I have been working on making homemade yogurt for the past year and wanted to post some step by step photos of the process I have been using. This is an open article/wiki so please feel free to add comments or make changes as you feel will improve the content of the article.
- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
- 2 packages of yogurt start (5 grams each) or 2-4 tablespoons of yogurt from a previous batch.
- Non-reactive pot. preferable enameled cast iron such as le cruset.
Many people use store bought yogurt but I just had terrible luck with this so I tried using a starter culture I bought of the internet and it worked well. I think my problem with store bought yogurt was that I did not have the yogurt in a warm enough environment.
Start out by heating the milk to 180 - 200 degrees Fahrenheit
You will see a foam start to form as it gets close to the correct temp.
- Next step is to just let it cool down to around 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once it is cooled down then ladle some of the milk into a your yogurt. I set the yogurt out at the start so that it warms up a bit. If your using the starter culture then ladle the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the starter in slowly.
- Use a small whisk to incorporate the milk and yogurt or culture
- Combine this with the rest of the heated milk.
- Place the milk, yogurt combo in the oven
Next is to let it incubate. There are many ways to do this and I will list a few and hopefully others will add more info.
My oven happens to have a "proof" cycle which is perfect for making yogurt. Some other methods of getting the incubation climate just right are:
- Heat oven to 170 degrees before you begin and then turn it off once it reaches that temp. Once your done preparing the yogurt the oven will be nice and warm and stay the correct temperature.
- Put a small heating blanket in a coleman cooler and place the yogurt in the cooler.
- Put yogurt in the oven with only the pilot light on.
- Place it in the hearth (my dad told me they used to do this back in the old country)
You want to generally try and time your yogurt for the evening and let it hang out in the incubation for 10 - 12 hours. My Indian friends who make yogurt daily or every other day tell me that they only let it incubate for 4 hours. It really depends on what consistency you want. 4 hours will result in a very loose yogurt. A longer time will result in a thicker yogurt and also a bit more tangy (which I like).
I have had great success with making yogurt in a yogurt maker but prefer to make it now in the oven.
Top Ten Tips for Making Yogurt
(feel free to add your tips for making yogurt)
Not in any order so please read through all the tips before making your yogurt:
- Always blend the starter with part of the tempered (heated to 180F and cooled to 115F) milk or dairy in a blender for at least 10 seconds. Think about it. Whatever culture you are using has literally billions of bacteria in it and it needs to be evenly distributed throughout the dairy product you are using. We believe this is one reason we can have our yogurt firm up in our yogurt maker in as little as 2 hours.
- Although you may have a hang-up about using sugar in your yogurt, the bacteria don't and they need it to thrive. We use a cup of a 50-50% mix of sugar and Splenda - 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup Splenda for every gallon we are making. The Splenda is for our taste. We also add just a pinch of salt...
- If you put the dairy (we use 1 quart milk - any kind - plus 4 - 5 cups dry, powdered milk made up with 3 quarts water - instant does work for us - in a crockpot before hitting the sack and turn it to low, it will be plenty hot when you come down for breakfast the next morning. It is an easy, time-saving way to heat the milk/dairy.
- To help cool down the hot milk/dairy, we pour the hot milk directly into the 4 quart jars we use. This does a couple of things - heats the jars, kills any bacteria in them, cools down the milk substantially. Then we pour that into a clean soup pot in a dishpan in cool water in the sink to cool to 115F which only takes a few minutes.
- Blend part of the dairy/milk with the culture as in #1 above and pour it back into the pot and whisk it for 10 seconds or so.
- Strain the cultured dairy/milk into the jars and put in your yogurt maker or however you keep it at the correct temperature (110 - 120F) for several hours until it firms up.
- After 2 hours, slightly jiggle one of the jars to see if it is firm. If it is, the surface will not move, or not move very much like pudding.
- Remove the jars of yogurt from your machine or heating place and wrap with a towel and let cool down to room temperature. This is important because most cultures are a combination of bacteria - one of the strains is thermophillic and loves heat - it does best in the 110-120F temperature range. The other strains like cooler temperatures so by letting the jars cool over several hours, you give the other strains a chance to do their thing.
- By all means, get one of those metal coffee filters and plop (technical term) it into a wide plastic quart container. If you put part of the yogurt in it and leave it in your fridge for a couple of hours, you will have Greek yogurt. Yum.
- Use the liquid from the Greek yogurt (whey) in soups, smoothies and so forth....