Sunday, February 21, 2010

Making Yogurt, Revised

According to Wikipedia:

"People have been making—and eating—yogurt for at least 5,500 years. Today it is a common food item throughout the world. A nutritious food with unique health benefits, it is nutritionally rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12."

 I have found that it is worth it to make my own fresh yogurt.  Homemade yogurt is better tasting, less expensive, and less wasteful than buying it pre-made at the store.  Yogurt is easy to make and requires no unusual or expensive equipment.

The following method I  describe is the one that I use.   As with all skills, it will take longer in the beginning, but you will soon develop and refine a particular method that works for you.  Making yogurt now takes me from 25-45 minutes.  In cold weather, it is possible to make yogurt faster because you can use snow to rapidly cool the milk.

Basic concept:

Milk is heated to near boiling (185 F) to kill any disease organisms that might be there, then cooled to the right temperature for the yogurt bacteria, around 90- 120 F. Starter (yogurt) containing living yogurt bacteria is added to the milk and incubated for about 12 hours, during which time the milk becomes yogurt.  The yogurt can then be refrigerated and eaten. A small jar of yogurt is reserved as starter to turn the next batch of milk into yogurt.

Ingredients and materials:

-  1/2 to 1 gallon of Milk.  Get the best milk you can find.  Raw milk is the best, but if you can't find any, use organic, whole milk.  There are not many good options where I live now, but I have found one company that sells their milk in glass bottles that are reused by the company.  I have seen other brands that do this at farmers markets.  You can make yogurt out of reduced fat milk, but I do not recommend it.
-  yogurt starter (a container of storebought yogurt or the starter you made previously).  You will need one cup of starter for 1 gallon of milk, (1/2 cup of starter for 1/2 gallon of milk).  This proportion is very important.
- A large clean pot that holds all the milk, preferably thick bottomed
- a long wooden stirring spoon
- a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk. This doesn't have to be a very accurate or expensive one. I use a cheapo.
-a whisk or bicycle egg beater (not strictly necessary but helpful if you have one)
- enough clean mason jars or other glass containers with lids to hold all your milk.  They do not need to be sterilized, just reasonably clean.
- a mason jar to hold enough starter for your next batch of yogurt
- a cooler or sturdy cardboard box that holds all the yogurt jars plus the water bottle and towels
-  a hot water bottle: any container filled with hot tap water that will help keep the yogurt warm in the cooler. I use the empty milk bottle for this.
- 2 or 3 towels or a blanket to help insulate the yogurt


1. Pour some tap water in the pot and then pour it out (supposedly this helps prevent the milk sticking to the pot).

2.  Immediately pour all your milk in the pot and put it on low- medium heat while you gather everything else you need.  Get your cooler ready, put a towel down in it and fill the hot water bottle with hot tap water and put it in the cooler.  Get your yogurt starter out of the fridge. Clean empty jars ready. Starter jar ready.

3. Once you have everything on hand, raise the temperature to high if using gas heat, probably less if electric, and clip the thermometer to the side of the pot if it is that kind of thermometer.  Stirring continuously to help prevent the milk from burning, bring it up to no more than 185 F.  The milk will be frothy, almost boiling.

3. Take the pot off the heat.  Put the pot in a cold water bath in the kitchen sink. In winter you can add snow to the water.  Stir the milk to help get an accurate temperature reading.  Cool the milk to 100 F, then remove it from the cold water bath to the stovetop or counter. If you have no thermometer, stir the milk and drip a drop of milk onto the back of your hand using the stirring spoon. The milk is ready when it feels like 'blood temperature'. Since normal body temperature is 98.6, if the milk feels neither warm nor cool on your skin, it is at about the right temperature.

4.   Add your yogurt starter to the pot of 100 F milk.  1/2 cup of starter per 1/2 gallon.  Putting in too much starter is an easy mistake. It may seem counter intuitive, but you want only just enough, and if you put in too much the result will be watery, 'grainy' yogurt instead of smooth, creamy, thick yogurt.  Stir the starter into the milk briefly to help distribute it evenly using the whisk or bicycle egg beater.

5.  Pour the milk and yogurt mixture into the yogurt jars, don't forget the starter jar.  Position all these yogurt jars around your hot water bottle in the cooler and cover them with another towel or blanket.

6. Close the cooler and leave to incubate overnight or for a full 12 hours. Then put the jars in the refrigerator where it will thicken more.  If you make the yogurt in the morning, you can put it in the fridge at night and so the next morning it will be ready to eat.

7. Remember not to eat the starter and use it to make the next batch of yogurt. It is best to use the starter within a week or two.

1 comment:

  1. If you first rinse out your cooking pot with water, the thin film of water left in the pot will help prevent the milk from sticking and burning.