To make yogurt, first choose your starter yogurt. If no one offers you an heirloom, I recommend one of the ubiquitous global brands, sweeteners and stabilizers included. They tend to have very active bacterial cultures, including EPS producers, and the additives end up diluted to insignificant levels. Delicious specialty yogurts make less predictable starters. Then choose your milk. I prefer the flavor and consistency of yogurt made from whole milk. Many types of reduced-fat milk replace the fat with milk solids, including acid-producing lactose, and make a harsher tasting yogurt. Soy milk sets into a custardy curd that becomes very thin when stirred. Heat the fresh milk at 180 to 190 degrees, or to the point that it’s steaming and beginning to form bubbles. The heat alters the milk’s whey proteins and helps create a finer, denser consistency. Let the milk cool to around 115 to 120 degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot. For each quart of milk, stir in two tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk. Then put the milk in a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. I simply swaddle my quart jar in several kitchen towels. You can also put the container in an oven with the light bulb on. Once the yogurt sets, refrigerate it to firm its structure and slow the continuing acid production. To make a thick Greek-style yogurt, spoon it into a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth, and let the whey and its lactic acid drain into a bowl for several hours. (Don’t discard the whey, whose yellow-green tint comes from riboflavin. It makes a refreshing cool drink, touched up with a little sugar or salt.)
Because Olivia is at the stage where she doesn’t want to be spoonfed but isn’t able to use a spoon yet, my favorite way to give her the yogurt is as a fruit smoothie put in her sippy cup.
Which brings me to my second great-for-a-toddler’s-mommy discovery: frozen fruit. I can hardly believe that I hadn’t discovered this before! During the winter here any fruits other than apples, oranges and bananas are really expensive and often not very good. Frozen fruit is a great fill-in. To make a smoothie, I put 1 cup of yogurt, 1 cup of frozen fruit and 1 tsp of sugar in the blender and mix. I do throw larger fruit like peaches and whole strawberries in the microwave for about 3 seconds before putting them in the blender so they will mix in better.
For the kid who can spoon-feed himself, throw a handful of frozen fruit into the microwave for 1 minute and then mix it into a bowl of yogurt. The pieces will be mushy enough that you will be able to break them into whatever size pieces you want while stirring. You may want to add a teaspoon or so of sugar as well.
To serve the fruit straight to my daughter, I put it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. At the longer range of the microwave time the fruit comes out quite mushy which is perfect for a new eater or kid without many teeth. At the shorter end of the microwave time the fruit is still slightly frozen which makes is less squishy and messy. And frozen fruit straight from the freezer is great for teethers. So there ya go!