This page explains the difference in appearance in yogurt... homemade may not look exactly like store bought. Before you start wondering if you made it right, read this through. Your curd most likely turned out the way it was supposed to...
You're just seeing it in a completely natural state. Not in a packaged container. And with thickeners, colors and fruit added. Once you stir in fruit or berries, especially ones that add some color, it'll look more familiar.
There can be differences in thickness (and taste) depending on:
Culture, milk and incubation can all be adjusted, with experimentation, to suit your taste. Curd can be made thicker or thinner, stronger or milder tasting.
Aside from that, it's natural for some liquid, called whey, to separate from the curd. Don't be hasty to throw it out..... there are ways to use the whey :). Whey is high in protein and can be be used in place of milk or water in soups, gravies, sauces and baking.
If you haven't added thickeners don't be surprised to have whey separate from the solids.
Here's how you can expect plain homemade yoghurt to look before stirring, straining or adding other ingredients......and after stirring.
Notice the whey in the bowl on the left. This particular batch of yogurt wasn't thickened and the milk wasn't heat treated before inoculating. The longer yogurt rests the more wheying off occurs.
Commercial yoghurt comes in two varieties, made using different processes:
Both can have gelatin and other thickeners added but they're most commonly used in stirred yogurt. You can make thicker or firmer yogurt homemade without adding gelatin.
Is made in a similar manner to homemade, just on a commercial scale. Most, if not all, of the plain yogurt sold at the store is set. When you open the container or after you've used some of it, you might find liquid sitting on top. This is whey that's separated from the curd. Generally quality yogurt without additives will have some whey separation.
Another set yogurt you may have bought is sundae (fruit-on-the-bottom) or western style. Sundae style is made by adding fruit or preserves to the bottom of the container, then adding the inoculated milk and incubated.
I've made fruit-on-the-bottom at home and it's very good. The texture, appearance and taste are similar to store bought. Western style has a layer of fruit on the bottom and a flavored and colored yogurt on top. You could make this yogurt homemade too if you wished.
Chances are if you buy sweetened or flavored yogurt at the store, it's stirred. It has the consistency of pudding. When stirred yogurt is manufactured the inoculated milk to allowed to set (become yogurt). Then it's stirred and the flavoring and coloring are added. The fruit, flavor and color are mixed along with gelatin or some other thickener to make it coagulate again. The mixture is poured into containers where it "sets" a second time.
If you're really fond of this type of yoghurt you could try it yourself at home. I don't see any reason why it wouldn't turn out. My preference is to make natural set yogurt and add the flavoring after.
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