There are a gazillion recipes, methods, and rules out there for making yogurt. Specific temperatures, proper insulation, expensive equipment- it's enough to make a girl buy a tub of Stonyfield and call it a day.
I have found, though, that it is really quite simple. Milk + yogurt + warmish temperatures for a longish amount of time = yogurt. Yes, the proportions and whatnot DO matter in terms of texture and precise taste, but not in a life-or-death type way. It seems to be mostly about fiddling around with things until you get the yogurt you love, then keep doing that. Sometimes overly complicated directions destroy the intuition necessary for success in the kitchen.
So many things in life are like yogurt (yes, I seriously said that...)- portrayed to be intense and difficult, when really all it takes is just DOING IT and then following your instinct. Chicken stock, vanilla extract, heck, even having children! If you just jump right in and go with it, you will most certainly do just fine. Sure, you'll hit a few snags, but in the end you will be so much happier for having taken the plunge.
A few notes for the recipe below:
- I have made 2 quarts of yogurt using anywhere from a cup of starter to just a tablespoon. Strangely enough, the more starter I use, the thinner the yogurt seems to turn out. Experiement to find your ideal texture.
- The starter yogurt should be the highest quality you can find, ideally plain and whole milk. It must specifically state that it contains active cultures. This is the good bacteria that will turn your milk into yogurt. Some of the better brands actually state the names of the bacteria, such as l. acidophilus and s. thermophilus. Alternatively, you could use a purchased starter culture from some place like Cultures for Health (follow the manufacturer's directions). After your first time, you simply save the last few tablespoons to start the next batch.
- To allow the yogurt to properly culture, it must have a consistently warm environment for at least 7 hours. My favorite method is to use a small insulated cooler: I fill 2 pint mason jars with boiling water, cover them and place them between the 2 quart jars.
- However, I have also successfully used the oven. I still place the jars filled with boiling water right next to the yogurt, and also keep the oven light on as it can provide up to 25 degrees of heat. I try to 'preheat' the oven by turning the light on about an hour beforehand.
Easy Homemade Yogurt
2 quarts whole milk
a few tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt with active cultures*
2 quart mason jars with lids
2 pint mason jars with lids
Small insulted cooler
An oven with a light
*store-bought or from a previous homemade batch
Pour the milk into a large saucepan set over medium heat.
Once the milk reaches around 170 degrees, remove from heat and let cool to 80-110 degrees. (You don't want it too hot or it will kill the starter bacteria.)
Meanwhile, begin boiling water to fill the small mason jars.
Once the milk has cooled, add a few tablespoons of yogurt and whisk thoroughly.
Pour into the quart jars and cover.
Place the filled quart jars in your cooler or oven with the pint jars filled with boiling water.
Do not disturb the jars for at least 7 hours, then refrigerate. I typically leave it overnight, allowing it to culture for about 10 hours. Again, it depends on the strength of starter yogurt, type of milk used, environmental temperature, etc. Take notes and see how your equipment/ingredients do best.
For thicker, greek-style yogurt, strain through a few layers of cheesecloth or an old t-shirt.
This post linked up to The Wednesday Fresh Foods Link-up