Saturday, June 5, 2010

How to Make Yogurt at Home

So I bought all this extra milk from the farmer's market last weekend because I bought that cheese making kit a couple of weeks ago. I had meant to make the cheese over the holiday weekend. But we ended up going away, and wasted a lot of the time we were at home by loafing around. And it's too busy during the week to make cheese in the evening. I also really wanted Thing 1 to be able to help, and of course during the week I am at work except during the high tension times of getting ready for work and the evening screamfests we call dinner.
I really wanted to blog about making the cheese this week too! I even told the nice lady at the milk stand that the cheese post would be up mid week. I guess that was a good way of derailing my plans!

But another project came along. Our babysitter, knowing of our blog project, said she could teach me how to make yogurt.



Don't you need special equipment to make yogurt, like a little heater and a bunch of little cups and a timer or a thermometer? Surely I needed something with an electrical plug. I was so curious. So, she told me how to do it.

How to make yogurt at home (and I swear it works)
What you'll need:
* A very clean pot with a lid, like a dutch oven A couple of clean cotton dish towels
* A half gallon of milk, I used 2% organic low temperature pastuerization milk. I don't know if you need the low temp pasteurization for yogurt, but I know you need it for cheese, so it can't hurt. I know you can also use whole and it makes a richer yogurt.
* 5 tablespoons of already made yogurt. Look for L. Bulgaricus on the container if you can.
* Cheesecloth or really thin towel (we had an old burp cloth that was really thin) (did I mention that everything was really clean?)

So yeah, it's kind of a gyp that you need to buy yogurt to make yogurt, but hey, once you do you'll never have to buy yogurt again! And by the way, all you busy working parents: start this around 6pm and by the time you wake up the next morning, you'll have yogurt.
So pour the milk into the very clean dutch oven and bring the milk up to a low boil. I used milk from my dear dairy in Ghent, NY that I buy from, Milk Thistle. They are a certified organic farm making milk and the most ridiculous cream from grass fed cows. They sell at the farmer's markets here in New York City and I have also seen their milk at the Whole Foods in Union Square. Check out their website here. Turn the milk off and let it cool to the point that it is warm, but not hot. So let it cool for 20 minutes or so. You don't want the milk so hot that it kills the yogurt bacteria.

Next take a little warm milk and add it to your 5 tablespoons of yogurt and get that nice and thin. Add the thinned down yogurt one tablespoon at a time into the milk, stirring it in thoroughly in between each tablespoon. When all the yogurt is incorporated into the warm milk, place a clean cloth over the pot and place the lid on top of it. And though I am not sure why I was instructed to do so, place another cloth around the dutch oven, like you would do to a child who's just gotten out of the bath.
Then, let it sit on the counter for 10-12 hours.
That's right. I said let a container of milk sit on the counter for 10-12 hours.

Well, I did all of the above and low and behold, when I woke up the next morning I had a big pot of yogurt. I half expected to open the dutch oven and have the milk smell sour and foul. But much to my amazement, it smelled sweet and yogurty! Our babysitter helped us do one more step, she took the yogurt and wrapped it in an old thin burp cloth that is just a little thicker than cheesecloth. She let the yogurt strain in the cloth pouch for a few hours and it became as thick as greek yogurt. You could use a heavier cloth to strain it and really get all the water out and you would have a delicious spread that resembles cream cheese.

A half gallon of yogurt made what looks like more than a quart of fresh yogurt once we got it down to the thick greek stage. It was pretty sour, so if you like it less tart, only let it sit on the counter for 6-8 hours and maybe let it remain thin rather than strain it, since taking the more of the water out will only serve to concentrate the flavors. We like it sour, so we are happy. It would even be a good replacement for sour cream, which we hardly ever buy anymore because I have just been using yogurt.

I am so psyched to demystify something as complex as yogurt. In our culture today, we have been taught to be afraid of germs, and that the only safe way to prepare delicate food items is in a sterilized industrial kitchen setting. But my yogurt is far more delicious than any I have bought. I know where the cows that made that milk live (the address is on the jug), I know what they ate. To be honest, I pay a hefty fee for my milk, $7 a half gallon. Which makes my organic yogurt more expensive than the one I usually buy. But it is slightly less than a container of greek style yogurt, which is not organic. But I pay the extra because I love this milk. I love the people who make it and sell it to me. And it is the most delicious milk in the world. It's quality is unparalleled. It has a value to me far and above the $7 that I paid for it. Now I know that not everyone can afford $14 a gallon milk, and to be sure I cut back in other ways to afford it because it's important to me. But there are some great local options and some great affordable organic options out there and I bet if you dig around on the internet you can find some in your area too.

Post script:
We ate the yogurt. It was good and no one got sick. Try it, you just might like it.


  1. this is amazing. i am totally freaked out by it, but i am also totally going to try it.

  2. nice post. we've experimented a bit with making yoghurt (in the winter, I make it in a thermos to keep the temperature constant through the night) but will definitely try your method. If you are worried about the cloths, a hot iron will take care of most bugs.
    Also, don't apologise for paying that much for the milk. That's how much it costs the farmer to produce milk of an acceptable quality and invest in the future of the farm. In Britain, most dairy farmers have been squeezed out of the business because of the price wars between the supermarkets leaving mostly very large, inhumane giant producers. We really should all be prepared to pay the true cost of food. Boy, you could write a whole blog exploring that idea :)

  3. Thanks Johanna, It is good to know that other's understand the expense of high quality food. I have found that you can make room for anything in any budget if it is a priority for you. I know that to be true when I see the amount of real Louis Vuitton Handbags walking around this city!! But seriously, we deal with the same supply and demand issues here in the States. Hopefully we can all start demanding more of the good stuff.

  4. (Johanna = Jolene, silly google account...)

  5. I use raw milk . . . .any danger in making yogurt from it? I assume not but wanted to ask.

  6. No problem using raw milk....but the process does require you to pasteurize it. Basically in this yogurt making you are killing all the natural milk bacteria and reintroducing a different strain of bacteria. So raw milk yogurt is no different than any other yogurt made from a high quality organic grass fed pasteurized milk. If you have raw laying around and want to use it-fine, but I wouldn't go search out raw and pay more for it just to use it to make yogurt.

  7. I used organic whole, low temp pasturized milk and greek yogurt and followed directions. After 10 hours all I had was watery milk and a walnut sized piece of cream cheese when I wanted yogurt.

  8. Gary--I think the problem is that you used Greek Yogurt. Use regular yogurt. The culture-bacteria is in the whey. And greek yogurt is strained of most of it's whey. Greek is lower in bacteria than regular traditional yogurts. The fact that it is strained is also why it is thicker and higher in protein-the milk solids hold most of the protein.

    So sorry that you had trouble with this!!

  9. I love making my own yogurt! I always wrap my pot up in a few towels and stick it in a warmed oven overnight (I get it to 350 degrees and then shut it off). That keeps the temperature nice and toasty for the cultures. After 7-8 hours I have a big pot of delicious, thick yogurt. Like you, I usually strain some-- that is my husband's favorite. :)

    I've been making yogurt for almost a year now and haven't bought any in that time. We eat a lot of yogurt so I do a gallon at a time, just for the two of us! I use the whey from the strained portion for baking.