DIY: Homemade yogurt

By Michael Carignan

When it comes to yogurt, people seem to fall into one of three categories: 1) Those who love it and eat it regularly; 2) Those who despise it and couldn’t be paid to eat it; and 3) Those who don’t really care for it all that much but eat it now and then because they know it is good  them. If you are one of those in category 2 this article is not for you. To all the others, you may find this of value.

Go to any grocery store with a dairy section and you will find yogurt in one form or another. Greek yogurts are extremely popular these days and are rapidly overtaking standard yogurt and kefir. Really, the only difference between these three types is the amount of whey left in the final product. Greek yogurt has the least amount of whey and is a dryer yogurt. Kefir is a liquid yogurt made for drinking rather than eating with a spoon. Standard yogurt is somewhere between the two.

Over recent years the price of all types of yogurt has risen. True, the price is based on the price of milk, but it is also based on demand. Yogurt companies have sold the idea that yogurt is good for you, and it is. Yogurt contains acidophilus, a culture that has been proven to be extremely beneficial to a person’s digestive tract. If you want to keep regular, eat yogurt.

A gallon of milk can cost half as much as a quart container of Greek yogurt or kefir. It is also less than a quart of standard yogurt. That being the case, why not make your own yogurt? It’s easy. While the process may take 10-12 hours, the person making it is really only engaged in the process for maybe 30 minutes of the process.

Equipment needed to make yogurt include either a microwave or a range. If the choice is to make it on a range you will need a double boiler or a saucepan with a heat-tolerable bowl. If you choose the microwave then just the heat-tolerable bowl is required.

yogurt equipment 2
Everything you need for making yogurt includes milk, yogurt maker, culture, glass bowl, whisk and an instant-read thermometer.

Other equipment needed includes an instant read thermometer, a whisk, a yogurt maker and either cheesecloth or a close-mess strainer. Ingredients needed are simply milk (cows’ milk in any form, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk) and some live acidophilus culture, which can be bought in dried form or may be obtained from an already made plain yogurt that contains live culture.

The trick to successfully making yogurt is being able to keep the milk at around 100 degrees F for 8 to 10 hours while the culture does its magic. There are a variety of very good yogurt makers on the market that range in price for $25-$50. I bought a DASH Greek yogurt maker on the internet and had it delivered to my house for less than $35. Once you own one, they last for a very long time.

The process of making yogurt starts with preparing the milk. The amount of milk you use will depend on the size of the yogurt maker. Mine uses 40 ounces of milk at a time.

Heat the milk in a double boiler or in the microwave until it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees F. Stir often to keep the milk from curdling. I’ve made it both ways and prefer using the microwave. I start by heating the milk on high for two minute intervals and then checking the temperature and stirring with the whisk. Once my milk reaches about 170 degrees F, I reduce to time to one minute intervals until I finally reach 185 degrees F. Do not sell the temperature short and also be sure not to boil the milk. Either one will have an effect on the outcome of the yogurt.

Let the milk cool on the counter until it reaches a temperature between 100-110 degrees. Next, stir in the culture. If using a yogurt containing a live culture that would mean about one ounce of yogurt for 10 ounces of milk. Set the yogurt out so it reaches room temperature before using.  Using a larger ratio will not hurt the outcome. Use the whisk to make sure the yogurt culture is thoroughly dissolved in the milk.

At that point the mixture needs to be put in the yogurt maker. It will take a minimum of eight hours to get yogurt, or it may take as long as 12 hours. The length of time in the yogurt maker depends on your personal taste and the type of milk used. The longer it is in the yogurt maker to more sour the yogurt will be. I prefer my yogurt at around 8.5 hours. Just set the timer and forget it. The yogurt maker will shut off when it is done.

When you open the yogurt maker you will see the milk solids have coagulated and are surrounded by a yellow liquid. This liquid is the left over whey. You will need to drain off some of that liquid. How much you want to keep will determine the texture of your final product. If you desire a thick Greek yogurt you will want to put the mixture in a cheese cloth or a strainer. The longer you leave it to strain will determine the thickness. I’ve discovered I prefer to not use the strainer but just pour off as much of the whey as I can. (I collect the whey and water my vegetables with it. They love it.)

yogurt equipment 22 done
Strainer for making Greek yogurt is at right. It fits neatly into the container on the left so whey can drain off.

Once you have the desired final product put in the refrigerator to cool. Add fruit, nuts, sweetener, or eat it as is, however you prefer.

yogurt final 2 done
A bowl with a small portion of the final results: a nice thick yogurt.

I end up with about 28 ounces of yogurt out of the 40 ounces of milk I started with, at a cost of about $1.25, a third of the cost in the stores.

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