We are a yogurt loving family! We put it on nearly everything, especially Lebanese dishes.
When I arrived in Shanghai and saw the price of Yoplait yogurt, I decided it was time to commit to making my own yogurt. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made it many times in the past but living in Europe and the USA, good quality Lebanese yogurt is not only easily accessible but priced well enough that making my own yogurt wasn’t worth the trouble…
The Chinese love their UHT milk. Go to any grocery store and you’ll see a whole aisle packed with boxed milk from all over the world.I don;t speak for all Americans obviously but I don’t remember ever seeing boxed milk at the grocery store. Maybe there is. I just never looked for it. But to make good Laban, you’ll need fresh milk.
There is a bit of fear here of Chinese milk after the 2008 milk scandal. That’s why imported UHT milk is so popular here. But I don’t like the taste of UHT Laban.
Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Metro all sell Chinese UBest Milk. I’ve been using this brand ever since I got here and have been really happy with the flavor. My daughter will only eat cereal with UBest because she says it tastes like milk from America. Fingers crossed that there is no future scandal with this milk. Oh the joys of living in China where you don’t really know how safe anything is for you…
Back to making yogurt.
In the summer time you can set the milk on the floor while waiting for it to turn into yogurt. However in the wintertime this method will not work, especially if you have marble floors like me! Where to store the pot of yogurt:
- In the oven
- Near a heating unit
- Placed on a rug on the floor
Personally, I store my yogurt wrapped in a blanket in the oven.The longer you leave the yogurt wrapped in the blanket the more developed the flavors will be. I’ve left it almost 24 hours once and it acquired an excellent consistency and taste.
So where do you get yogurt starter from? If I do not have leftover yogurt from a previous batch I usually buy my starter from Carrefour. I like the Meiji brand. It’s Bulgarian yogurt and the right texture to make thick yogurt Lebanese-style yogurt.
Here’s a tip: If you love the taste of the yogurt you made then I recommend putting 1/2 cup in an air-tight tupperware in the back of the refrigerator and saving it for the next batch. This way you don’t use up all of that tasty yogurt! But, if you’re using leftover yogurt, remember to taste it before adding it to the milk. If your yogurt is sour your new yogurt will also have a slightly sour taste (which I personally love).
Before I bought my handy dandy thermometer, I used the classic Lebanese method to determine if the milk had cooled enough to add the starter. Simply place your pinkie in the milk and if you can quickly count to 10 before pulling your finger out throbbing in pain then your milk is the perfect temperature to add the yogurt starter. Or you can just buy a thermometer and spare yourself the pain of the pinkie test.
When your yogurt is finished there will be a layer of liquid whey on top, if you strain the liquid out you have
GREEK Lebanese Yogurt! Voila! You don’t need to strain it though. You can simply stir it back in making your yogurt a little thinner. As for me, I like my yogurt nice and thick. After the yogurt sets, I leave it on the counter for a couple of hours and use a ladle to carefully remove the whey (liquid). This is what it’ll look like after removing most of the liquid with a spoon. I like the pot so I don’t want to remove the yogurt from it.
Sorry it wasn’t easy to get a pretty picture of the laban in the pot. You can see that there is still some water on the top, but there is a thick yogurt just below it.
Below is what the Laban will look like after you drain out the water.
You can also strain it for 30 minutes in a double thick paper towel lined colander. The longer you strain it the thicker it will be until it reaches the consistency of cheese. Straining it for 3-4 hours will give you a super creamy yogurt called Labanieh that can be easily substituted for sour cream and creme fraiche. I promise a post on that soon!
I know this sounds intimidating, but Homemade Laban is a beautiful thing. Once you make it you’ll be shocked how easy it was and I bet you’ll never resort to store bought yogurt again!
If you have any questions, leave a comment below! I’m more than happy to answer your questions!
- 3- 1.5L Milks
- 1/2 cup of Yogurt Starter (store bought or your last batch)
- Rinse bottom of pot with cold water to prevent scorching.
- Bring milk to 210F (when the milk starts to rise) over medium low heat.
- Remove from stovetop and set aside to cool.
- When thermometer reaches 120F (or when you can stick your pinky in the milk to the count of 10), stir a couple of tablespoons of warm milk into yogurt starter. Then stir starter into warm milk and stir.
- Cover with lid. Wrap covered pot in a blanket making sure to cover the bottom of the pot and securely fold in blanket under the pot.
- Carefully place the wrapped pot in a warm area. Leave untouched for 8-12 hours. When you remove the lid the yogurt should be thick and not very watery. (It’s okay if there is some water though. You can either drain out the water or stir it in.)
- Uncover and leave on the counter for 4-6 hours to develop the flavor (or up to 24 hours if you want it super tangy)
- Place the finished yogurt in the refrigerator for 24 hours before eating.