How to Make Homemade Yogurt
Making homemade yogurt is easier than you think. The steps are basically:
- Heat the milk to 180 F
- Cool to 115 F
- Stir in a cup of plain yogurt starter
- Wrap pot to insulate and place in draft free place
- Let sit from 4 hours to overnight
There are many methods to making yogurt, many with equipment that you already have in the house, stove top, crockpot, dehydrator, conventional oven, or microwave, and recipes using each method are easily searchable on the Internet. This method is the one that I find to be the easiest.
First make sure that all of your equipment is sterile by either running it through the dishwasher or heating it in a pot of boiling water. This includes the storage containers that you will put your finished yogurt in.
Heat milk in a heavy pot to 180 F. Monitoring the temperature is key, so it is worth investing $5 in a simple thermometer. I like the one that clips to the side of the pot, just to make things easier.
How much milk you use depends on how much yogurt you want to make. Since it freezes well, I usually use a gallon at a time, keep a quart of the finished yogurt in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer. You can use any kind of milk except ultra-pasteurized. The fat content (whole, low fat, or skim) doesn’t matter, but it will affect your end product. Higher fat milk will obviously yield a thicker creamer yogurt. After making this for years, I find that I like using 2% best. It yields a great product and has a lower rate of failure than less fat versions. If making yogurt for the first time, I would recommend using 2% or whole milk, and then experiment with lesser fat versions once you are comfortable with the process.
Once milk is heated to 180 F, turn off heat and let it cool to 115 F. Cooling to this temperature is important, because if the milk is too hot, it will kill the bacteria in your yogurt starter. This step can take a while so I would recommend finding something to do for a half hour and coming back and checking on it. If the milk cools much below 115 F. you will want to heat it back up to that temperature. Proper temperature is an important part of the process.
Once the milk temperature has cooled to 115 F, gently stir in about 4 to 6 ounces of your favorite plain yogurt. On the taste end, obviously choose a yogurt that you like. On the gut health end, I always try to find a yogurt that has a variety of different bacteria (Usually these are either the locally made products or the small boutique brands.) I have had good results with Chiobani and Dannon, and the best results with the local brand Prigel Family Creamery, which has a nice variety of beneficial bacteria.
After stirring in the yogurt starter, cover the pot and wrap it in something insulating. I use a polar fleece blanket, but a thick towel would do just as well. Place the pot in a place that will help the pot maintain heat. A cooler works well, as does the microwave.
The yogurt needs to sit at least 4 to 5 hours minimum, or ideally overnight. The longer it sits the tangier and thicker it becomes. Do not disturb it during this time, no unwrapping the pot or peeking.
When you uncover the pot, you should see set yogurt and a liquid on top. The liquid is the whey, which is filled with protein. If you want a thinner yogurt you can stir the whey into your batch. If you want a thicker yogurt, drain off the whey and use it for smoothies. If you would like Greek Style yogurt place your yogurt in a colander lined with cheese cloth to drain out even more of the whey. This is also a great way to make yogurt cheese.
Spoon yogurt into storage containers and refrigerate or freeze. Note: you can only freeze in glass in a deepfreeze freezer. Frostfree freezers will cause the glass to crack. When freezing in glass, make sure to leave plenty of room for expansion. Zip lock bags and plastic containers work as well.