(Note: this post contains links to products I used. I DO NOT make any money off these links. Buy ’em – don’t buy ’em – I don’t care.)
UPDATED 08/13/19 with a few more tips.
The big first tip: It’s really easy to make once you get the hang of it! I make it sound awful but when you take the time to get it right the first time, it’s easy after that.
I have read Dr. William Davis’ Undoctored and decided to finally take the plunge and go the full monte. In a nutshell, he recommends a ketogenic-ish diet and specific supplementation so it’s not far from my usual attempt. It’s a ‘clean keto’ where grains are prohibited as well as artificial stuff. I think it is well thought out and I like how he presents it: as a cardiologist, he sticks to science and where he prescribes a certain course of action that might not be accepted science, he notes that his approach is experimental and as new information comes in he will refine his approach.
That’s the kind of scientific thinking I like to see. I don’t take is as he’s pushing snake oil as much as he’s saying: “Try this. It might work for you and it’s unlikely to harm you. Let me know your results and I’ll continue to refine my protocol.”
Alas, it is a fussy diet in that the doc states it must be followed in full to get the synergistic benefits – doing it only halfway gets you far less than half the benefits.
One of the trickier aspects – at least to me – is you have to make what I call his ‘magic yogurt’. Even Dr. Davis refers to this as ‘wacky’ in one of his videos. I’d even say it sounds ‘quacky’ given all the benefits he attributes to it (you can read them here). I have no idea if the stuff actually does anything or if Dr. Davis is full of shit, but I don’t think so – at least I believe *he* sincerely believes it helps – and I’m up for a new experiment.
This was the one part of the diet that I waited until now to try. I started the diet 15 days ago and have been dialing in all the different parts. The yogurt is the last piece, I think.
To me, the instructions to make the stuff I found on the Internet were vague and a lot of people were spending a lot of time to fail at the attempt and throw out batch after batch. I did a lot of Google searches, came across recipes that didn’t provide me the details I wanted, and even did a chat with Instant Pot which yielded little help.
The problems with the instructions are that they try to cover too many different scenarios. I found it confusing (maybe I’m stupid).
This week I took the plunge and made the yogurt. I’m detailing here the EXACT steps I took for my own records and thought I’d share.
Get your stuff together
To do this you need the following ingredients:
- Organic inulin powder. This is a carb you can’t digest. I don’t count it in my carbs at all. It’s made from chicory root and while we can’t digest it, it supposedly is a great food for the bacteria we want to multiply in our yogurt making. I used the ‘Now’ brand but I think any organic inulin powder would do.
- Organic half and half. This term means half milk and half cream. The trick here is to check the ingredients. There should be only two ingredients: milk and cream. Only buy the refrigerated stuff – not the stuff in the packaging that lets you store it on a shelf. Anything else might prevent the batch from turning into yogurt. Don’t question!
- Biogaia probiotic. Again: no questions! Don’t try another probiotic. Use this exact stuff. The point of the exercise is *not* to make yogurt but to multiply the number of the specific, patented, L. Reuteri bacteria in *this* specific probiotic by using the yogurt-making process. Doing this increases the dose of L. Reuteri you get way beyond the amount you’d receive from just taking the pill form. This is a ‘hack’ and hacks can be messy and complicated and have umpty-million steps. That’s why I like clear directions like this.
- Mortar and pestle. You need to crush the pills up and there is no better tool to do this than a mortar and pestle. Don’t have one? You’re on your own, bunkie.
Now to the Instant Pot. I have a model DUO80 with a yogurt setting. If you don’t have a yogurt setting on yours, I can’t help you. The next gotcha in this process is the cooking temperature should be between 100 and 115 degrees. At 120 degrees this bacteria starts to die off. Most bacteria used to make yogurt like a higher temperature, which means that a standard yogurt maker might overshoot the temperature and kill the bacteria. Dr. Davis mentions that the Instant Pot does not precisely control temperature. I would also imagine that there are temperature variations between models – and even individual units – that don’t matter for most yogurts – but do for this fussy species of bacteria. So how do you know if your Instant Pot can work? We’ll test it.
Testing your Instant Pot
I bought a $14 instant-read digital thermometer to be sure I would have an exact reading. I got this one. This pot testing also acts as a ‘dry run’ before you use the expensive ingredients and prevents fumbling with the real stuff. You only need to do this once. To do the test:
- Place a quart of water in the Instant pot.
- Put the cover on and open the steam valve on the cover – we’re not using the pressure cooker function while yogurt making (or testing).
- Assuming you’ve plugged it in and turned it on, it made a happy electronic gurgle-beep when the top was put on properly (like it’s surprised you *can* put on the top) and awaits your command.
- Press the ‘Yogurt’ button the the ‘Adjust’ button on the fairly intimidating front control panel of the Instant Pot. Clicking ‘Adjust’ should cause the LED panel to show the word ‘bOIL’. You need to do this fairly quickly because the pot assumes that if you don’t mess with it for 5-7 seconds that you’re done. If you dilly-dally, it will turn on at the wrong setting. Follow orders!
- It should turn on, and for a quart of water it should reach what is not actually ‘boiling point’ but more like 180 degrees. It’s really meant to pasteurize the milk again just to be sure it isn’t contaminated. If using raw milk I’d definitely NOT skip this step when making yogurt. We’re testing with water just to be sure.
- This should take maybe 15 minutes or so. When it beeps, check the temp with the thermometer. Mine was 190 degrees. That’s fine.
- Now, put the top back on and let it cool to about 105 degrees. The pot will not tell you when it’s ready. You want to know the time for *your* pot because you don’t want it going too low. Patience and timing is everything here. For my pot it took about 2 hours. After an hour I tested every 15 minutes or so until I measured at a temp of about 110 – close enough.
- Press the ‘Keep Warm/Cancel’ button, then hit the ‘Yogurt’ button again. The little LED bar below the panel should be at the ‘Normal’ setting – not ‘Low’ nor ‘High’.
- Leave it alone and it should beep and start a ‘count-up’ timer as opposed to a ‘count-down’ timer. We’re going to wait an hour then check the temp to be sure our Instant Pot is able to maintain the temperature our fussy bacteria needs.
- Give up yet? No? You’re hard core! Thanks for staying with me! So after an hour what we’re looking for is what temp your Instant Pot *really* runs at – not what the instructions say – but a real-world test on your pot to be extra-sure it’s going to work for our purpose. I measured and the temp was 106 degrees. I waited and checked again 15 minutes later: 106 degrees. That temp is within the 100-115 degree range and should be fine for making our magic yogurt.
At this point you might be questioning ‘why’ you are going through all this trouble. Read the book or check out this link to learn of all the supposed magical properties – I’m not going to try and explain.
Actually making the yogurt
You’ve tested your pot, you got the ingredients, and are ready to go! Now if you’re extra anal, you would sterilize your pot and utensils (by pouring boiling water over them maybe). I did NOT go that far. I washed everything and dried with a paper towel, but that’s it.
- Pour the half and half into the pot and put the top on.
- Put the top on and press the ‘Yogurt’ button then the ‘Adjust’ button so the screen shows ‘bOIL’.
- That’s it. In 5-7 seconds the pot should beep and it should start scalding the milk.
- It should beep off in about 15 minutes or so, depending on your pot.
- Now remember that cooling time you got while testing with water? Mine was about 2 hours. Use *your* time – not mine.
- Wait. You can stare at the pot and tap your toe, or set an alarm and come back. The pot will not beep – it’s off. It’s on you to get to the pot when the temp is still in the happy zone.
- While taking the top off might speed the cooling – don’t. You want to keep the top on to keep airborne microbes out. Don’t be in a damn rush!
Prepping the probiotic
You might want to use the cool-down time to prep your Biogaia probiotic. NOTE: you only need to do this for the first batch. If all goes correctly you should be able to use a tablespoon or two from your first batch of yogurt to make your next batch – then use a tablespoon or two from THAT batch to make the next one. You might never need to touch a pill again. If a particular generation of yogurt doesn’t come out properly, then use the pills again as below.
- Take 10 of the Biogaia tablets and crush with a mortar and pestle. The stuff ground to a powder quite easily
- Set aside in a small covered dish (or wait until your half and half has cooled).
Add the ingredients and *finally* start making yogurt!
This stuff had better be ‘magic yogurt’ for all the trouble you’ve put in so far!
- The scalded milk has a ‘skin’ on top. I use a fork and carefully pull it from one side of the pot to another, lift the congealed skin and plop it into a 1-cup pyrex container and discard. Most times, this comes out as a single skin. Easy-peasy.
- I used the same pyrex container (now emptied of skin) to scoop out maybe a quarter cup of the warm half and half from the Instant Pot.
- Into the container I put about 2 tablespoons of the inulin. (Maybe 3. Maybe more. I don’t measure this, but it’s at the least 2 tablespoons.) We’re making a slurry and not trying to get the stuff dissolved, but inulin will want to clump just to piss you off. Using the tines of a fork I mixed the half and half and inulin with a frantic sense of urgency until there were no clumps. I’ve come too far to screw this up now!
- Then I added the crushed pills and did the same frantic mixing. (When using yogurt from a previous batch, I used like 3-4 tablespoons at least. I’m on batch 8 or 9 now and I’ve never had one fail so I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on. I have not used the pills since the first batch.)
- Once mixed I put it in the pot and then mixed the contents of the Instant Pot with the fork.
- Press the ‘Yogurt’ button.
- The LED display should show ’24:00′. You want ’36:00′.
- Press the ‘+’ button under the LED panel until the screen displays ’36:00′. Don’t think even more is better – after 36:00 the yogurt might start to die off. Follow instructions!
- Wait 5-7 seconds. The unit should beep and the time resets to ’00:00′
- Wait 36 hours. Do NOT try to rush things! The extra time allows the number of live bacteria to multiply exponentially. Follow orders!
Things to remember while waiting
- After all this you might have forgotten why you are doing this. Read the section in the Undoctored book to remind yourself or visit the Undoctored blog (links above).
- I know – you’re tempted to peek. Keep in mind that yogurt cultures can become contaminated by contact with air. The best advice to to not peek, but if you have to, it’s not going to even begin to look like yogurt until about 12 hours. I did peek multiple times, but each peek increases the risk of contamination. Call me a daredevil. And now, after a bunch of times, I peek once after 12 hours or so (can’t help myself) then leave it be.
- Don’t stir or otherwise molest the incubating yogurt (do not taunt Happy Fun Ball). You wouldn’t poke at freshly-hatched baby chicks, would you? Don’t futz with it. At this point it’s either going to work or not – and there’s nothing I know of that can fix it.
- At hour 36 the unit will beep off and cool. Mine did this some time between 3 and 4am. I didn’t get up until 7:30am.
My final result had that pungent, yogurt smell and was a milk color with some slight yellowed splotches on the top. This seemed OK. If you have black mold or other colored molds, game over. It got contaminated and you should throw it out.
My first batch came out the consistency of Jello. A lot of people say that their first batch was watery. Mine wasn’t. I actually used a small cake serving utensil to get it out. There might be some liquid left. That is whey – and you don’t want to mix it in the yogurt as it can raise insulin. (Newsflash! Whey *might* not be good for you especially if you are insulin-resistant – even though it is used in countless high-protein powders.) If you have a lot of extra whey, you can put it in an ice tray or into a small container you keep in the fridge and use 2 tablespoons for your next batch of yogurt.
UPDATE: That last sentence – I take back. The whey actually yielded my crappiest batch of yogurt. Instead, I put the yogurt in the fridge and the whey rises to the top naturally. I drain it off into the sink as best I can before eating.
The Taste Test
I placed mine in the fridge before 8am and had my first ‘dose’ – 1/2 cup – at about noon. I had heard that the result can be, ahem, an ‘acquired taste’. I opened my container and whey had come to the top which I drained off. I scooped out a half a cup and took my first spoonful.
OMG – it was delicious!
I am used to eating plain yogurt, so unsweetened yogurts are the way I roll. As unsweetened yogurts go, this was top-notch. It was not as strong a flavor as Fage Greek yogurt, though the smell was more powerful. It actually had a mild flavor and a very creamy mouth-feel. The yogurt had a superior flavor to Fage, and I like Fage.
The finished yogurt had formed a skin and I can imagine fussbudgets gagging at that. I suppose you could mix it to reduce the effect but it didn’t bother me. I haven’t seen this skin in subsequent batches – maybe something about using the pills?
For those of you who can’t abide the taste of plain yogurt, Dr. Davis recommends a number of natural sweeteners – check out his book or his blogs for more info.
I also pour inulin over the yogurt before I eat it. I kinda like the taste. It’s slightly sweet, but the carbs in it supposedly can only be digested by our gut bacteria so it supposedly doesn’t count as carbs – or something like that. I don’t overthink it.
Good luck – and if anyone actually reads this far AND makes the yogurt, let me know if my instructions were helpful and your results.
UPDATE 06/17/19: It seems my wife and daughters like the yogurt as well. I’ve also started a second batch using the leftover whey with the inulin and this appears to be coming along just fine. (No, it didn’t. It turned out more watery than any other batch and I never used whey again.)