I taught a class that included yogurt-making this weekend to a group of very bright and lovely college students. This one had been on the books for a while, so when I saw Cultures for Health was having a culture sale a few weeks ago, I decided to ditch my usual viili or thermophilic* yogurt demos for some brand new (and yet very old) cultures. I was also inspired by the extensive dairy chapter in FermUp host Branden Byer’s book to expand my milky horizons. And I’m SO glad I did. I tried three new (to me) dairy cultures in the past few weeks (more on the other two coming soon) and I’ve had tons of fun playing around with them. They culture quickly (12-24 hours) so I’ve been able to get a lot of play into just a few weeks.
The first culture I want to talk to you about is Matsoni. The word on the street is that in Japan, it carries the more romantic moniker “Caspian Sea Yogurt” which I love! But whatever you call it, matsoni is a good one for reluctant DIY yogurt eaters. Like all mesophilic yogurt, it ferments at room temperature which makes it laughably simple to make. Unlike all mesophilic yogurts, it has an exceedingly mild flavor that will offend no palate and pairs perfectly with just about any flavor combination, sweet or savory.
Mesophilic yogurt is the perfect demonstration of the fermentation practice of backslopping. I know, the term doesn’t sound super appealing, but it is actually very illustrative of what you need to do. It just means that once your yogurt is finished, you take a small amount from that finished batch and add it into fresh milk to serve as the culture for the next.
HOW TO MAKE MATSONI YOGURT
You can apply the ratio of 1 tablespoon (17 g) of yogurt to 1 cup (235 ml) of milk to any amount up to 1/2 gallon (1.9 liters), according to the instructions I got from Cultures for Health. I haven’t tried batches larger than that. The texture of this yogurt is more thin and jelly-like than creamy, and it breaks apart into pieces when spooned. It also tends to produce a lot of whey that rises to the surface. Great news for those of you who enjoy using whey to culture other products or as a flavorful and protein-rich addition to soups, breads or smoothies.
1/4 cup (68 g) finished matsoni yogurt
1 quart (945 ml) whole, pasteurized milk
Place live, matsoni yogurt in a quart jar. Fill the jar to the threads with fresh milk. Stir thoroughly with a spoon or a chopstick to distribute the yogurt into the milk. Cover with a cloth secured with a rubber band, or place the jar lid on top and secure loosely. Don’t tighten the jar fully or the CO2 released during fermentation might make your jar lid go all wonky. Let it sit at room temperature (70-77 F or 21-25 C) for about 12 hours, but it might take up to 18. To check if it’s set, gently tilt the jar. If it moves in a glob like mass rather than in a splashy wave like a liquid, it’s ready to be moved to the fridge. Tighten the lid or remove the cloth and place a lid on the jar before putting it in the fridge. Allow it to chill, and then it’s ready to eat. Before eating, be sure to set aside at least one tablespoon of the finished yogurt. You’ll need it to start your next batch, but there’s no need to start it right away. You can safely store the starter culture in the fridge for a week before starting your next batch. They yogurt will continue to ferment at a much slower rate in the fridge. It may separate a bit, but as long as you still like how it tastes, it’s fine to eat. Generally best to consume within 7-10 days.
*thermophilic yogurt must be cultured in heated milk (this is the more typical way to make yogurt, and the way that just about any yogurt you buy at the store will be made) but mesophilic yogurt strains are cultured at room temperature.