I love making yogurt. My obsession with yogurt-making started when I was in elementary school. My dad got a cheese and yogurt making book and we spent the better part of a year experimenting with cheeses, yogurts, canning, and dehydrating foods. Eventually, our enthusiasm fizzled and died, and yogurt didn’t happen anymore.
Recently my dad discovered a strained yogurt cheese with herbs, which he made to put in their Easter basket to be blessed. I got inspired and wanted to try again.
I didn’t really have a chance to make yogurt until recently, after moving back to good ol’ Nevada. Now I have the time, kitchen space, and motivation to make yogurt weekly! It’s super easy, cheap, and very rewarding. To make it yourself, here’s what you need:
I make yogurt 2-3 quarts at a time. The following instructions use about 3 quarts of milk. We go through a LOT of yogurt around here.. the kids would all eat it for all three meals if I would let them! My pot isn’t quite big enough for 4 quarts, and I only have three of those snazzy round containers… so 3 quarts works for me. I want to buy a case of wide-mouth mason jars for yogurt and jelly making in the future.
If you don’t know what you’d do with so much yogurt, it’s easy to make less. You can follow the same directions with less milk if you only want a small batch of yogurt.
How to Make Yogurt
Clean your work space and utensils. Using dirty equipment can add other bacterias or molds to your yogurt culture. This is bad.
Measure and dump the milk into a pan. My pan is pretty full.. at this point I doubt that it’s actually a 5 quart pan.
Heat the milk at low or medium low temperature until the milk reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Check out my handy-dandy rubber band holding the thermometer to the pot handle. It keeps the point of the thermometer from resting on the bottom of the pot, helping to ensure accuracy. Yes, it’s a meat thermometer. Since it has a 180 degree mark, it works.
When the milk reaches 180 degrees, remove from heat. The milk will start foaming a little when it’s hot enough. Place the pot of milk in an ice bath in the sink to bring the temperature down to 110-115 degrees. Don’t get impatient here, if the milk is too hot it will kill your culture. If it is too cold, the culture won’t reproduce. I had to change pots here because my chicken fryer is too big to set in the bottom of the sink.
When the milk has reached 110 degrees, dump in a cup of plain or vanilla yogurt. Stir well.
Reserve a cup of yogurt from each batch to serve as the culture for the next batch! A stage 3 baby food jar is just the right size.
Divide the milk between your containers.
Place the containers in a cooler with a gallon or so of 110-degree water. Let rest for 3-4 hours, or until thick. (Thanks to The Frugal Girl for the cooler idea! This works so much better than other methods.)
After culturing, store your yogurt in the fridge. You can flavor it with vanilla and sugar, fresh fruit, jelly, or (my personal favorite) flavored coffee syrups. Plain yogurt flavored with caramel coffee syrup makes a wonderful desert! It tastes more unhealthy than it is…
Alternative Methods for Yogurt-making
I’ve tried quite a few variations in the yogurt process. The above method is the easiest, I think.
- Heating and culturing yogurt in the Crock-Pot or slow cooker. This takes a LONG time. The milk doesn’t scald since it heats so slowly. You heat the milk, then turn the slow cooker off and wrap it in a towel to contain the heat. Then, turn the slow cooker on Low for 5 minutes out of every hour for 4-6 hours. This worked okay, but not great. When I tried this method, the yogurt turned out runny.
- Double Broiler. You can use a double broiler to prevent scorching, but I usually don’t. Keeping the stove at a low heat and stirring often eliminated the need for a second pan.
- Thermos Culturing. When I made yogurt with my dad, we used thermos-type containers (the massive insulated drink containers from gas stations) to culture and store the yogurt. It was super simple, but I don’t keep any of them around anymore. If you have HUGE mugs around, you might want to try this.
- Oven Culturing. I haven’t tried this yet, but I have friends who do this regularly. Heat milk and add culture as described above. Divide the milk into GLASS containers with lids. Heat oven at lowest setting for 5 minutes, then turn off. Place containers in oven with light on for 4-6 hours. (My friends actually leave them in the oven overnight). This is another super-simple method.
There are a lot of ways to tweak the yogurt process. If this method doesn’t work for you, try something else. Yogurt tastes better, has no corn syrup, and is way cheaper when made at home. You also have the flexibility of adding whatever you want as flavoring. (Can you say “apple pie filling?”)
Do you have any yogurt making methods or ideas? Feel free to share them in the comments!