Yogurt is inexpensive to make… it only costs as much as the milk with which you are making the yogurt.
Do not be scared of making yogurt. If it is not a “good batch” you will know it without a doubt. If you are looking at your homemade yogurt and just kinda thinking that it might-kinda-be “not good.” It is fine.
“Bad” yogurt is something that will shock and horrify you… you won’t feel vague doubt about it. You will jerk back in horror and gag.
OK, so we got that scary part out of the way. Let’s go!
- Find a suitable (preferably glass) container with lid in which you want to make and store your yogurt. (Pyrex storage bowl or Mason jar, no matter)
- Find a thermometer that shows accurately both 185 degrees Fahrenheit and 115-125 degrees Fahrenheit. (85 C and 50 C for my friends elsewhere).
- Find a spoon.
- Find a way to keep your milk at a consistent 115-125 degrees – I use a heating pad on Low during the Summer and on Medium during the Winter.
- Secure a “yogurt start” from either your last batch of homemade yogurt or a storebought that includes “Live Cultures”. (I love the Oikos plain, whole fat. It makes good starters.)
You can verify your thermometer is accurate near the 212F degree mark by bringing it to a boil. You can also gauge the bottom end by putting it in very icy water and verifying that it gets down to just above freezing or 32F. Most of them can be adjusted by the little nut on the back, behind the dial face. (Careful, it doesn’t take much to adjust it.)
Starters can live for years, with proper care. You might just never have to buy a pot of yogurt ever again! They also develop their own flavor… Yummy stuff!
Wash everything. Hot, soapy scrubbing with lots of water. Wash it again. Turn the water hotter and wash it once more. Wash one last time. Rinse them in as hot of water as you can possibly handle or create. Rinse, rinse, rinse.
Set it on a pristine clean towel, face down to drain.
You can use a saucepan on the stove to heat your milk, but I prefer to use my microwave to do it. If you use a saucepan, make sure you’ve cleaned it like the other components.
I pour my milk directly in its storage container that I just washed. Do NOT add the starter yet. Bring the milk to 185 F or 85 C degrees. Do not skimp on this stage or your yogurt will end up watery and runny. You can go hotter… just do not stop heating it before it hits the at least 185 F or 85 C temperature. Verify the temperature with the thermometer. Do not guess.
Remove the scalded milk from the heat source and cover lightly. Let it come back down to 120 F or 50 C degrees.
When it is BELOW 125 F, you can add your starter. Use a tablespoon measure of starter. (MORE starter does not make it better – MORE cannot process the milk into yogurt as well and you’ll end up with runny yogurt.) Stir it in well. Fluff and frolic with your spoon to spread it all throughout your milk.
When you are happy that you’ve inserted your starter into the clean milk, then cover it securely and slide it gently into its warm spot and do not disturb it again until it is done. Yogurt is shy about its conversion… no peeking, no stirring, no disturbing it. It is hard at work!
Now you will have a while to think about what you like in your yogurt… do you like the tangy, zingy yogurt? or the smooth and mild flavor? If you like the mild flavor, you will want to let your yogurt work for about 8-9 hours. If you like the tart flavor, then you can let it culture for 10-12 hours. Play around with this over your first few batches and you’ll figure out how much more flavorful your homemade yogurt really can be…
When the yogurt’s time is complete, you can peek in on it. I slide a knife across the top to make sure I got the consistency right – while the process of scalding the milk is fresh in my mind. I use it as positive reinforcement for when I skimped on the temperature and had to drink my yogurt for the week instead of being able to spoon it like sour cream.
Pop your finished yogurt in the fridge and enjoy it!
While this seems like a lot of writing, it is actually a simple process:
- Clean everything. Very clean.
- Scald the milk to 185F/85C
- Cover, cool and add culture when it gets down to 115-125F/50C
- Keep warm for 8-12 hours, depending on flavor wanted. 115-125F/50C
- Put it in the fridge when its done.
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