Homemade yogurt is easy to make and soooo much better than commercial yogurt. Homemade yogurt is delicious, nutritionally packed with probiotics, calcium, protein and potassium. High quality yogurt helps the digestive system and boosts the immune system. Once you make it you will never go back to store bought. Here are the basics:
It is important to use very clean equipment. I wash everything in a hot dishwasher to achieve this. If your equipment is not sterile the yogurt may not set and you have the opportunity to grow undesirable things in your yogurt.
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You have three choices for starters:
- packaged dry starters,
- plain greek yogurt with active and live cultures, or
- you can use a few spoonfuls of your last batch of yogurt as the starter for your next batch.
I use the second option, specifically Chobani non-fat plain yogurt. When making yogurt, the more live cultures, the merrier. Chobani has five live active cultures.
Heating: stove vs. microwave
I have experimented with stovetop and microwave methods and find microwaving the easiest, requiring the least clean-up, and with no discernible difference in the final product. I use a 4 quart pyrex measuring cup and heat 44 ounces of 2% organic milk up to 180 degrees. In my microwave this takes 14 minutes. It will vary by microwave, so let your thermometer be your guide. If you use homogenized milk and are using a new starter, getting the temperature all the way up to 180 degrees really is not critical. If you use raw milk and/or are reusing your starter, heating to 180 degrees is essential.
Once heated, the milk needs to be cooled to between 112 and 120 degrees to incubate the live cultures. This temperature range will help the live cultures grow and inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria. If you forget and let your milk cool to less than 112 degrees just pop it back in the microwave to bring it up to temperature. Likewise if you are in a hurry to cool down your milk, you can pop it in the fridge for a couple minutes.
Type of milk
I have played with different types of milk and prefer the consistency I get from 2% organic, although whole milk will yield a slightly thicker yogurt. Instead, I add 1/3 to 1/2 cup powdered non-fat dried milk to achieve a thicker consistency.
I am not a fan of sweet yogurts, but I find a bit of raw honey takes the sour edge off the yogurt without registering as a sweetened yogurt.
I have played around with flavoring the yogurt before you incubate it, and with the exception of a couple flavors, I prefer to make honey-sweetened yogurt and flavor afterwards with fresh or roasted fruit.
You can make yogurt from non-specialized equipment you already have in your kitchen such as a crockpot, oven or even an electric heating pad. I prefer the ease of using a yogurt maker. I own the Euro Cuisine yogurt maker. It is door-knob-simple to use and makes seven 6-ounce servings in great reusable glass jars.
I prefer for my yogurt to incubate for 12 hours, but this is not necessary. It is fine after 8 hours. The best rule-of-thumb is to incubate your yogurt as long as you can (up to 12 hours). Take the yogurt out of the yogurt maker or heat source any time it is convenient for you after eight hours. If the yogurt sits a few hours after the yogurt maker turns off, it is fine. Don't worry about it spoiling. After all, yogurt is already spoilt!
Don't be frightened, making yogurt is really easy
If all this sounds complicated, it really isn't. Once you get it down making yogurt will literally take you 5 minutes of active preparation time. Plan for about 45 minutes to heat up the milk and let it cool, and 8 to 12 hours to incubate.