Heat. Cool. Incubate.
Those are the three steps it takes to make yogurt at home. That’s it! You don’t need a fancy yogurt maker, a dehydrator or mail order starter cultures. All you need is a pint of REAL yogurt, a gallon of milk and some jars. And a heating pad or oven or crock pot. I use a heating pad and will give directions using that tool, but you can use whatever method you like to incubate your yogurt. More about that later. To start with, wouldn’t you like to eat THIS for breakfast, knowing that you made the yogurt and picked the berries yourself?
We’re lucky here in the Willamette Valley to have such good quality, and inexpensive yogurt available at the grocery store. Nancy’s yogurt is “real” yogurt, with no added sugar or thickening agent, and plenty of probiotic critters. The same cannot be said for most yogurt found in the grocery store. If you’ve read a yogurt label recently, you’ll know what i mean. Eating and feeding our loved ones ‘real’ food, full of nourishment and lacking unhealthful ingredients is important, and making/serving homemade yogurt is a great way to do just that. And it’s really easy. And frugal. And waste reducing. Here’s how to do it!
To start with, here are the tools you will need:
- A large pot. Your soup pot will do just fine. It must be large enough to hold a gallon of milk with at least an inch of headspace.
- A meat thermometer.
- A heating pad (or crock pot, or oven, or dehydrator, or yogurt maker. I prefer a heating pad.)
- Some clean towels.
- Clean jars, pints or quarts.
- A canning funnel.
- A ladle is helpful.
- An immersion blender is a luxury.
Other than those basic tools, you will need 1 pint of starter yogurt and 1 gallon of milk. My starter was a pint of Nancy’s plain non-fat yogurt, and my milk is local Junction City dairy, Lochmead Dairy’s 1% milk. A fuller fat yogurt starter will make for a thicker, creamier homemade batch. Use your favorite.
- Pour the milk in the pot and slowly heat to about 180 degrees. Keep the burner at medium high or below. (I’m still playing with this high number to get the best yogurt, but this has been my starting point since i started making yogurt. Try heating to a lower temp, but never allow the milk to actually boil. Different high temps will make slightly different yogurt. Experiment!) You can tell it’s at about the right temperature because the milk will get ‘foamy’ on the top.
- Cool the milk back down to 110 degrees. I like to immerse the pot in the sink with ice and water.
- Once cooled, add the pint of yogurt and stir really well. This is where that immersion blender would come in handy.
- Pour the inoculated milk into your jars. I usually start with the ladle and then pour right from the pot. Stir occasionally and top off each jar with the ‘dregs’ from the pot to evenly mix the starter.
- Place the jars on a towel on a heating pad set to medium, unlidded and wrap snuggy with several towels.
- After 1 hour, turn heating pad down to low and go about your day.
- After 7-9 hours, unwrap the jars and behold the magic: YOGURT! Lid and stick in the fridge to enjoy for the next several weeks.
Ta Da! Don’t be worried if it seems like the whey and the yogurt seem overly separated. You can drain off the whey if you like and feed it to the chickens or hogs, drink it, use it for baking or fermenting, or pour it on your plants. I like to keep it and stir it in when i eat the yogurt, though it does make a tasty sipping drink as well.
I have read that you can incubate your yogurt in a slow oven, a crock pot, or a dehydrator – but i have a heating pad, so i use what i have on hand. Don’t be intimidated by making yogurt, but DO save a pint from every batch to make the next. Soon, you’ll find yourself eating yogurt that you started years ago and using it in all your favorite recipes. Wouldn’t that be great?
How about you, do you make yogurt at home?