I made homemade, lactose-free yogurt!

Grocery shopping when you are allergic and food intolerant can be rather difficult. The frozen food section is full of enticing pre-made meal offerings, most of which contain ooey, gooey, delicious cheese. The produce section contains dangerous items like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, none of which I can eat. The canned food aisle is full of beans. Nuts are everywhere and in everything!

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Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

I wander over to the dairy section to grab my lactose-free milk to make some homemade farmer’s cheese (yum!) and glance longingly at the yogurt section. I see a sign. “Lactose-Free Yogurt” it says! My heart leaps, then sinks slowly to my feet as I realize that it is made from soy milk, or almond milk, or cashew milk. Still nothing for me. I decided to search the internet for assistance. Surely there are recipes for lactose-free yogurt out there. What I found out is that there are lots of recipes for homemade yogurt, most of which require the use of…yogurt. Sigh. With a lot more searching, I finally found a recipe for lactose-free yogurt that used nut milk and a culture that could be purchased online. I decided to try an experiment with my lactose-free milk (thank you, Lactaid!) and this recipe and see what I ended up with. I ordered some Bulgarian yogurt cultures from Amazon and gave it a shot.  Neither of these companies pay me to advertise for them…I just have good results from using them.

 


I heated up the milk with my sou-vide machine (my new favorite kitchen tool) to 180 degrees F and held it there for 30 minutes.

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I then cooled it to 110 degrees F in an ice bath in the sink.

I added the cultures and poured it into a jar. Since I wasn’t sure what part lactose (the milk sugar I cannot digest) plays in the development of yogurt-y goodness, I added a tablespoon of honey (from my sister’s bees) just in case sugar was a necessary component.

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I put the jar back into the sou vide bath with the timer set for 24 hours at 110 degrees F.  I knew I wouldn’t need that long but wanted to over estimate just in case.  It only took 6 hours.

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The instructions that came with the yogurt cultures said to check after 5 hours. I stuck a spoon into the jar at hour 6 and a glistening spoonful of whey appeared atop a creamy concoction that looked an awful lot like yogurt!

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Whey on top of gelled yogurt.

The jar came out of the water bath and into the refrigerator it went. A couple of hours later, I opened the jar and took a taste. Sweet, tangy, creamy and delicious yogurt!

Since I like Greek yogurt better than regular yogurt I had to strain the initial supply into a thicker form. Coffee filters work really well for this, but I had to strain it in small batches of two cups at a time.

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I ended up with a little over two pints of creamy Greek yogurt from two quarts of milk.

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Two pints plus a half cup of strained yogurt

I kept out six tablespoons of the original yogurt to make another batch.

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Unstrained yogurt saved for the next batch.

I have never liked plain yogurt before but this stuff is delightful. I have mixed it with a cut up peach, sprinkled it with granola, eaten it plain, and mixed it with cherry jam so far. I think I can see tzatziki in my future!

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Fresh yogurt with cherry jam!

 

According to what I’ve read, I can make more yogurt from this yogurt.  I do feel a sense of obligation to those six little tablespoons of starter yogurt that I set aside. I don’t know how long the cultures will live in my refrigerator and how soon I have to make more yogurt. But so far, I am happy with the stuff I have and have found myself turning to yogurt with fruit as a tasty snack. I’ve already eaten most of the original batch and will make more this weekend.  Experiment successful!

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Fresh yogurt with fresh peaches!

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Beef Stroganoff

I used to think that I didn’t like Beef Stroganoff.  It wasn’t a meal that was served in my home growing up and, if it was, it was usually a ground beef-based boxed mix that was mostly salt and mushy noodles, combined with rubbery mushrooms.  No wonder I thought Stroganoff was awful stuff!

As I have learned to cook over the years, I wanted to try some of the “recipes” my mother fed us as kids and see if they could be fixed and made, not only edible, but delicious.  I discovered that Beef Stroganoff is really good, if cooked correctly.

There are three main elements to good Beef Stroganoff: mushrooms, sauce, and beef.  The first is the mushrooms.  You can make good Stroganoff and leave out the beef completely…if you cook the mushrooms correctly. Rubbery, gray, slimy mushrooms were the bane of my childhood and are the reason that many people believe that they don’t like them.  The important thing to remember about mushrooms is that you have to cook them, and then cook them some more.   I usually use about a pound of Cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/8 inch thick slices.

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Place two tablespoons oil and two tablespoons butter into a large skillet (I use my cast iron).  Heat your pan over medium until your oil starts to shimmer and add the mushrooms.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and start cooking over medium heat.  There’s nothing wrong with adding some of the dried mushroom dust left over from making mushroom ketchup if you have some on hand.

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You have to cook those mushrooms until all the water comes out of them and pools in the pan and the mushrooms are swimming in liquid.

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Unfortunately, this is when many people stop cooking the mushrooms!  Don’t stop!  Keep cooking them until all of that liquid is evaporated and the bottom of the pan is almost dry.  Now the mushrooms can develop some delicious browning, and acquire the rich, meaty flavor that they are destined to deliver to your dish!

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Now that the mushrooms have browned, it’s time to add a medium diced onion and a sprinkle more salt and pepper (or mushroom dust).  Push the mushrooms into a ring around the side of the pan and let that onion sweat in the middle for at least 5 minutes.  The mushrooms will continue to brown and add even more flavor to the bottom of your pan.

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Then add four tablespoons flour and stir it around for at least a minute, until every morsel of mushroom and onion is coated with that buttery flour mixture.  Pour in two to three cups of beef broth, stirring constantly, until you have a silky sauce.  A tablespoon of mushroom ketchup is another delightful addition at this point but make sure to adjust your salt accordingly.

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Now for the meat.  A sirloin steak is good for this.  The pictures that accompany this show a leftover steak that I had cooked to medium rare and sliced up to stir into the mushrooms and sauce.

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I usually let the beef simmer in the sauce just long enough to heat it through and let it share some flavor with the sauce.  An alternative is to cook a steak in the cast iron pan before cooking the mushrooms, which adds some lovely flavor to the fat that the mushrooms cook in!  Remember, mushrooms are little sponges and will absorb flavors and then release them into the sauce you serve them with.

Stroganoff wouldn’t be stroganoff without sour cream.  My lactose intolerance makes this an issue.  However, the lovely company, Lactaid, now makes sour cream!  This makes me happy because now I can make this delicious dish once again.

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After the meat has simmered for about 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add one half to one cup of sour cream to your sauce, depending on your taste.  Do this off heat or the sour cream will curdle.  You now have a lovely, creamy, mushroom-y Stroganoff to delight your taste buds.

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Now all you have left to do is boil up some egg noodles and plate your delicious dinner!

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Lactose-Free Cheese

I made lactose-free cheese!  I actually make this fairly frequently because my lactose intolerance is a new thing for me and I like having cheese on things like baked potatoes and burgers.  This cheese does not melt like cheddar or American.  It acts more like ricotta or feta.  But it’s lactose-free so I can eat it!

I looked at many of the lactose-free or vegan cheeses on the market and most of them are made from soy or nuts, which are on the list of things I cannot eat.  Very disappointing.

When I originally decided to try this, I wasn’t sure what role lactose plays in the making of cheese so I wasn’t even sure this would work.  I decided to experiment with a small carton of Lactaid milk and it turned out really nice.  So now I make a batch every two weeks or so.

Making farmer’s cheese is really easy.  I use 2% Lactaid to keep the fat content down.  I add flavorings depending on what I’m planning on using it for.  This week, I added garlic, chives, and black pepper to 2 quarts of milk in a large saucepan and heat it up to 195 degrees F.  This lets the flavors infuse into the milk as it heats up.  IMG_1090Once it reaches temperature, I turn off the heat and add the juice of one lemon and stir one time.  Then, I just walk away for 15 minutes!  I don’t stir it or poke it or do anything else to it.  It will separate into curds and whey and look really disgusting.  That’s okay. IMG_1094 While I am letting it do its thing, I take a fine mesh strainer and line it with two layers of cheesecloth.  I then place the strainer over the sink and pour the curds and whey mixture into the strainer.  IMG_1095Depending on what I am going to use it for will determine how long I let it strain.  If I’m going to put it on baked potatoes I will leave it rather soft and creamy like ricotta.  If I want it to spread on crackers, I let more of the whey strain out and let it get spreadable.  If I want crumbles for salad, I squeeze all the whey out and crumble the curds!   After I’m done draining the whey out and have the consistency the way I like it, I add salt to taste.  Otherwise, it’s very bland.  Just add a tiny bit at a time until it tastes like you want it to.  It’s a delicious, lactose-free way to have cheese-y deliciousness in my dairy-free life.