How to Make Yogurt

Eating yogurt has never been my favorite thing, to be honest, but I’ve been trying to get more fermented foods in our diet.  And I discovered it was actually quite enjoyable when I mixed it into my smoothies in the morning, and I felt so good!  But I was paying $3 a quart for organic yogurt (which, granted, is relatively cheap compared to the $5/quart many pay, or even more for small cups).  I only pay $5 for a gallon raw milk; surely yogurt couldn’t be too hard to make, for a fraction of the cost?  My early attempts, however, were…bad.  Runny, lumpy, separated, strange.  Strong, nearly inedible in certain cases.  Some did okay with mixed with smoothies anyway, but very few batches could just be eaten plain, if one were so inclined (my son loves it).  What to do?

My early experiments involved following various directions I got online.  I had some YoGourmet starter culture I’d bought.  I tried to heat the milk to exactly 180 degrees, let it cool, culture it at 110 – 115 for 8 hours….  FAIL.  I gave up for awhile.

Then recently I decided to try again.  The first batch was ruined; it got too hot and curdled.    Seriously inedible.  The second batch, though, was perfect.  And I’ve been able to replicate that second batch several times now, so I think I’ve figured it out!

I make yogurt the same way I do everything (baking, cooking, and lots of other things): by feel.  I don’t measure (much) or check temperature.  That might make it harder for some of you, but hopefully it will make it easier for many of you.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. previously cultured yogurt (buy from the store for your first time)
  • Quart-sized mason jar

First, on the stove, heat your milk over LOW heat until it is lightly steaming and starts to form a skin (you may need to stir it when the skin forms to make sure it’s steaming underneath):

Turn it off, set it aside, and let it cool until you can easily touch it.  Add your yogurt to your mason jar FIRST.  You could use a store-bought culture, but in my experience I always ended up with lumpy yogurt that way.  This way is much easier.  I bought Trader Joe’s Organic European-Style yogurt to start mine, and now just use mine as a starter.

Pour your (cooled) milk on top of your yogurt starter.

When the jar is full, put a lid on it and shake it up thoroughly.  Flip it over and make sure you don’t see streaks of yogurt on the bottom, or you’ll end up with lumps on the bottom and runny yogurt on top.  I think this mixes it better than stirring.  I use an old honey jar, actually, because the lid is a tighter fit when simply placed on the jar (i.e. not sealed in a water bath).

Now you have a jar full of milk mixed with culture!  Put it into your dehydrator with trays removed:

(Yes, mine is a little dirty!)

What if you don’t have a dehydrator?  You need somewhere that your yogurt will stay a constant 105 – 108 degrees.  You can fill a cooler with hot water (about 115 degrees), 4 – 6″ deep.  Place your yogurt container in there and wrap towels around the outside of the cooler.  I haven’t done this, but Laura at Heavenly Homemakers does (note she doesn’t heat hers as much — but this will result in runnier yogurt, as I explain later).

Turn your dehydrator (if using) to 105 degrees.  Yet another reason why I love my dehydrator!  Leave the yogurt alone for 4 hours.  Don’t check it, don’t disturb it, don’t do anything to it.

When the time is up, pull it out of the dehydrator (or cooler) and put the cap on it.  Now, place the jar into your fridge.  Do NOT shake, stir, or otherwise disturb the yogurt!!  Doing so will result in the whey separating from the yogurt solids!  Allow the yogurt to sit in the fridge, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours, until completely cool.  Even if the jar feels cold, the yogurt in the center might still be warm.  Don’t stir it yet.  Wait.  (It wouldn’t be ruined if you did, it just wouldn’t be as good.)

Once the yogurt is completely chilled, stir it up and eat it!  See how nice and thick it is?  Creamy, with no weird lumps. :)

[Insert pic of finished yogurt, about to serve]

If you want your yogurt even thicker, you can place some cheesecloth in a colander and set it over a bowl and allow the yogurt to drain for a few hours.  Completely drained will be cream cheese.  Partially drained will be like Greek yogurt (yes, this is how they do it in store-bought versions too).  Keep the whey so you can use it for soaking baked goods later!

This recipe is REALLY forgiving, since there are few exact temperatures.  But, there are a few things you MUST do:

  • Make SURE your milk is steaming, but NOT boiling.  Boiling will cause it to curdle; not heating it to steaming will mean it will be runny.  (Which is because, if using raw milk, the natural bacteria in the raw milk is competing with the bacteria in the yogurt culture.)
  • Make sure your milk is cooled before adding it to the culture.  If it’s too hot, it will kill the culture and you won’t get yogurt at all.
  • Make sure your temperature is as close to a constant 105 degrees as possible.  Too hot and the yogurt will curdle; too cool and it won’t culture (will be runny).  A yogurt maker helps if you want to invest in one.
  • Make sure you do NOT stir your yogurt until COMPLETELY chilled.  This is probably one of the biggest causes of runny, weird textured yogurt (ask me how I know!!).

That’s it!  You don’t have to take many temperatures, you don’t have to watch it too carefully.  There’s not a lot of hands-on time.  In fact, probably the less you do to it, the better.

Do you make yogurt, or do you plan to try?  Any other tips or ideas?

Comments

  1. says

    I have heard that you should sterilize your jars to make sure unfriendly bacteria doesn't grow in your yogurt, which can make it weird.

    For keeping the milk warm after culturing it, I put my jars in a large pot of hot water in the sink. Works great and I don't have to deal with towels and coolers.

    I have made yogurt for years and have done it all different ways! There seems to be a lot of variables 'cause my yogurt does not turn out consistently. The next thing I'm going to try is new starter – I just learned that you should replace your starter with new, store bought yogurt occasionally to help the yogurt get nice and creamy. I had not bought yogurt in over a year, so my batches were turning out real runny. I bought new yogurt yesterday and am looking forward to getting better results with my next batch!

  2. shannon says

    I love making yogurt. It makes me feel healthy and it's so easy. I've found this great starter at a great price. I got it early this summer and still use it. Also, it has 4 strains of bacteria so I think it could be healthier? Not sure… Anyway, thought I'd share because it's cheap and I don't have to worry about buying fresh yogurt as a starter.
    Link
    http://www.leeners.com/dairy-yogurt-supplies.html

  3. Heather says

    I've had great experiences with Pima and Villi cultures from Cultures for Health. The thing I really like about these is that they can be cultured at room temperature. In the case of these if you are intentionally trying to keep them "warm" to make sure they "gel" it's not difficult to kill them. I definitely found that mixing them and then leaving them completely alone makes for a better end product. =)

  4. annie says

    I use a whole Gallon of milk, 1 c. organic yogurt, 3 Tbl. unflavored gelatin disolved in 1 c. water, and 1 cup sugar which is optional. It makes 5 quarts. I place them in a pan of water 1in high that has been heated in a 170 oven. Turn oven off and let go for 4 hours and then put in fridge! so yummy!

  5. Dawn says

    My little ones like unsweetened/unflavored homemade yogurt! I have been making it for about 3 years, and only started having consistent results over the last 6 months or so. Somewhere I read to heat the milk to 185* and keep it there for 30 minutes. After cooling it and mixing in the storebought yogurt, I pour it into jars and keep them in a water bath in my crockpot for 7 hours. Then straight into the fridge overnight. And you are TOTALLY right — NO touching!! LOL It's like peeking in on a souffle too early.

  6. Robin says

    This makes me want a yogurt & fruit smoothie! I have been looking into purchasing an electric yogurt maker – do you have one you would recommend? I have been searching online but am having a hard time finding one that makes yogurt in glass instead of plastic and makes one quart rather than the multiple small cups they all seem to use. Any advice?

    ps. Are the pictures not loaded on this post or is it just my computer?

  7. CateK says

    I don't have a dehydrator with a large opening. I take a cooler, and line the bottom with cardboard. Then I fill 2 to 4 quart mason jars with boiling water and put them inside in the corners. The yogurt in either mason jars or a glass bowl, goes into the middle. Close the lid and don't open or touch anything for 8 hours. Where I have always made my mistake was to stir at this point. You have it exactly right. Do no stir. Just move the yogurt carefully to the frig or icebox and leave it for another 8 hours. Voila! Perfect.

  8. Katie says

    I just got an excalibur for Christmas (yay!) and I'm trying yogurt in it for the first time. I used a cooler before. Do you leave the lid off the jar when you put it in the dehydrator? I think that's what it shows in the pic but thought I would ask! Thanks for all you do!

  9. Nicole says

    I just received a Euro Cuisine Yougurt Maker for my birthday. I am very excited to use it, but have a couple questions. When using raw milk, does heating it to 180 kill any enzymes? Is it necessary to worry about killing enzymes with yogurt? I have read that you can just heat it to 110 then add the starter? Or, in your opinion, is it best to heat to 180 no matter what? Thanks!!

    • Kate Tietje says

      Hi Nicole, if you heat the milk to 180, then it will kill all the enzymes in raw milk. This basically means that the culture you add is the only enzymes in the finished product, which usually gives you a thicker, more consistent yogurt. If you don’t heat the raw milk so high (under 115), then the naturally-occurring enzymes will compete with the enzymes you add, and will produce a thinner yogurt. It also can’t, I’m told, be used as a culture forever since eventually the naturally-occurring enzymes will take over and it won’t really be yogurt anymore. I usually heat mine to 120 or so, which kills most but not all of the enzymes and produces a fairly consistent yogurt.

  10. Vinessa says

    I make homemade yogurt all the time! :) heat mine to 180, then let cool to 130. This is also when i add a sweetener if i want, and some pure vanilla if i want. En i mix the starter yogurt in, put a lid on my pan, and put it in the oven over night. Then i strain it for a little thicker if i want. Makes a great texture, nothing weird.

  11. Tiffany says

    I received a yogurt maker for Christmas and am excited to use it. The only issue is that my 17 month old is dairy free. We occasionally buy the coconut milk cultured yogurt from the store, but it is expensive and has some weird junk in it. Does anyone know of a way to make dairy free yogurt at home? The machine has directions for soy, but we try to avoid soy as well.

  12. Erica says

    What kind of dehydrator do you have? I’ve had my eye out for one for a while, but I can’t see the pictures on my computer. Thanks!

    • says

      I have an Excalibur 9-tray. It is one of the most expensive ones on the market, but I’ve had it almost 4 years, it’s in perfect condition, and I use it all the time! It’s good for this, making jerky, making fruit leather, drying soaked grains or nuts, drying herbs, drying whole fruits and veggies, rising bread, and so much more.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *