Little Farm in the Big Woods

Five easy steps to homemade yogurt

Monday, March 31, 2014 9:45 AM

Have you ever wanted to make your own wonderful, nourishing, delicious yogurt without a bunch of icky additives, sweeteners, and artificial flavors for a fraction of the cost of buying yogurt at the store?  Well, with just a few ingredients and five simple steps, you’ll be on your way to fresh, yummy yogurt.

    

Ingredients~  

(makes 1 qt of yogurt)


1 qt of milk  (I use whole milk, thinner milk will make thinner yogurt)

1-2 T. plain yogurt with live & active cultures

1-3 T. honey or sweetener of choice, optional

1-2 tsp. vanilla, optional



  Equipment~

Double Boiler

Thermometer that will read from 110℉ to 185℉

Quart Jar

Large bowl full of ice water

Incubating set-up (see below for ideas)


  Directions~

Heat Milk~  Pour the milk into the double boiler and bring to 185℉, stirring often.  For thicker yogurt hold the milk at 185℉ for up to 30 minutes.  (While you are waiting for your milk to heat, measure your yogurt and let it come to room temperature.)


Cool Milk~  Remove pot from heat and cool to 110℉.  You can let this happen on it’s own, or use an ice bath to speed the process up.  

   *If you’re going to add honey and vanilla, or any other 

   extracts, now is a good time to do it.  Make sure you stir it well.


“Pitch” Yogurt~ Pitching simply means to add your yogurt to the milk.  Stir it in gently. 


Incubate~ You need to keep your yogurt at around 110℉ for 8-24 hours.  I generally incubate my yogurt for about 12 hours.  (Longer will make for thicker yogurt that is more tart, less time will make yogurt that is thinner and less tart.)


Chill~ When your yogurt is done incubating, put it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Somewhere towards the back is a good place.  When it is cold, it’s ready to eat!


Your yogurt should last in your fridge at least as long as the expiration date on the milk you used, maybe longer.


Okay, so now for a few extra details.

    Incubating~

Of course, the hardest part of making yogurt is figuring out how to keep it warm for all those hours.  I used to have an oven that had a “bread-proofing” setting, which was absolutely ideal for incubating yogurt.  Now I just use an electric blanket on the lowest setting for the 12 hours I incubate my yogurt.  You can also use a heating pad.  Some people put their yogurt in an ice chest with bottles of warm water, changing and reheating the water as necessary.  If you have a dehydrator, that works too.  Really, any way that you can think of to keep your yogurt between 100 and 115 degrees for a prolonged period of time will work.  Just make sure that whatever method you use, the yogurt never exceeds 118 degrees.  At that temperature the bacteria and cultures will begin to die off.


My fancy-schmancy yogurt incubating system!


   Double boiler~

I don’t always use a double boiler set up.  It is highly recommended, but not absolutely necessary.  If I know I’m going to be just standing there stirring constantly, then I’ll just put it in a pot directly on the stove.  When I do take the time to use a double boiler, I don’t actually use my “double boiler.”  (It’s so far back in the cabinet....)  I just put a smaller pot inside a bigger pot with water in between.  :)

   Recipe size~

The amount of milk you use, is roughly the amount of yogurt you will end up with, so a quart of milk equals a quart of yogurt.  Because you do add other things, you might end up with a teeny bit more.  It really depends on how much honey and vanilla you add, as well as how long you heat it.  It’s always a good idea to have an extra small container to catch whatever extra you might have, just in case!  (If you don’t add anything extra to this small amount, it’s usually just about the right size for your next starter!)  

This recipe scales up and down really easy.  If you want to only make a pint, just use half of everything.  If you want to make more, double or triple, or even quadruple the recipe.  I usually make a gallon of yogurt at a time.  The only real difference is the amount of time it takes to heat and cool the milk.

    Containers~

I use half gallon canning jars to store my yogurt, but you could also use multiple small 4 - 8 oz jars to make individual servings if that’s more convenient for you.

    Consistency~

Don’t judge the thickness of your yogurt by it’s consistency when it’s still warm.  It will thicken up more as it cools.  If it’s still too thin, then next time you might want to heat and/or incubate it longer.  You may find a clear liquid, called whey at the top of your yogurt.  You can pour this off, or mix it back in.  There are many, many good uses for extra whey.  (I may have to do a post on that soon.  ;)

    Flavors~

Now that you’re making your own yogurt, the flavor possibilities are endless.  I’ve traded out orange extract instead of the vanilla for a nice orange flavored yogurt, and of course there are plenty of other extracts available to try too, yum!  There are also endless possibilities for mix-ins~ fresh, frozen or dried fruit, granola, nuts, chocolate chips.....  :)  Have fun and enjoy your fabulous, probiotic rich, homemade yogurt!

    Starter~

Once you’ve started making your own yogurt, if you make yogurt again within about 9 days, you can use your own plain yogurt as a starter for the next batch.  Beyond 9 days you can use it once or twice, but over time it will not make very satisfactory yogurt.  I also freeze my plain yogurt in ice cube trays to use as starters, or for use in smoothies.  If you freeze it in small amounts, it will freeze fast enough that most of the bacteria survives.  If you start with frozen starter however, and then freeze that yogurt, and try to repeat the process, eventually you won’t have enough bacteria to make satisfactory yogurt.


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