A while ago someone asked me to post about yogurt making. It took a long time – the first time I made it, I forgot to take pictures. The second time my camera battery was dead. And the third time – well that was the charm, but then I had computer trouble. So, here, finally, is my how-to of yogurt making.
I’m not sure how I stumbled on the idea, but about two years ago I decided to start making yogurt at home. It took a little trial and error, but I think I’ve found my method. Although I will mention that everyone who makes it at home swears by an entirely different method. Be patient and experiment. Eventually it will work!
Why make yogurt at home when you can buy dozens of varieties in your local market? Well… it’s cheaper, has no preservatives, will last longer (because it doesn’t waste time sitting on the market shelf), and doesn’t have extra flavorings, sugar, or other “stuff” you might not want to be eating.
1 Quart (plus some extra to compensate for evaporation) of good, whole-fat milk
2 Tablespoons plain yogurt with an active culture
1 Quart Mason Jar
I use unpasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk because it’s delicious. But I essentially pasturize it when I bring it to a boil. Boiling seems to make the final yogurt thicker. As it gets close to boiling, watch it carefully – it very well might boil all over your stove. No need to boil it for long, just let it start bubbling. Turn off the heat and stir it every so often for around an hour or so – until it’s still warm enough I can barely keep my pinky finger in the milk. Any hotter and it might kill the culture. Much cooler and the little bacteria can’t do their magical, yogurty thing.
All the stirring sounds picky, but I make yogurt while making dinner or on a weekend morning when I pass through the kitchen a lot. It’s very little work. If you happen to forget about it, I have re-boiled and re-cooled it. Still works fine.
I take a clean quart mason jar and put in two tablespoons of any plain, live culture yogurt. Don’t add more! It’s tempting, I know, but as I understand it, too much starter creates too much competition among the bacteria and it the yogurt comes out watery. Use a measuring spoon and stick to it.
I then cap and gently shake the jar (turn it upside down about 10 times) and, here comes the weird part, I slip it into a knitted cozy. And then I put the jar into a cooler with two other mason jars filled with hot water from the tap and loads of blankets or towels. I’ve tried just wrapping it, but the cooler trick works better for me.
I leave it for 12 hours or so. If it’s firm, I then refrigerate it for a day before eating.
It keeps well for three or four weeks (no transport or shelf-time in the store). You can flavor it as you’d like. Having plain on hand is nice for cooking – we’ve used it to cool spicy chili or curry. I mix it up with honeyed pecans or granola for breakfast. I pour it on pancakes with maple syrup. And you can use your new batch as starter for your next batch. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving.
(As a final note, you can also use your yogurt to make thickened-Greek style yogurt or quark by simply putting the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer and weighting the top. Place the whole setup on a bowl (and in the fridge) and let the whey drain until you have the consistency you desire. We’ve used quark as a substitute for cream-cheese. It’s delicious!)