Yogurt is a favorite food of mine and has been since I was child. It was only natural, then, that once I started this fiercely D.I.Y. path learning how to make yogurt would become a task to tackle. It seems like this bit of magic and in a sense I guess is, as those bits of bacteria create gut-healthy and delicious bowls of probiotics from basic milk, however; it is a magic we can all tackle in our home kitchens.
A Word about Milk
I’ve used cow and goat milk in this process and it’s exactly the same. I can not say with certainty if this would work with non-dairy milks. I use raw goat milk that I get locally but pasteurized milk from the store will work just fine, but do not use the Ultra-Pasteurized type. Whole milk will produce the thickest yogurt in my experience, that’s not to say low-fat can’t be used but if you want it thick and creamy use whole milk.
Step 1: Heat the Milk
Yogurt making always starts with a heating of the milk. Heat a quart of milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not let it boil. I’ve read a few sources say to hold the milk at this temperature for 5 minutes and other say to just get it there and stop. I’m lazy, I get it there and stop and have never had any problems with my yogurt. Remove from heat and let cool to 108 to 112 degrees before proceeding to the next step.
Step 2: Inoculate the Milk
In order to get yogurt from the milk, some sort of starter needs to be added to get those probiotics moving. There are several options for this:
- 1/4 Cup of leftover yogurt either homemade or store bought (use something that says live active cultures and plain, no fruit on the bottom or flavored stuff).
- Purchased starter culture. I’ve used both Natren and Yogourmet starters with excellent success. I’m sure there are other brands but those are the two I can recommend.
Put the leftover yogurt or correct amount of starter culture (follow package directions) into a small bowl. Add a little of heated & cooled milk and mix until smooth. Pour this mixture back into the rest of the milk and stir well.
Step 3: Keep It Warm
The forming yogurt needs to be kept warm for a number of hours. Ideally, the milk should stay at about 110-115 degrees during this incubation time, there are a few ways to do this:
- Use a dehydrator set at 110 degrees
- Place it in an insulated cooler or pan and wrap it all with towels to keep it warm
- Use a commercial maker. I go with this option because I had no luck at keeping the yogurt at an even and steady temperature for hours at a time and I started making yogurt before I bought a decent dehydrator. I bought my 1 quart maker on ebay years ago and it works like a champ.
- There’s a slow cooker method – I haven’t personally tried it but it seems to work for many folks.
Once the yogurt is sitting somewhere warm, keep it there for at least 6 hours, longer is absolutely fine. You’ll notice that it will start to firm up as it becomes yogurt. The longer it sits, the tangier it becomes. I’ve read of folks letting it sit for a full 24 hours, I usually let mine sit in the 8 hour range. This is all personal preference.
Step 4: Thicken or Not
Once the yogurt is done, refrigerate and it will likely firm up a little bit. You can pour off some of the whey (it has uses for fermentation and more, it’s not wasted) or even strain it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. The longer it strains, the thicker it will become. On occasion, I let it strain until it becomes almost like a soft cream cheese that I then use to spread on toast, mix with herbs and more. This method would also produce a thick greek-style yogurt for fans of that creamy goodness.
That’s all there is too it. Your yogurt is now ready to eat – enjoy with nuts, seeds, some jam, bits of fruit whatever you like best. It can seem daunting and mysterious but yogurt making it pretty straightforward and produces some mighty flavorful results.