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       Volume I - July 10, 2009

Get Quality Probiotics!
by Alice Osborne & Patty Liston

Let’s Make Our OWN Yogurt... a Great Way to Get Quality Probiotics... A Billion Good Bugs!

One of our favorite websites, SparkPeople, had a great article about probiotics. Ever heard of them, or know anything about them? Licensed and registered dietician, Becky Hand, gave a simple and clear explanation about this area of food supplements: They are friendly bacteria for your digestive system. Here’s more:

The digestive tract contains more than 400 types of “friendly” bacteria. These little guys, commonly referred to as probiotics (which means "pro-life"), help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. That’s right! Probiotics are live bacteria with clinically-documented health benefits.

And do they have health benefits! Scientists have found that when the digestive system is kept healthy, other body systems greatly benefit as well. Probiotics can:

  • Protect against infection
  • Enhance and boost the immune system
  • Promote and improve digestive health
  • Alleviate diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatments
  • Promote urinary and genital health
  • Assist in the management of inflammation
  • Help alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance
  • Improve some types of eczema in infants and children
  • Reduce cholesterol levels
  • Decrease the risk of certain cancers

    Each type of friendly bacteria has a specific health benefit to the body. With 400+ different types of probiotics identified, researchers are just starting to uncover the health roles and benefits of each.

    Food Sources: Currently, foods that contain probiotics are primarily dairy products and dairy beverages, including:

  • Yogurt
  • Drinkable and squeezable yogurts
  • Fluid milk with added probiotics
  • Fermented milk such as sweet acidophilus milk
  • Kefir

    Through fermentation, probiotics enhance the flavor and texture of these particular dairy products. Dairy foods actually buffer stomach acid and bile, thereby protecting the probiotics from the stomach acid so that they can reach the intestines.

    While raw (unpasteurized) yogurt is loaded with bacteria, most yogurts are pasteurized and these bacteria are killed. However, some friendly bacteria are added back. Look for yogurt showing the “live and active culture” sign on the label. Pay attention to the expiration date—live bacterial cultures can diminish with time.

    Probiotic supplements are available in a variety of forms: freeze dried powder, capsules, wafers, and liquids. Be cautious before using a probiotic supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements in the same way as it regulates medication. Legally, manufacturers can sell supplements, even with little or no research on how well it works or how safe it is.

    Supplement and medication reactions can occur — seek your health care provider’s guidance before using any probiotic supplement.

    Convinced? We are! AND, we thought we’d do more than just pass the probiotic advice: below read on for how to make your own fresh, probiotic-loaded yogurt! This information is courtesy of Dr. David B. Fankhauser, Professor of Biology and Chemistry at U.C. Clermont College in Batavia. OH:

    This fermented milk product is produced by adding a "starter" of active yogurt containing a mixed culture of Lactobacillus bulgaricus (or occasionally L. acidophilus ) and Streptococcus thermophilus. These produce lactic acid during fermentation of lactose. The lactic acid lowers the pH, makes it tart, causes the milk protein to thicken and acts as a preservative since pathogenic bacteria cannot grow in acid conditions. The partial digestion of the milk when these bacteria ferment milk, makes yogurt easily digestible. In addition, these bacteria help settle an upset GI including that which follows oral antibiotic therapy—they replenish the non-pathogenic flora of the gastrointestinal tract.

    Several factors are crucial for successful yogurt making:

  • Good sterile technique (i.e., proper sterilization and cooling of the milk, proper cleansing and heat treatment of glassware, and keeping out unwanted bacteria).

  • Proper incubation temperature. Lactobacilli and Streptococcus thermophilus are thermophilic bacteria, meaning they prefer elevated temperatures for growth. At such temperatures (50 C, in this case) pathogenic or putrifactive bacteria are inhibited. However, even these thermophilic bacteria are killed if exposed to temperatures over 55oC (130o F), and do not grow well below 37oC (98oF). We will incubate at 50oC, a temperature on the high side of its preferred growth temperature (122oF), a temperature which inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria. (Note that many recipes call for cooler temperatures than this. We find the results less dependable when incubation temperatures are lower.)

  • Protection of the starter from contamination. Do not open the starter (either Dannon Plain yogurt, or 8 oz starter from the previous yogurt batch) until you are ready to make the next batch.

    Yogurt is preserved by its acidity, which inhibits the growth of putrefactive or pathogenic bacteria. With lids intact, this yogurt will keep at least a month or two in the refrigerator. After that time, especially if your refrigerator is on the "warm" side, a layer of non-pathogenic white mold may form on the top. Merely lift off the mold with a fork, discard, and use the yogurt for cooking.

    Baked goods will rise well when yogurt is used, again due to its acidity. Use yogurt as part or all of the liquid in cakes, waffles, pancakes and muffins, and cut down on the amount of baking powder. The thickness of yogurt helps to hold up the baking batter.

    The following recipe makes four quarts of yogurt. The following instructions may seem overly detailed, but I believe that the detail increases your chance of successful yogurt.


    Dannon Label:

  • 1 gallon fresh milk (either store bought, or your own home grown milk)
    -whole milk makes richer flavored yogurt, skim milk makes it non-fat

  • starter: 1 cup Dannon Plain yogurt, very fresh

    I prefer Dannon Plain, made purely with milk and culture. (Get the freshest: check the expiration date.) Dannon Plain WORKS for me. ( See label at right) Others brands may work. The sad story is that "organic" yogurt may have sat on the shelf too long...


  • Double boiler (or heavy pot) with lid, capacity 1+ gallon four quart jars with lids, sterilized in boiling water
  • 1 (8 oz) jar with lid, sterilized in boiling water. candy thermometer, reading range = -10 to 110oC (0 to 225 oF)
  • 1 medium sized "cooler" (such as a "Playmate" or styrofoam with close fitting lid)
    (A gas oven with pilot may work if monitored closely).


    1: Sterilize jars and lids which will be used to make the yogurt. Place in a 5 gallon pot (here we are using a canner) with an inch of water in the bottom.

    2: Cover and bring to boil. Boil for ten minutes. Turn off heat, do not remove lid.

    3: Use a pot with a thick bottom to scald the milk. Note the thick pad on the bottom of this pot. Alternatively, a double boiler may be used. It is not necessary to boil them ilk. This gives the milk a "cooked" flavor, and increases the probability that it will burn on the bottom or boil over.

    4: Add one gallon of milk to the pot. You may use whole, 2% or skimmed milk. Here I am using my home grown goat's milk.

    5: Heat the milk slowly over a medium fire (not so hot that it burns on the bottom). I am using a medium hot fire here with my thick bottomed pot.

    6: Scald until the temperature of the milk is 85-90 C (185-195 F). It is not necessary to boil, and do not let boil over...what a mess! (Many claim success leaving out this step. But... results may work, but interemittently...)

    7: Place the still covered pot in a pan of clean cold water to cool it down.

    8: Cool the milk to 50 to 55 C (122-130 F). Remove the pot of scalded and cooled milk from the cooling bath.

    9: Place one cup of the scalded and cooled milk in a two cup measure.

    10: Add enough fresh, uncontaminated yogurt to bring the level up to two cups.

    11: Stir to blend the yogurt starter into the scalded and cooled milk until homogenious.

    12: INOCULATE: Add the yogurt-milk slurry slowly to the 50 C scalded and cooled milk with stirring. (No hotter--you will kill the bacteria in the starter.) Stir very well to thoroughly distribute the yogurt starter.

    13: Once throughly mixed, distribute the inoculated milk to the sterilized jars, filling to the neck. Cover immediately with sterile tops. Tighten well.

    14: INCUBATE: Warm a gallon of fresh clean water to 55 C, pour into a clean cooler. Place in a warm location. (It should cool to 50 C or below once the cooler is warmed up.) Carefully set the jars of inoculated milk in the water so the bottom of the lids are above the water.

    15: Check to see that the water in the cooler is close to 50 C (122 F). Above 55 C (130 F) kills the bacterial inoculum.)

    16: Close the cooler, place in warm place and let sit undisturbed for three hours. If the starter was active and the temperature correct, the yogurt will have gelled:

    For more firm yogurt, try adding 4 Tbl powdered milk to the gallon of milk prior to heating (step 3). Frankly, I prefer delicate yogurt. Commercial yogurt in the States is often artificially gelled so that the yogurt can be shipped and still be solid when opened by the consumer at home.

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