Making Yogurt

30 Apr

I mentioned in my post Saving Money on Groceries: Part 1 that I make yogurt each week.  There are lots of places online that will share with you how to make yogurt, including in your crock pot (this post has some good advice).  I’m going to share this recipe because it has always worked for me.  Most of the others only worked sometimes.  Also, this recipe makes a nice thick yogurt, very similar to the consistency of store yogurt.  I like thick yogurt.

Making this yogurt requires about an hour of in kitchen time and then overnight to set up.  Most of your time in the kitchen is waiting for the milk to heat up and then cool back down, so you can clean the kitchen, play with play dough with your kids, or call your friend on the phone at the same time!

First, you will need a little equipment:

1 dairy or meat thermometer  (a candy thermometer will not work)  if you are extra lucky, you will have one of those programmable thermometers that beeps when it reaches a set temperature.

2 stock pots.  I use an 8 quart stock pot and one the next size up.

long handled stirring spoon, preferably stainless steel

insulated cooler *optional

4-8 wide mouth glass quart jars with lids *optional

Ingredients:

1-2 gallons milk (raw or from the store, whole, skim, goat, cow, whatever)

1-2 cups plain yogurt with live cultures (this can be Dannon Plain yogurt from the store, or yogurt left over from the last time you made yogurt)

Directions:

1.  I create a double boiler with the 2 stock pots.  I run 2 to 2 1/2 inches of water in the larger stock pot.  Then I set the smaller stock pot inside and pour the milk into it.

Yes that is a clothespin holding my thermometer in place.  I’m high tech.

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have filled that pot so full.

2.  Turn your stove burner onto high and let it heat the milk up to 180*F.  This is important because the heat breaks down the proteins in the milk so they can recombine into yogurt.  Even if you are using pasteurized milk from the store, don’t skip this step.

3.  When the milk reaches 180*F, turn off the burner and lift the pot out of the boiler.  I like to cool the milk quickly so I can get on with other things.  So I plug my sink and fill it half full with cold water and however much ice is in the ice tray in my freezer.  Then I set the pan of hot milk into the sink with the thermometer and check it occasionally until the milk temperature is down to somewhere between 105*F and 115*F.  It helps to stir the milk occasionally to even out the temperature and get a true reading.  Usually if my thermometer reads 115*F, I stir the pot and the actual temperature turns out to be 108-110*F.  110*F is the optimal temperature for yogurt culture.

Yep, shouldn’t have filled that pot quite so full.  The water looks cloudy because I spilled a little milk setting it into the water.

4.  Now remove the milk from the ice water and stir in 1 cup of yogurt for every 1 gallon of milk you used.  As I noted above, this can be yogurt from the store, or yogurt left over from last time you made yogurt.  I find I can “reuse” my yogurt about 4-5 times before I need to buy a new yogurt from the store.  So I just buy a pint of plain yogurt once a month to use as yogurt start and rarely have any problems.

**I like to scoop out about 2 cups of warm milk and stir the yogurt into it and then stir all that back into the big pot.  It’s not actually necessary, but I feel like it is less of a shock to the cold yogurt culture and that it helps me get the yogurt stirred evenly into the big pot.

5.  Now I pour the hot water from my double boiler stock pot into my cooler to warm it up.  In colder months I may even leave the hot water in the cooler to keep the yogurt warm while it cultures.  But in summer, I usually pour the water out.

6.  You can leave the milk in your big stock pot to culture, it works fine that way.  But I think quart jars are easer to handle for me and the kids.  So I pour the milk/yogurt mix into quart jars and put on lids.  If you are just going to leave the milk in your stock pot to culture, you can put it in your oven (turned off) and wrap a towel or blanket around the pot to help it keep it’s heat.  I’ve done that before successfully.  I just like using jars better.  (mostly because I also use this pot for boiling spaghetti and so having it in the fridge full of yogurt can be inconvenient.  Also because the side of the pot starts to get crusty after a few days and that’s yucky.)

7.  Set your pot or jars into the warmed cooler and put the lid on. Let sit 8 hours or overnight until the milk thickens into yogurt.  If I made the yogurt before lunch, then I check it before I go to bed to see if it has set up.  If it hasn’t, I let it continue to sit overnight.

In the morning, you have fresh delicious yogurt ready to be eaten!  So healthy and delicious.

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