Some may think making your own yogurt is just for the ‘Granola’ folks, but trust me, you will want to try it at least once (and by then you’ll be hooked). Way back in the late ’70s I can remember my Mom hollering after my brother and I ‘not to bump the yogurt’ as it sat nested in it’s tidy little yogurt maker. I could never understand why she just didn’t buy it from the store, after all, wouldn’t that be so much easier? Sure it would be easier, but you’d miss out on all that fun kitchen chemistry (or microbiology) and some seriously good eats. Although I always liked yogurt in my adulthood, I never loved it until I made it myself. I’ve tried a gazillion methods of heating and incubating the yogurt and have settled on a low-tech, fairly hands-free method that turns out beautiful yogurt every time. Follow these easy steps and you too can take yogurt to a whole new level. Local antibiotic- and hormone-free milk can offer increased flavor (and decreased toxins) but if you don’t have access to it, opt for pasteurized and not ultra-pasteurized and homogenized milk ( the latter won’t firm up). You can also decrease the quantities in this recipe, but I find a gallon at a time keeps me in yogurt without having to make it too frequently.
Easiest Homemade Yogurt
- 1 gallon whole local, antibiotic- and hormone-free milk (feel free to try 2%, skim, or a decadent light cream!)
- 4 quart-sized, wide-mouthed canning jars and their lids
- Dairy or kitchen thermometer that clips to the side of a jar/pan
- Large pot or dutch oven that can accommodate all 4 jars
- 4 heaping TBSP Yogurt starter (use your favorite store bought plain brand, making sure it says ‘live active cultures’)
- 1 Dishcloth
- Sterilize your jars and lids by placing in the dishwasher on the sanitize mode (there is a more stringent process for true canning but this suffices here)
- Fill each jar with a quart of milk, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top (to add the starter)
- Place the dish towel in the bottom of the pot, place the filled quart jars on top of the dish towel and fill the pot with water, leaving enough room for boiling the water.
- Place the pot with the jars inside on the stove top over high heat, affixing the thermometer to the side of one jar with the temperature probe in the center of the milk (not touching the glass, etc.).
- Being to a vigorous boil, eventually registering approximately 160 degrees in the milk. Adjust burner temp as necessary and check each quart a few times to make sure they are heating evenly. There is no need to stir.
- Hold the milk temperature at 150-160 for approximately 30 minutes. I have found this produces a thicker yogurt.
- After 30 minutes, remove the jars from the water (HOT! HOT!) and place on a heat resistant surface to cool (an aluminum pan will help heat dissipate faster). Do not discard the water in the pot. Let the jars cool to about 110 degrees (I almost never wait quite that long, usually adding the starter at 120 degrees because I’m impatient!). Cooling usually takes about 40 minutes to an hour.
- When your milk is almost at the right temp, preheat your oven to 110 degrees. Mine only goes as low as 170, so I preheat to a temp of 130 using an oven thermometer (temp falls when I open it to put in the milk).
- When your milk has reached 110 or so degrees (better slightly over than under I’ve found), mix 1/2 cup or so of the milk from each jar with 1 heaping TBSP yogurt starter (from store) PER QUART and gently fold until smooth. Mix gently into each quart. I do this one quart at a time to assure each quart gets the appropriate amount of starter yogurt/culture.
- Put on your lids and put the quarts back in the pot of water. Place the pot in the preheated oven and wrap the whole thing in a big towel. Turn off the oven, turn on your oven light, close up the oven, and go to bed or run errands, etc. (after all, the oven is off and it’s not hot enough for the towel to burn). If your oven doesn’t have a light or it’s not functioning, don’t fret–I’ve forgotten to turn it on and it still seems to work out fine. If your oven heats to 110 degrees, then you can leave it on, however I don’t like the idea of sleeping or leaving the house with the oven on.
- Try not to bump or disturb the yogurt during the ‘sit time’ as doing so can interfere with it thickening up. Gently check the yogurt after 6 hours or so. If it has ‘gelled’ to your satisfaction, then remove and cool in the fridge. If not, try a couple more hours.
- After chilling the yogurt, you can drain it for an hour or so through cheese cloth to produce a thicker product similar to Greek yogurt (see caption below). After draining you can also add a tablespoon or two of milk or cream and whisk for extra creaminess. Afterward, place the yogurt back in jars and chill. It will last for 2-3 weeks (although mine never hangs around that long!).