Probably should be obvious, but may not be if you’re used to store-bought brands with ingredient lists as tall as the container. It doesn’t have to be that way! And making yogurt at home is really simple. There are as many ways to do it as there are flavors of Yoplait. I like this method for its simplicity and the fact that it doesn’t require any special tools or appliances (you can buy a yogurt maker, but I hate having a tool in the kitchen that has only one use).
To make yogurt, you need the following:
2% or whole milk (I make about a half gallon at a time, but you can make as much or little as you like).
About ½ cup yogurt with live cultures. The first time, you’ll have to buy a cup. After you’ve made your first batch, set aside about ½ cup to use next time you make yogurt.
A thermometer. My favorite is a probe thermometer, available about anywhere that sells kitchen gear. It will beep at a programmed temperature, which I find handy so I don’t forget and boil my milk.
A stock pot big enough to hold the amount of milk you’re using.
A ceramic or porcelain bowl. I use the one that came with my crock pot.
A bath towel or two.
Cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel.
To begin, pour your milk into your stock pot. Put your thermometer in. If it is a probe, set it to beep at 180F. Heat on a mid-low setting (on my stovetop, it’s about a 3 out of 9 settings) to 180F degrees. Why 180? At that temperature, the proteins in the milk will denature, giving you a nice yogurt texture when finished. If your milk does not get up to 180, you might end up with a texture more akin to egg whites.
At 180 (if you get up to 185-190, it won’t hurt anything, but you don’t want to boil the milk as that makes quite a mess), turn off the heat and leave the pot of milk sitting there until it cools to about 120F. Ten degrees one way or the other won’t hurt anything. Why let it cool? At 180F, you’ll likely crack your ceramic pot if you pour the hot milk straight in. Plus you’ll kill your live yogurt-making bacteria. 120F is a nice temperature for the bacteria you’re going to add. And happy bacteria = yummy yogurt.
When your milk is about 120F, pour it into your ceramic bowl. Stir in your starter yogurt. Wrap your bowl in a bath towel or two for insulation. Let it sit. Just sit – no additional heat, no peeking in, no constant stirring. It just needs to sit, wrapped in towels, for a few hours. In the winter, my house is about 65F. I leave it for 10-12 hours. The warmer the air temperature, the less time is needed for the bacteria to do their work. Anything in the 4-12 hour range will give you yogurt. More time results in thicker, more flavorful yogurt.
For even thicker yogurt, after the yogurt has been wrapped for long enough, line a strainer with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Put the strainer over a pot or in the sink. Unwrap your bowl of yogurt and pour it into the strainer. The liquid whey will strain off, leaving you with beautiful, thick, creamy yogurt. Scrape this off the towel into a container. Use a whisk to get a more even consistency.
Set aside about a half cup to be the starter next time you make yogurt. Store in the fridge. Add fruit, honey, cinnamon, maple syrup, applesauce, put it in oatmeal, use it like buttermilk in recipes … the options are limited only by your ideas!
What is your favorite way to enjoy yogurt, whether you made it or not?