Yesterday morning I was making my weekly batch of yogurt when I started thinking about why I go through all that hassle instead of just buying it. The reasons I came up with keep me going, and maybe they’ll motivate you to give it a try as well!
1) Cost: A gallon of milk is $3.35 here, and quart of good-quality yogurt is over $3 too. It costs about 25% as much to make it myself.
2) Flavor: Once you try the rich, sweet, freshness of homemade, the storebought doesn’t quite cut it anymore.
3) Health: No additives – period. I can make it as sweet as I like with fruit preserves or maple syrup or even honey and vanilla. Plus I get more of the probiotic benefits because I eat more yogurt when I make my own.
While I have heard that people have success with yogurt makers, I have too many kitchen appliances already and am just as content using glass jars, a $5 thermometer, and an insulated lunch cooler. Here is my recipe:
Heat 3 quarts milk (I often use 1-2% for a creamier result) in a large pot on medium low, partially covered. Stir in 1/2 cup powdered skim milk, and then stir every couple minutes to keep the bottom from burning. Check the temperature frequently. Once it gets to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off the heat, stir, and uncover. Allow it to cool down to 120 degrees.
Prepare 3 sterilized quart jars and lids. Pour 120-degree yogurt into jars, and then put 2 Tbsps of starter – yogurt (I like stonyfield farms yogurt because of the probiotics) into the jar. Yogurt is really finicky, and once the milk and yogurt have been combined, it doesn’t like to be moved much and will not set nicely if upset. I carefully cap each quart, place in the insulated lunch cooler, and put out in the sun here in Houston for about 8-10 hours. A Houston summer day easily keeps it at 90-110 degrees, but in the winter I put it in my oven, and then turn on the oven for 60 seconds every 2 hours just to keep it warm in there. After the incubation period place it in the refrigerator to cool, then enjoy! You can use your own yogurt for starter the next time as long as you use it within one week.
Once it’s done, you will see a thick curd and also some yellowish whey. I use the whey for smoothies and eat the curd with granola. Yummo!
Common problems: If yogurt is thin or slimy and doesn’t set well it’s often for one of these reasons: 1) too hot or cool during 8-10 hour incubation, 2) old starter (older than a week?) or 3) it was moved too much during the incubation. You may be able to salvage slimy yogurt by adding a package of unflavored gelatin…or just use it in smoothies.