Homemade Yogurt

We LOVE this yogurt!

I eat Greek yogurt every single day. Being a DIY-er, one day I went online to see how hard it would be to make it myself. Full disclosure: I used to make fun of my mom for making yogurt in her little Donvier brand contraption, like why make it when it’s so readily available for purchase? It seemed like such a crunchy-granola-70s thing to do, so I mocked her mercilessly. Sorry mom.

Like many people, the older I get, the wiser I realize my mom has always  been. It turns out making yogurt at home is ridiculously easy and rewarding. (Again, sorry mom.  You’re pretty much always right.) Plus, I’m saving money and reducing waste from all those disposable yogurt cups. Read on to find out how you can do it too.

-Viv

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 PREVIEW:

Gather your ingredients and equipment.

You’ll need a thermometer, too.

Heat the milk to 180 degrees, then let it cool to 120 degrees.

Gently stir some of the warm milk into your yogurt “starter” before mixing it all together in a big bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and towels, and place it on a heating pad set to high where it can remain undisturbed for 12-18 hours.

My heating pad is hidden under a kitchen towel, because it’s old and ratty, and ain’t nobody wanna see that.

You now have yogurt.  It’s like magic!  (But really, it’s science.)

I like to strain it in a sieve lined with a paper towel until the texture is thick.  The end result is what is commonly known as Greek yogurt.

 

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RECIPE:

(Adapted from Annie’s Eats.)

Time: About an hour, plus 12-18 hours of incubation (idle)

  • 8 cups dairy milk (any fat level is fine–I use 1%)
  • 2 teaspoons yogurt
  • That’s it.  Really!
  1. Heat 8 cups milk to 180 degrees.
  2. Let it cool to 120 degrees (anywhere between 110 and 120 is ok).
  3. Gently dissolve 2 teaspoons of yogurt (commercial or from your previous batch) with a little of the warm milk. Gently combine with the rest of the milk in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Cover the whole thing with a kitchen towel or two.
  4. Incubate undisturbed for 12 hours in a warm place (I place mine on top of a heating pad set to high). Incubate longer than 12 hours for tangier yogurt.
  5. Transfer to a clean container and refrigerate after incubation is complete.  For Greek yogurt, strain over a bowl in the fridge using a sieve lined with a paper towel before transferring to storage container. The longer you strain, the thicker the end result.

Yield: About 4 cups

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VIV’S NOTES:

I’ve found that heating the milk over (almost) high heat works best, as long as I stir constantly. Ironically, I experienced more scorching whenever I heated the milk on low.

I clip a candy thermometer to the side of the heating pot to monitor the temperature during the heating and cooling steps.

You don’t have to be totally precise, but it’s important to heat to at least 180 degrees (a little higher is OK) and cool to 120 degrees or  a little lower (but not lower than 110, or your cultures won’t incubate).

Any plain (or even vanilla) yogurt with live active cultures should work.  Some people swear by Stoneyfield brand, which is my current favorite. I found that Greek yogurt is too thick to incorporate thoroughly, but other people have had success with it. Some people save a bit of their previous batch of homemade yogurt, while other people say that the “older” the cultures, the less successful you’ll be.

More isn’t always more (unless you’re asking me how much whipped cream to put on my pumpkin pie). In fact, I’ve read that using too much yogurt to culture your milk will cause the whole process to fail.  You really only need 2 teaspoons of yogurt to culture 8 cups of milk. It works perfectly.

“Agitation” halts the incubation process, which is why I’m careful to GENTLY dissolve the yogurt in a little bit of the warm milk before GENTLY incorporating the rest of the milk. It’s also why you need to let the whole thing sit UNDISTURBED for 12-18 hours. Once you stir or pour it, the incubation stops.

To keep the yogurt warm during incubation, you have a lot of options. The heating pad works great for me. I’ve also heard of people who use the pilot light in their oven, or just set it out on the counter at room temperature. Some people preheat the oven and turn it off before placing the yogurt inside to incubate; others have even created their own warming drawers with heating lamps!

The longer you incubate, the tangier your yogurt will be.

Straining is optional. The longer you strain it, the thicker your Greek yogurt will be. If you don’t strain it at all, you’ll have regular yogurt.

Have fun experimenting with flavors. I like the convenience of adding a spoonful of honey to a serving of my homemade yogurt, but in the past I’ve also whipped up a batch of lime curd to mix in, and that was heavenly. I’ve also tried it with a spoonful of commercial fruit preserves, which was lovely, because the yogurt itself is already so delicious. The options are endless, which is just one reason why WE LOVE THIS STUFF!

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