Homemade Yogurt

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(It has been a couple of years since this post was first posted. I am making yogurt again today, so thought I would repost for those people interested in incorporating more fermented foods into their diets. Later this week I will be  trying out some new sauerkraut recipes. )

I could have sworn I made this post already! No? Are you sure?

I guess I haven’t. Now I cannot even find the pictures I took. The problem is both that I take pictures with the intention of blogging on it, then forget where I put them or what I was going to do with it, or worse yet, what it was.

Me:”Is that a picture of gluten-free bread or potato bread? Is that a bowl of sourdough or pancake batter?”

I guess I better start labeling. Or just admit defeat now and put myself in a home for  absentminded cooks.

I also have a tendency to write my blog posts (as well as entire conversations with friends and family)  in my head either while I am driving or showering or in the wee hours when I can’t sleep but don’t want to get up and write because then I will never get to sleep. It’s much easier than taking the time to actually write them. But now I have yogurt incubating which means I am hanging around the house anyway, more or less.

So let’s do this thing!

And the next time you or I want to make yogurt (like today) we won’t have to go surfing the net!

First let me go over the incubation thingy. Yogurt is basically just milk warmed up with  yogurt culture added to it and then kept warm to incubate for anywhere from 12-24 hours, depending on who’s website you are getting your information from. My friend Connie is the one who inspired me to start making this. She told me how easy it was, showed me how she made hers (in a bowl in a yogurt maker) and talked about other ways to keep it warm. Thats really the whole thing, keeping it warm. Babying it until the yogurt bacteria have married, multiplied and moved throughout the milk. You mustn’t let it get too hot nor too cold. Other ways people have come up with to keep it warm:

  • using a thermos’. (Pour hot water in to warm it up. Pour the water out, add the warmed milk. Wrap in towels and keep warm)
  • use the oven. Warm it to 110 degrees, turn it off. Keep pilot light on. Keep yogurt wrapped in towels to hold in warmth.
  • used crock pots
  • used rice cookers
  • used a yogurt maker
  • used a food dehydrator
  • used a heating pad

So you see there is no one way. More like ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’.

I use my canning pot. I fill it 2/3rds full of water and heat it to just over 100 degrees. Anything with that much water in it takes a very long time to cool off. I make the yogurt in a large glass canning type jar and set it in the pot of warm water. Every couple of hours I turn on the heat for 2 minutes. Of course I am using my instant read thermometer to tell me when it gets too cool. When the water gets to about 95, I heat it up again. When it gets to just over 100 degrees, it is good for another couple of hours. I don’t move it. I don’t open the  yogurt jar. I just leave it to do its thing.

Don’t think you can just leave it in there overnight. It crossed my mind. But what about when the water cooled off?

Let me also talk briefly about the milk to use. I use whole milk for a creamier yogurt, but you can use 2% too and I think skim milk works as well. You do not have to use organic milk. Any milk, will do. This is my personal preference is all. I use organic milk, but I have to be careful and not get Ultra-Pasteurized milk!

If you do, you will probably not get yogurt out of it. If I were you, I would not buy any organic milk that was ultra-pasteurized anyway. But now is not the place to get on my milk soapbox. That is on another post I actually did write. You can find organic, normally pasteurized milk at Trader Joes, Sprouts, Mothers Market and Whole Foods. There are some great brands out there too.

Here is the milk I use. Almost any milk will do. But not soy or almond or coconut. It has to be real milk.
Here is the milk I use. Almost any milk will do. But not soy or almond or coconut. It has to be real milk.

You will need a yogurt starter. This means either a couple of tablespoons of yogurt you have made previously, or store bought yogurt or a powdered form of yogurt culture.

I have used all three. The first time I made it, I bought what I consider to be the gold standard of dairy products, Strauss. I bought Strauss plain full fat yogurt and used this in my milk. I only needed a bit, so I got to eat the rest. Their milk is wonderful too, full of flavor. It comes in glass bottles too. (and I got a dollar and a half back last time I took the bottles back to the store, so whats not to love?). The second time I used a powdered yogurt culture I had picked up at Mothers Market. I had also bought some Brown Cow plain yogurt but someone around here decided to eat it first. So the powdered is my back up plan and I used it instead. It worked great. This time I am using what is left of the yogurt I made previously, the one with the powdered culture.

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The last thing I need to mention is the thickness of the finished yogurt. Your homemade yogurt may be thinner than store bought. There are ways to thicken it up. Some people stir in 1/4 cup of powdered milk when they add the yogurt culture. Others wait until the yogurt is done and strain it through a cheesecloth into a bowl for several hours (in the fridge) to thicken it. Since I had bought some gelatin to use in some gluten-free baking, I had it on hand. I stirred in one envelope with the  yogurt culture. It thickens it  up nicely, not too much, just the way I like it.

Here is what I add to thicken it up. Some people add powdered milk to make it richer. Others drain the yogurt with cheesecloth to thicken it. This is what I use.
Here is what I add to thicken it up. Some people add powdered milk to make it richer. Others drain the yogurt with cheesecloth to thicken it.
Here it is, just getting started.
Here it is, just getting started.

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So here is the way I make it. It works great for me and I hope you are pleasantly surprised as well after all the hours of waiting.

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Homemade Yogurt

  • Yield: 1 quart

Making your own yogurt is easy, with delicious results. It makes you feel like you have really accomplished something grand. Like when you make your own cheese. There is a kind of wonder when you can turn milk into other wonderful-to-eat things.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into a saucepan and gently heat until you see small bubbles around edges, but it is not boiling. Using an instant read thermometer you want it to get between 180-190. If I understand correctly, his is to kill some of the bad enzymes that prohibit the  yogurt culturing, or perhaps compete with it.
  2. Set aside the milk cool to about 100 degrees. This is the magic number. 100.  In the meantime, fill a large pot with water and heat to 100 degrees. If it gets too hot, let it cool or take out some of the hot water and replace it with cool tap water. Put a lid on it.
  3. Let the milk cool to around 100 degrees. Pour some of it out into a bowl and to this add your yogurt culture. (either some yogurt you have bought or an envelope of powdered yogurt culture.) If you are adding gelatin, or powdered milk,  now is the time to add it.
  4. Mix this back into the warmed milk and put the whole thing into the glass jar. Put the lid on it and place it in the large pot of warm water. (recheck the temperature to make sure it is not over 110 degrees.)
  5. Now you just wait. Every couple of hours you must check the waters temperature and if necessary, heat it for a couple of minutes. If you are using a smaller pot, you will have to check it more frequently. Try to keep it at 100 degrees for 8-12 or even 16 hours. (*Or now I leave it 24!) I generally let it go for at least 7-8, just to be safe. Last time it was 89just because I got busy and lost track of time. It gets thicker and tarter the longer it sits. One time I forgot about it entirely and went to bed! In the morning, there it sat, in its cooled water bath and it was fine, nice and tart.
  6. When you take it out of the water, dry it off and tilt it gently. See if it is thick and yogurty. If so, refrigerate overnight for several hours before eating. If it seems too thin still, put back in the water for a few more hours.
  7. (see above for alternate ways to keep your yogurt culture warm for several hours.)

**See this post on making homemade buttermilk, with tips on making yogurt with a heating pad, my new favorite method.

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3 thoughts on “Homemade Yogurt

  1. This was so good! Have you been practicing any more with making it Greek style? I think you need another blog post on that method! You sure have been blogging like crazy lately, what a delight to read through all these!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jess. It’s always nice hearing from you. To make Greek Yogurt out of any ol yogurt, just drain it with a cheesecloth lined stainer. It usually works unless it has too many ‘binders’ in it, like pectin. One batch I made, not a drop of whey came out. But usually I get more, like a tablespoon or more per serving. The longer you drain it, the drier and firmer it comes out. But you might want to drain it in the fridge if you want to give it more than oh, 20 minutes.

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