Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Making Yogurt

 I make yogurt not only because it saves me money, but because it is so much healthier than store-bought yogurt. The typical store-bought yogurt is filled with extra garbage, not to mention the loads of high fructose corn syrup....and in case you didn't know, high fructose corn syrup is a bad word in my house.

There are many different ways to make homemade yogurt and I have tried quite a few. Sometimes with success, but sometimes quite unsuccessfully. Yogurt making has been a trial-and-error experiment. There are so many factors such as the milk used (skim, whole, raw), yogurt culture (always use plain yogurt with active cultures), temperatures, "incubation" factors and consistency (which I must admit, I'm not very good at). The following recipe has been tested multiple times. Only once did it not turn out great - the yogurt was good but very runny which was excellent for smoothies!

Above is a picture of the equipment that I use. The stock pan is filled with water which will be used to sterilize my recycled jars AND the water will be "recycled" to fill the crock pot. NOTE on recycled jars: I LOVE the short and fat salsa jars, they are the perfect size. However, they need to be cleaned well or the salsa smell will taint whatever you are storing. Trust me, salsa flavored yogurt is not good. I usually wash the jar and then fill the jar with vinegar (I let this soak a bit) and rewash. Sometimes it takes multiple washing.

The orange pot is filled with 1/2 gal. of milk. A thermometer is very important in yogurt making. To kill bacteria (if you wish to do this, there are arguments that say this will also kill good bacteria so cater this step to your own preferences), milk needs to be heated to 180* (I only raise mine to the temp of 160*). When you add your yogurt culture to the milk, the milk should be at 110*.... any higher and the good bacterias found in your starter will be killed, therefore killing the chance of making yogurt.
Next to the orange pot is my yogurt starter. Most recipes that I've tried call for 1-3T. of starter (either homemade or store-bought yogurt - make sure that store-bought yogurt has active cultures and is not flavored) BUT I have found better success if I increase this amount to 1/2 cup of starter. Set yogurt on the counter to bring to room temperature.

The crock pot will be the incubator for the yogurt, which will need to incubate for AT LEAST 7 hours. Make sure that all the jars will be short enough to fit in the crock pot with the lid on. Large kitchen towel is needed to keep in the heat.


  • Heat 1/2 gallon of milk. I prefer to heat the milk on low/med.-low so that I don't burn the milk (This temp could be increased but keep a good eye on your milk.). Stir occasionally. It takes quite awhile to heat milk to 185* so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time.
  • Next I plug in the crock pot to "heat it up" and set out my starter on the counter.
  • While milk is heating the milk, fill big pot with water, jars and lids. Bring to a boil. Remove jars and lids. Dump water into crock pot. I leave the lid off until the water in crock pot reads 115-120*. My goal here is to get the water to a consistent 110*.
    Cooling Milk
  • Once milk has reached desired temperature, it is now time to bring the temperature down to 110*. This can be done several ways: simply remove from heat and wait (this takes awhile!), or place pan in an ice bath. I have a small "side sink" in which my wok fits nicely into. I fill my wok with a handful of ice cubes and cold water.
  • When temperature of milk is 110*, scoop out 1-2 cup of warm milk and add to your 1/2 cup of yogurt culture. In the background of the picture on the left is my culture (yogurt from my previous batch). Stir briskly and return this mixture to the rest of the milk. REMEMBER: 110 is necessary for the yogurt to grow and "breed" but temperatures over 110 will kill your yogurt!
  • Incubating
  • Fill your clean jars! I leave a little "shaking" space of 1/2 inch.
  • Check temperature on crock pot. If necessary, add ice cubes to cool crock to 110. Add jars. I keep the water level just below the jar lids.
  • Wrap crock pot with towel and unplug. At this point I have to write down the time on my refrigerator white board or I forget when the yogurt is done (even then I sometimes forget...last time my yogurt incubated an extra 4 hours but luckily it turned out just fine).
  • Leave incubating yogurt in an out-of-the-way place for 7 hours. The longer it's left, the thicker and sometimes more tangy tasting. The crock pot should be turned off or it will get too hot for yogurt. Many things could be used in place of the crock pot as an insulator. I have a friend who uses a cheaply cooler.
  • After 7 hours, give the jars a little shake and leave in the refrigerator over night.
Viola! You have yogurt.
 Learning the tricks of yogurt making has been a huge learning experience for me, with a lot of ups and downs. If you have a few unsuccessful attempts, try again! Once you get the kinks worked out for YOU (because really, it's about learning to make it your way), you will have more successes than failures.

~As I edited this post, I noticed I repeated myself a few times. I'm leaving my redundant statements because you may be like me. I scan directions, rarely reading every important step...which leads to many flops. Redundancy in directions is good for me. :)

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