Homemade Yogurt

Who knew yogurt was so easy to make? Just heat up milk to 180 degrees F, cool it down to 110-120 degrees, mix in a couple teaspoons of yogurt, stick it in a warm place for 8-12 hours, strain out the whey, and you have yogurt. I was tickled pink when I discovered that it is so easy to make. I had to try it. And I’ve tried it again…and again…and again..

Not only is it super easy to make yogurt, but it tastes far creamier and smoother than the packaged stuff at the store that is loaded with preservatives and who knows what else.

I’ve read that you can use the spectrum from whole milk to nonfat. I’ve only used whole milk. Bonus: I’ll never have to throw milk away that is past its due date because now I can just turn it into yogurt.

Once the yogurt reaches a gelatinous stage (after the 8-12 hour period), you need to strain the whey (the liquid) to the consistency you desire. I like thick Greek-style yogurt, so I let mine strain a lot. I’ll post soon about ways to use the whey. By the way, I take 3 coffee filters and overlap them to cover my strainer, then I spoon the yogurt in to strain it. I tried it once without the filters and the yogurt just strained right on through with the whey. Some people say this is a messy method. I find that my yogurt slides right off the filters, no problem and very little mess.

You can mix in vanilla when it is done straining to add some flavor. I haven’t tried that, though. I like the tangy flavor of the yogurt as is.

My favorite way to eat yogurt is with sliced strawberries and sprinkled with granola. I’ve taken to drizzling a bit of honey over it lately, and that adds a touch of sweetness to counterbalance the tang of the yogurt.

If you like fruit mix-in yogurts, consider making your own mixes. Annie of Annie’s Eats has a great post with some recipes she has created (link listed below).

How else can you use yogurt? Try making panna cotta. Try frozen yogurt. Try tzatziki. Some baked goods call for yogurt, too.

However, I love to just spoon mouthfuls of it along with some freshly sliced sweet strawberries.

As far as equipment goes, you will need a thermometer to make sure you have the temps correct. I have an effective and reasonably-priced digital thermometer. Other than that, a pan, a bowl, a towel and an oven are needed. Oven? Yes, that is the warm place you keep the yogurt for several hours while the bowl is covered and wrapped in a towel. I always mix my yogurt in the evenings and then let it sit in the oven overnight. I still feel hesitant about having a towel in my oven all night, but so far so good. Oh, you need a fine-mesh sieve, too.

I have read about other methods for keeping the yogurt warm, such as keeping it in an ice cooler along with some jars of hot water. I’ll provide some links to sites I read to learn about making yogurt so you can read up on the various methods.

In my yogurt journeys, I do fine with the heating/cooling part. A couple times I’ve forgotten to add the teaspoons of yogurt with live cultures, needed to inoculate the milk. Once, I had popped the bowl of milk into the oven for about a half hour when I remembered I had forgotten that step. I simply added the yogurt at that point and all turned out well.

Another time, I left the bowl in the oven for the 12-hour period, took it out, and it was still just milk. Then it dawned on me that I had forgotten the spoonful-of-yogurt step. Argh! So I experimented: I added the yogurt and popped it back into the oven for another 12 hours. And it worked! It turned into yogurt.

I’ll post the process below, but I highly recommend you check out the posts listed, for they offer some step-by-step pictures as well as a video and tons of other useful information:

SOURCES:

Annie’s Eats–great pics to show you the steps

Salad in a Jar–video & several posts about making yogurt

Food in Jars–how to use cooler to make yogurt

Annie’s Eats–fruit mix-in recipes

Homemade Yogurt

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 quarts of milk (any type)
  • 2 tsp. plain yogurt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 180 degrees F (you can also microwave the milk in a bowl  instead; I’ve used both methods).
  2. Remove pan from heat; set aside and allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until the temperature has dropped to 110-120 degrees F. (This temperature allows the bacterial cultures to transform into yogurt; too hot = death of cultures while too low = improper incubation.)
  3. Transfer milk to a ceramic or glass bowl and stir in 2 teaspoons of plain yogurt, but make sure the yogurt lists live cultures as an ingredient.
  4. Preheat the oven to any temperature, then shut it off after one minute. This serves to warm the oven, eliminating any chill air. Turn the oven light on, and keep it on for the duration of the incubation process; it helps keep the oven air warm. Cover the dish and wrap the covered bowl in a thick towel (I use a bath towel). Close the oven and let the mixture incubate in the oven for 8-12 hours.
  5. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl; line it with a thick paper towel, coffee filters, or cheesecloth. Spoon the yogurt into the sieve, place the straining set up in the refrigerator, and strain until most of the liquid (the whey) has drained from the yogurt. Either discard the whey or save it for other uses.
  6. Place the yogurt in a storage container, whisk to smooth it out, and store in the refrigerator (you can add a tablespoon of vanilla at this point if you desire). I’ve kept my yogurt refrigerated for up to two weeks, and I’ve also used it as a starter for the next batch of yogurt.

Yield: 3-4 cups

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5 thoughts on “Homemade Yogurt

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