Raw, Vegan, Coconut Yogurt

by mathhbratt

Quick update before the latest adventure: I was better than normal in seeking adventures in 2014, but I let blogging about it fall by the wayside. I am a bit disappointed about that, because I had some really fun adventures! Some of the highlights that come to mind are: serving in a homeless shelter, hosting a huge Pi Off competition with creative acts in addition to the typical memorization acts, going to a Norwex party and finding my new favorite stuff, visiting nursing homes, and my first trip to IKEA! I know that there were many more, but I didn’t write them down. Thus, they are mostly lost due to my inability to remember anything meaningful (or not) for any amount of time. Oh yeah, and I not only finished my Bachelor’s in math, but I also started my Master’s degree program (a big factor in my limited energy to write). Anyway, on with the latest adventure…. an adventure so great that I was inspired to blog about it! 🙂

My daughter has decided to live a vegan lifestyle. In my efforts to support her by finding recipe books and what not, I started wondering about yogurt. I checked the local health market and found coconut yogurt, but the list of ingredients was full of all kinds of things that I couldn’t pronounce (many ending in “-ide”). That’s when I turned to Google and YouTube to teach myself how to make vegan yogurt. Yes, my daughter lives many states away, and no, I am not likely to make this at her house (especially considering her aversion to coconut), but I became so fascinated by this that I just had to try it. I watched several videos on how to crack the coconuts properly (and chose the method least likely to end in missing digits) and even more videos on how to make the yogurt itself. Below is what I ended up doing from taking a little of this and a little of that, and I will follow it with the two things that I intend to change the next time I endeavor to do this.

I started by gathering the following ingredients:

  • 2 young,Thai coconuts (If your Whole Foods has the organic shredded young coconut in the freezer section, it will work too. Ours doesn’t have it, so I went with fresh.)
  • 1 cup (or so) of truly raw almonds (good luck finding those! I ended up going with sprouted almonds. It is worth your time to do a quick Google search about why you cannot buy almonds grown in the US that have not been pasteurized- a process which kills the very enzymes we seek when opting for raw nuts)
  • 2 Tablespoons (or so) of flax seeds (you can use meal too, but I am guessing that would require 4 tablespoons or more)
  • Probiotic (There is a lot of argument out there as to what is best. Since I could not find the specific one that I was looking for, I went with the one that my chef husband uses when making vegan cheeses. It is pictured below.)

The first step is to soak the almonds. I wasn’t sure if mine needed a soak, because they were already sprouted. However, they were also air dried and not soft, so I soaked them for texture if nothing else.

almonds (Shawn thinks that I should have used almonds without skins, to have white yogurt. I did not mind that the yogurt was not white, but that is something to consider if that matters to you.)

I started soaking the nuts around 5pm and left them to continue soaking over night.
The next morning, I could not wait to get started on cracking the coconuts! I drained the almonds, put them in the VitaMix, and grabbed my coconut-cracking tools. All I needed was one serrated knife and a hammer!  I started by cutting off the husk from the pointed side of the coconut. (The “bottom” is the part where the holes of the coconut would be, and the “top” is actually a little tougher to open, but the husk is easier to deal with this way.) These coconuts were organically grown, so I do not know if their husks had all the chemicals on them that young Thai coconuts often do. Thus, to minimize potential exposure, I left the plastic on for this part.

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Notice how, I shaved the husk from the cone-shaped part of the coconut, exposing the hard shell inside. The bottom portion of the coconut is still wrapped in plastic.

After discarding the mess, I picked up one coconut in my hand and the hammer in the other. I used the hammer to tap around in a circle (banging it a little harder on the parts that look like veins). It took maybe three times around the circle for cracks to visibly form. Once I was sure that I could remove the “cap” I had created, I put the coconut down and then used the claw of the hammer to pry it open. *I highly recommend holding the coconut during the “tapping” process. It seems to work a lot better, and it makes significantly less noise.

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Once the coconuts were open, I poured their liquid into a big measuring cup. Here is where I was supposed to strain the liquid from one and a half coconuts into the blender, but I got overzealous and put it all in there. Next time, I intend to drink the surplus, because it turned out to be surprisingly sweet and delicious, and because I don’t want to have to wait so long for my yogurt to thicken. (The longer the wait time, the more sour it will taste!)

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To get the meat out of the coconuts, I tried an ice cream scoop and a spoon. These coconuts are very soft and tender inside. I found the large spoon to be the easiest way to go (sometimes using it backwards to scrape the inside edges). After checking for bits of shell that might have gotten in there, I put the coconut meat in the blender.

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Next, I added the probiotics. I used a half teaspoon. The idea is to get about 20 billion in there; so use that as your goal with whichever probiotic you end up using.
This is when I remembered about the flax seeds. When I make this again, I hope to think of them first, because I could use them alone in my VitaMix to meal them. But, because I forgot until after I had wet ingredients sitting in my blender, I opted to meal them in the coffee bean grinder.

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I added the flax seeds to the blender and then turned it on, graduating from low to high in just a couple of seconds. I left it on high for 30-60 seconds. I cannot remember exactly how long, but I just watched for it all to become smooth. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of this stage! I am shocked, because I always love a good opportunity to show off my favorite machine!

Once I finished blending, I poured the mixture into jars and then just rested the lids on top of them in a warm water bath. I used my crockpot on “warm” with the lid off and tried to keep an eye on the temperature. Ideally, the temp would be 100-105 degrees. Unfortunately, mine got warmer than that. When you look at the photo, you notice the taller jar? Well, the portion of yogurt above the water activated and did great. One of the small jars died. The other two small jars seemed borderline. I ended up adding a little bit more probiotic to the three smaller jars and then followed the advice that I had wished I had followed instead of my crock pot idea. That is to put them in the oven (lids just resting on top, so maybe put a cookie sheet beneath them). Leave the oven turned off, but turn the oven light turned on. The light bulb generates enough heat in a closed oven for the yogurt to develop in about 4-6 hours.

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The taller jar turned out perfect! The smaller ones, because they ended up with the added probiotics and added time tasted a little bit sour for me. However, once I refrigerated them, they tasted a LOT better! I used some from a smaller jar in a smoothie today, and it was delicious!
 
 

Here is what one of the smaller ones looked like just before I used it in my smoothie.

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All in all, I consider this a big success. The only things that I would do differently would be to remember to meal the flax seeds before putting anything else in the blender (to avoid the cleaning of the coffee grinder), use less coconut water for a thicker texture, and to use the oven light method instead of the warm water bath. I might also experiment with different probiotics just for comparison’s sake. Other than that, this went off without a hitch, and the result was delicious, healthy, raw, vegan coconut yogurt full of probiotics and natural enzymes. Yum! 🙂

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