There are a gazillion and one “how to make homemade yogurt” posts out there, so I don’t offer any new knowledge here when I write this. However, I may bring the knowledge to a new audience, and that is what I care about!
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Homemade yogurt is really simple to make, at least half the cost of store-bought yogurt, and healthier because you can control what goes in it. In only has 2 ingredients, and takes only a couple minutes at each step. It’s also a perfect way to help me get in some inexpensive, healthy protein and gut functionality when I’m on my $25 grocery challenge to myself.
I will share the proportions I use when I make yogurt. If you want to make more, you can, but you will need to up the proportions accordingly. You will need:
- 1/2 gallon WHOLE milk.
- 1 cup plain, whole-fat yogurt with live and active cultures OR yogurt cultures. (I have only ever done this with pre-made yogurt. You’ll have to ask someone else for their expertise on using the cultures to get started.)
1) Pour the milk into a pot and heat it over medium heat (trying not to burn the bottom) until it is 180 F. If you’ve got a thermometer, use it. If you don’t, just watch for little frothy bubbles to appear at the edges of the pan. That’s about right.
2) Take the milk off the heat. Let it cool until it’s 110F. (You can put your pot in some ice-water if you want to speed this step along.) If you don’t have a thermometer, this is when you can stick your finger in the milk and it’s quite warm- or just tolerably hot, but not unpleasant or burning.
3) Mix in your yogurt starter gently and gradually.
4) Now you’re ready for the “setting” process. You can do this in a variety of ways. I am blessed to have my own 2 quart yogurt maker that makes things very convenient (and came with its own thermometer). All I have to do is pour the mixture into the yogurt maker, put the lid on, and plug it in. My sister-in-law has made small batches in a thermos. My friend Rachel uses this recipe from Keeper of the Home to make yogurt in her crock pot.
Regardless of method, you just have to keep your mixture insulated and warm for 6-8 hours. (If you plan on using your crock pot, refer to the link above for more details.) No stirring during this time! After the 8 hours is up, you should put it in the fridge and let it cool completely before digging in.
Optionally, you can top your yogurt with fresh or dried fruit, honey, granola, elderberry syrup, homemade jam- whatever you like! My kids like theirs with raisins whenever possible. 🙂
Mmm, mmm, good.
Can I use flavors while I’m making the yogurt? In my experience, no. I’m not exactly sure why, but it seems like using flavored starter yogurt or adding flavors during the process interferes with the “setting” or culturing. Better to add toppings afterward to be safe!
Can I use low-fat plain yogurt? Well, it works. But it just doesn’t have the same delightful, creamy consistency as using a full-fat starter. Do what you will, but I prefer the full fat.
Does it matter if my yogurt says “live and active cultures?” Emphatically, yes, it matters! If you don’t have live cultures in your starter, you will not end up with yogurt, because there is nothing there to culture your milk.
Can I use low-fat milk? No. The yogurt will not set properly if you use low-fat milk. You’ll have a runny mess.
Can I use raw milk? Yes. But I’ve read that it must be fresh, or it will not work. Since I have to pay a high price for raw milk, I have never bothered since the milk becomes pasteurized during heating anyway. But if you’ve got a goat or cow at your disposal, by all means, use raw!
Does it taste good? I would answer YES! But if I’m honest with myself, the first time I tried plain yogurt, I thought it was too sour and tart, and could hardly eat it. However, the only yogurt I had prior to that was the full-sugar, fruity stuff in the store. If you’re new to homemade yogurt, you can’t expect the same flavor as Dannon’s. Start by trying it with a couple spoonfuls of jam to get the hang of it. Then try moving to a bit of honey (preferably raw) and fruit. Over time, your tastes will adjust. My kids and I scoop it up plain now- often with very little sweet stuff in it!
How long does it last? Generally, two weeks-ish. If in doubt, give it a sniff. Pleasantly tart? It’s good. Sour and nasty? It’s time to say goodbye. 🙂
If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can!