I have been excited about making my yogurt since going to a fermentation demonstration for date night a few months back. Before some of you roll your eyes while imagining me dragging my boyfriend to a “boring” class on how to something else kind of “crunchy”, I should say that the activity was HIS idea (and a great one at that) and we both found the class to be not only informative, but also really interesting… and the resulting foods rather tasty which was a nice bonus!
The class was led at Denver Botanic Gardens by the owners of Five Points Fermentation. The couple is really knowledgeable about the fermentation process and they both had a way of explaining it that made it seem very accessible to any home cook. I got so excited that I made my first batch of fermented food, sauerkraut, the very next evening. But, it has taken me a few months to start making my own yogurt and I must say, I’m sorry I waited so long!
Yogurt making is a simple, straightforward process that only involves two ingredients, a few tools, and a little patience.
Homemade Plain Yogurt
1/2 gallon milk with your desired percent fat (I’ve tried 1% and skim and both worked fine)
1-2 teaspoons high quality yogurt with a lot of live cultures or yogurt starter (you will use less if you use a starter) that you can buy online
1/2 cup powdered milk (optional, but some people mix this in with the heating milk to make a thicker yogurt. note that this will up the calories in your finished product)
If you have a nice friend who makes their own yogurt, perhaps they would be kind enough to give you a couple of teaspoons to get you started!
***That’s it for ingredients!***
>large, preferably wide base saucepan
>containers for yogurt (I like the little covered glass pictured above and they are only $2 at Crate & Barrel)
>warm place where it won’t be disturbed–very important–to put it while the bacteria does its work (I used a cooler for this, but a food dehydrator, a yogurt maker or a heating pad in a cooler would work
>A few optional items (tea kettle to heat water for sterilizing equipment, tongs to remove sterilized items, clean kitchen towel)
Okay, so I’ve now tried this yogurt making thing two different ways and, although they both worked, but the second method that I’ll share below is much simpler and quicker than the first “double-pot” method that I tried (see pictures below).
first attempt–successful, but not ideal:
With the two pots and lots more water boiling involved along with constant stirring, the “pot-in-a-pot” method proved to be unnecessarily cumbersome.
Second attempt– success again, with less work:
Sterilize pan and equipment. I did this quickly by boiling water in my electric kettle and then pouring it over all the equipment in the pan and letting everything sit for 30 seconds.
Remove items using sterilized tongs and place on a clean towel to dry. Pour hot water into a cooler and partially cover (we will use this as the incubator for the yogurt in a later step).
Pour milk into saucepan. Attach a thermometer that goes low enough to measure 180°F (some start higher than that). Make sure the thermometer is not touching the sides or bottom of your pan.
Fill a wider pan halfway with cold water and ice cubes. This is not essential, but it will cool your milk more quickly.
Now it’s time to heat the milk. This step kills all the unwanted bacteria and creates an environment in which the good bacteria can flourish! Turn heat to medium high and stir milk continuously to prevent burning. Heat until the thermometer reads 180°F (this is also when milk hits the frothing stage like you see when you order a latte).
When the milk hits 110° then and only then, do you stir in the 2 teaspoons of yogurt or yogurt starter. If you add it when the milk is hotter, it will kill the good bacteria and it won’t grow!
After stirring the yogurt into the milk, it’s time to bottle it up. Carefully pour the milk into your sterilized containers and close them up tight.
Test the temperature of the water in the cooler. You want it to be at 110°. Add hot or cold water to bring it to the right temp. GENTLY place the filled containers in the cooler. Here’s the tough part. Close the cooler and, without disturbing the containers, GENTLY place it in a spot where it can rest undisturbed for 8-12 hours (an unused oven, or corner of the kitchen works well).
After time has elapsed, open lid and tilt container to test solidity of the yogurt. It will continue to thicken a little after you put it in the fridge. If it’s still too thin and there’s no separated liquid on top of the yogurt (this means it has done all it can do), you can add a bit more warm water and return it to its resting spot for a few more hours. After it’s finished, dry off containers and place them in the fridge to cool before eating.
You have just made your own yogurt! I like a little cinnamon and chopped fruit on top of mine for a quick midday snack.
*Make sure to reserve a few teaspoons of this batch to use as your starter for your next batch of yogurt.*