When I was in my very early twenties and living on my own, I taught myself to make my own yogurt at home. Being in the days before Pinterest, this was actually quite a radical and questionable undertaking. I remember being embarrassed to tell people that I was culturing and fermenting in my home kitchen. But the fact was that I ate a lot of yogurt. It was my single chick, no prep, go-to breakfast or snack and buying it was getting really expensive for me.
By this time I had become a conscientious label reader and wouldn’t buy the cheap yogurt that had gums, thickeners, stabilizers or any other questionable ingredient. That left me with a couple of very expensive natural products that I simply couldn’t afford at my current consumption rate. I had to figure out how to make it in my own kitchen.
I scoured the internet and did a lot of experimenting and finally came up with a method that consistently turned out tasty well set yogurt.
While yogurt is a dairy product and can be problematic for some people, well fermented yogurt contains almost no lactose and is full of good pro-biotics that help with digestion and with clearing out bad microorganisms like candida.
I don’t eat nearly as much yogurt now as I used to, opting instead for lacto fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi which I’ll tell you about in the next blog post. But Yogurt was my first foray into the world of fermentation. And so I will share this fermentation recipe with you before any others. The following recipe uses store-bought pasteurized milk. It is certainly possible and better for you to make raw yogurt with raw milk, but it’s a bit trickier to control the results. Try this recipe first, when you’re comfortable with making yogurt this way you can experiment with other milks. Even non-dairy milks.
1 large pot that can nest inside of an even larger pot
1 instant read food thermometer (preferable with a clip for the side of the pot)
Ice or very cold water
Metal or plastic spoon
Small electric heating pad
1 Gallon organic whole milk.
1 single serving container of plain whole or 2% Fage greek yogurt, or a few Tablespoons of any other yogurt whose only ingredients are milk and cultures. (after your first batch you can save some of your last batch of homemade yogurt as a starter for the new batch)
It’s important that all your tools be properly sanitized. Making yogurt means encouraging a very specific bacterial growth and if rouge bacteria get introduced through improper sanitation, your yogurt may not develop the right flavors or texture. That being said, I’ve never had a batch not turn out or develop any really funky notes so don’t get paranoid here.
Start by pouring your gallon of milk into your large pot. The pot should be clean but you’ll be heating the milk to 180 degrees so don’t worry about trying to create a sterile environment.
Nestle your milk pot into your slightly larger pot and fill the second pot with water up to the lever of your milk. You’re just creating a basic double boiler.
While that’s heating up stop up your sink and fill it with ice and cold water. If there is room in the space between the first pot and the second pot you can sanitize a large stirring spoon in the water while your milk heats up. Plug in your heating pad and set it on the counter, set it to the lowest possible heat setting. Once your milk (not your water) has reached 180 degrees remove it from the double boiler and put the whole pot into the ice water bath. You’re going to quickly cool the milk to about 120 degrees now.
Once it has reached that temperature remove it from the sink and place the pot on the heating pad. Use your sanitized spoon and stir in the fage or whatever you’re using to culture the milk. Now put a lid on the pot and let it hang out in a warm still environment while the yogurt cultures do their thing. the length of time you need to let this sit will vary based on how tart you like it, how thick you like it, and the temperature of your room. Start with 8 hours and start tasting it. Once it is as tart as you like it you’re all done. If you want to make it thicker you can separate out the whey from the yogurt by straining it all through a cheesecloth though you will lose some volume. When I do this i place a sieve over a bowl to catch the whey, line the sieve with cheesecloth, dump all the yogurt into the sieve and put the whole thing in the refrigerator to separate out slowly. The longer you let it drain the thicker it will get.
My absolute favorite way to eat this is with a little bit of raw honey. It’s so creamy and rich tasting. You can also stir in some fruit or use it to top Mexican food or anywhere you would use sour cream. Have fun experimenting. Remember to save a few tablespoons for your next batch. And let me know how it turned out for you.