I’ve been making my own yogurt for a little over a year now. I found that homemade yogurt tastes so much better than store bought and I like knowing exactly what is in my food. I was displeased to find that there were a lot of unnessecary ingredients in store bought yogurt. My mother made yogurt for us as children and I started asking her about how to make yogurt. I liked learning how easy it was, but I didn’t like her recipe that used powder milk. With some research online I found others out there that were making yogurt with various methods. I have morphed several techniques into my own.
Here’s what you’ll need: mason jars (I prefer wide mouth jars), milk**, yogurt, a large pot, thermometer, large towels, a cooler*.
*cooler is optional, I find it’s easier to control the temperature with a cooler but I don’t own one right now and don’t plan on buying one any time soon since I have had success with thick towels and a bucket of warm water.
** your milk can be regular grocery store milk that is pasteurized, but you cannot use the UHT milk (ultra-high temperature pasteurized). So the organic milk that comes in the cardboard containers that lasts in your refrigerator for weeks – that stuff won’t work.
The process in a nut shell: heat your milk to kill bad bacteria, cool it down to ideal bacteria growing temperature, add desired bacteria (aka culture), incubate, refrigerate, enjoy.
Fill mason jars about 3/4 full with milk. Places jars in the large pot on top of a washcloth and fill the pot with water. Heat the water bath, regularly stirring the jars to keep the heat evenly distributed in the milk (you don’t want the bottom cooked and the top cold).
Using a thermometer monitor the temperature until it reaches 185ºF. Pull the jars from the hot water and cool down. You can place the jars in a sink filled with cool water and use reusable ice packs to quickly cool the milk to 110ºF (10-15 minutes if you continually stir the jars in the cold water) or you can leave the jars on the counter to cool while you are busy doing something else (1.5 hours approximately – just don’t forget them!) Once the milk is not hotter than 110ºF (warmer than that will kill your culture) you can stir in 2 tablespoons of yogurt to culture your milk. I like to start a new batch with a mix of Stonybrook Farms and Fage Greek Yogurts, the combination of those cultures creates a nice flavor and consistency. For each additional batch I start with some of the reserved yogurt from the previous batch. Once the milk is cultured cover the jars with a piece of cheesecloth or wax paper with a rubberband around it – to keep stuff from getting in, make sure it is breathable, you don’t want to encourage anaerobic baterial growth. Next incubate the cultured milk for 12-24 hours at 100-110ºF. You can line a cooler with towels add in the jars and a pot of warm water to keep the environment at the right temperature, put a lid on it and check on it every 6 hours or so to make sure that it is warm enough. Or you can wrap the jars and a pot of warm water with several layers of towels to keep it warm and check on it every 4 hours or so.
If it’s been 12 hours and the yogurt doesn’t look thick enough, keep incubating at 100-110F for a little longer, until it looks set and thick. When it is ready, put proper lids on the jars and refrigerate. Before you use it for the first time pull out several tablespoons and freeze for the next time you need to make yogurt. Just put the reserved culture out of the freezer the day before you want to start a new batch so that it has time to defrost in your refrigerator.
Some sites say to use the yogurt within a few days. I’ve found that it is fine over a week later. The yogurt does get tangier as it ages, but I haven’t had any problems yet with spoilage or mold.
I like plain yogurt. I sometimes sweeten it with honey or maple syrup, fruit or jam, but always after it is made. I haven’t experimented with making vanilla yogurt or sweetened yogurt. I’m not trying to make yogurt to taste like the kind you can buy from the store. I think that stuff is fake and gross, if that’s what you enjoy, then keep buying it. As for me and my family, we’ll be enjoying simple, real yogurt, the way it should be.
*Make and consume yogurt using these instructions at your own risk*