Raw milk is obviously straight from an animal and free from processing which means all the awesomeness (unique bacteria, enzymes, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) are left in to super charge your homemade yogurt.
Sadly, there are currently many alarmist beliefs around raw milk that scare people away from its numerous health promoting virtues. Raw milk, in itself is a ‘complete food’ and fermented for 24 hours it becomes a thoroughly healing food.
“Few people are aware that clean, raw milk from grass-fed cows was actually used as a medicine in the early part of the last century. That's right. Milk straight from the udder, a sort of "stem cell" of foods, was used as medicine to treat, and frequently cure some serious chronic diseases. From the time of Hippocrates to until just after World War II, this "white blood" nourished and healed uncounted millions.” source.
Yet, despite all the health benefits, unless you are fortunate enough to have access to a local diary, raw milk can be difficult to find. Read more about the different types of cows milk here.
If you have gut issues, 24–hour fermented raw milk is more tolerable than regular dairy. In fact, gut healing diets such as GAPS and SCD don't allow any dairy at all unless it is fermented. The process of fermentation makes raw milk more digestible, and increases the array of enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Feel the benefits - make real yogurt at home.
Raw milk yoghurt is chock full of beneficial enzymes that will be destroyed if the milk is heated above 110° Fahrenheit (about 43° Celsius). According to Natasha Campbell McBride, founder of the GAPS diet, if you don’t heat the milk the innate bacteria of the raw milk are preserved.
"If you make yoghurt from raw milk, then do not heat it, just add the starter and ferment. Only pasteurised milk needs heating, as pasteurisation makes milk vulnerable to contamination by pathogenic microbes. Raw milk is usually well protected by its own probiotic bacteria and other factors."
The ideal temperature range for homemade yoghurt is 38-43° Celsius. If you want to ‘kick start’ your yoghurt fermentation process, you can gently heat the milk to 40° Celsius. This is within the temperature range of GAPS and SCD legal yoghurt. I used to do this before I had a proper yoghurt maker but the step adds unnecessary work so I no longer do it.
Raw enzymes in the milk can compete with the yoghurt starter culture and alter the consistency. So be warned, raw milk yoghurt may not look like the firm, wobbly commercial yogurt you are used to. Depending on what the cows ate that day, yoghurt made from raw milk can also vary from batch to batch.
If you are using raw milk straight from a dairy and the consistency is too runny here are some healthy tricks to thicken it up.
1. Combine a tub of fresh pure cream with the raw milk. Read about culturing cream here.
2. Strain the yoghurt through a cheese cloth for approximately 30 minutes to reduce the whey content. (If you do this overnight then you have produced cream cheese).
3. Heat the raw milk to 40° Celsius and dissolve 1 level tablespoon of premium powdered gelatin.
It is recommended you sterilise the yoghurt making bowl and whisk before-hand. I have always found it is enough to wash in hot soapy water, then rinse in boiling water. The main danger with not sterilising is that other bacteria can overpower your starter culture and affect the quality of your precious yoghurt.
Yoghurt starter culture
You can set the yogurt maker to ferment for a further 5 hours if you want your yogurt to have even less lactose. See the post Fermentation time & temperature makes all the difference for more information.