchen towels, place my glass measuring bowl and a sterilized quart canning jar (I run it through the dishwasher to sterilize) in the cooler, and pack more towels around them.
(Edit: If you do not have a measuring bowl like I have, you could put 2 or 3 more canning jars with lids in the cooler to fill with the boiling water .)
Not so pretty, but it works…
I fill the glass canning jar and measuring bowl with boiling water and put on the caps. This is to preheat the jar and insulated cooler so they will not drain heat from the yogurt so it can maintain a warm enough temp to ferment.
Close the lid of the cooler. Next, I take my 4 cups of coconut milk –
– and put it into my sauce pan. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan about halfway into the coconut milk. Do not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan.
Whisking often, slowly heat your coconut milk over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 180 degrees F.
Turn off the heat, and let coconut milk cool to 110 degrees F. When the coconut reaches 110, add your reserved yogurt or your starter and mix in well. I am adding one tablespoon of coconut yogurt from my the previous batch. More starter WILL NOT make a thicker yogurt. The bacillus needs “room” and if too much is added you will end up with a sour, watery product. Blah!
Open your cooler, dump out the boiling water from the canning jar. Leave the water in the covered measuring bowl. Pour your coconut yogurt mix into the canning jar, cap and put back into the cooler.
Tuck more clean kitchen towels into the cooler, close the lid and place cooler in an area where it won’t be jostled. Yogurt doesn’t like to be bumped around too much while it is culturing.
Look! My yogurt is all tucked in. Doesn’t it look cozy?
Check on your yogurt after 8-12 hours. I usually leave it overnight. It should have a tangy flavor and have some thickness. If it isn’t thick, warm it up by filling the covered measuring bowl with more hot water, adding more starter, and leaving it 4-8 more hours. You can also leave it to ferment longer if you wish. It will become more sour tasting. I find my yogurt thickens more after it has chilled. You may experience some separation in your canning jar. Sometimes I find my yogurt floating on the “whey”. How much usually depends on the water content of the coconut milk I started with.
Yogurt should be stored in the refrigerator, and will become more sour over time. Be sure to save some coconut yogurt to make your next batch.
Sweeten with fruits and/or the sweetener of your choice or use plain.
I also use the coconut yogurt to make “cream cheese” and “cheese” cake pops. The recipes are here.
Edit on March 5, 2009: I had an email about yogurt batches not turning out as thick as mine appears. I have that issue sometimes also. Remember, yogurt cultures are a live product and are effected by various factors, temperature, humidity, etc… Also, the homemade yogurt is not as thick as the dairy or non-dairy yogurts from the store as the homemade doesn’t have the thickeners they contain. Here are some tips that should help your yogurt if it is not turning out as you would expect:
The question: “I was wondering how you can make finished the coconut yogurt thicker. I have been using your recipe, but tend to get a product that is more runny (more like drinkable yogurt). Any ideas? I usually leave it overnight for 12 to 16 hours in my yogurt maker. I only put 1 Tablespoon of the previous batch in when it cools to between 100 and 110 degrees (or the appropriate amount of starter according to the starter directions). My original starter is from Custom Probiotics. The yogurt tastes great, but is just a bit too runny. Is coconut yogurt supposed to be more runny than “regular” yogurt? Or am I missing something? Thanks!”
The answer: “I have not used that starter, so I am not sure how that would work (making a thick or thin yogurt) but maybe because it is so much of a high potency one that you may need to use less of the starter. If you use too much starter, the yogurt doesn’t get thicker, it makes a more watery product when the cultures are too crowded. So, maybe try a little less starter for the next batch.