Homemade Yogurt Start-To-Finish

I love yogurt and I use a lot of it in cooking and baking, as well as eating it as is.

Two quarts of lovely yogurt after “working” for twelve hours.

Straight out of the container it holds its shape but is soft and creamy in the mouth.

After straining, this will be more like Greek yogurt, less dense than cream cheese.

I buy the yogurt cultures from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company

And also from Tribest Yolife
as I have found that my results with the cultures from these vendors are more consistent and the yogurt always turn out exactly the way I like it.

It is important to prepare the milk, whatever kind your are using, prior to adding the culture. I know that some people do it differently but this way is safe and effective.

I prepare it in 1/2 gallon batches – 2 quarts works well for me because when finished I always take out 1/4 to 1/2 to place in a strainer to make yogurt cheese.

I don’t use dry milk powder and you can see the texture in the photo I posted above. My results are always consistent using the purchased culture for the first batch and a small part of each batch for three subsequent batches. Then starting over with a new culture.

I tried it a few times with milk powder and did not like either the flavor or the texture. I drained it for yogurt cheese and got much less solids (twice the amount of whey as with my usual batch) which also did not have the texture that I insist on. It was sort of grainy.

Following is a quote from the California Milk Board:
“Yogurt is formed by the growth of two bacterial organisms in milk; Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus which turn the milk sugars into lactic acid. These are two separate bacteria that are active at different times during processing. Some times you will also find yogurt that contains other “”Probiotic”” cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium infantis which are bacterium normally found in your intestines. Together these bacteria aid in digestion and the synthesis of vitamins. Here are the required steps. Heat milk to between 180 and 200 °F. Heating the milk is done for a few reasons. First, to sterilize/pasteurize the milk so that the yogurt bacteria/culture has a hospitable place to grow in. It is not desirable to incubate contaminating bacteria that might be present in the unsterilized milk. Heating should be done even with pasteurized milk to help make a smooth thick yogurt. Heating the milk also helps stop the whey from separating out quite as much. You must then cool milk to 115 °F and add yogurt culture. (If the milk is too hot it will kill the yogurt bacteria.) Stir in yogurt culture gently until dissolved. Hold temperature at 105 to 110 °F for approximately 8-10 hours. This allows your “”good”” bacteria to grow. The methods listed in the post are suitable for this. Finally, you must refrigerate the processed yogurt for at least two hours. Refrigeration help slow the continued bacterial growth. If yogurt is not refrigerated it will become sour.”

I use yogurt for many purposes, which is why I prepare so much.
I use it in place of buttermilk in baking – I think the texture in quick breads is better with yogurt.
I mix it with regular milk (either whole or 2%) in a blender with fruit to make a kefir-like drink. (You can make kefir but it requires a different kind of culture which is somewhat tricky to handle and does not always produce the desired result.)
I use it as a substitute for sour cream.

A cup of yogurt, combined with two tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate (I buy organic) is great with cereal. I mix it with Grape-Nuts in the evening and consume it the next morning. That way I get sufficient fiber with my yogurt to make a healthy breakfast. (The Grape-Nuts soften a bit but still retain some crunch.)

Yogurt is healthy. Instead of paying a premium price for the yogurt products that promote “regularity,” when you make your own from a known culture that includes the beneficial organisms, you don’t have any of the additives commonly added to commercial yogurts to extend shelf life.
If you want a fruity yogurt you can add your own fruits. Organically grown frozen fruits are readily available and are much better for you than the sweetened and processed purees that are used in commercial yogurts. You can also add the sweetener you want, including those that are better for diabetics. (I have diabetes so I know the subject well.)

YOGURT, STEP-BY-STEP Production on March 28, 2011

So this is the process, after you have ordered your yogurt cultures, sterilized your equipment and purchased your milk.
1:15 P.M.
Assemble your equipment and ingredients:

1:20 P.M.
Pour the milk into a microwaveable glass bowl that is large enough to contain 1/2 gallon and will be easy to handle when the milk is hot.
This 2 1/2 quart Anchor Hocking measure is ideal.

Microwave on high for fifteen minutes in a full power microwave. Longer is you have one with less power.
Check the temp with an instant-read thermometer. ( I recommend the less expensive RT301, or the waterproof RT600C)
Super-Fast Pocket Thermometer made by ThermoWorks.)

The temp should be at least 180° F. If less than that, microwave additional minutes, one-minute increments, stirring the milk each time because temps in the liquid can vary.
1:35 P.M.
This is after cold milk has been heated in the microwave on high for 14 minutes.

1:39 P.M.
A little more heat will not harm the milk, here you see it has reached
189.3° F. or 87.39 C.

Celsius

Remove the hot milk from the microwave and set aside to cool. Check the temperature after 45 minutes.
1:59 P.M.
Temp has dropped to 148°F.

It will probably take about an hour for the milk temperature to drop from 180°F., to 115° F. at room temp, unless it is quite warm – my kitchen is right at 65° F today. This can be hastened with cooling in a cold water bath if you are in a hurry.
From that point keep an eye on it. Or, if you decide to do this on a regular basis, get one of these very handy probe thermometers that will sound the alarm when the temp drops to the temp you set. Also from ThermoWorks, the EcoTemp Alarm Thermometer which is my favorite because I don’t have to keep watching the milk.

2:45 P.M.
In this case, 112.0° F. or 44.4° C.

This is the ideal temperature for adding the culture.

First, remove the “skin” that has formed on the surface. It not, you will have thin, leathery membranes in the finished yogurt. Once formed, this skin does not readily dissolve and won’t blend into the milk.

When it has dropped to 112° F., sprinkle the culture on top of the milk

and let it hydrate for a couple of minutes then whisk it into the milk.
Transfer the milk to the non-electric incubator container, cover and set aside for twelve hours.
2:48 P.M. Into the incubator.

If using an electric incubator or “yogurt maker” such as this YoLife unit:

plug it in and leave it alone for a minimum of 8 hours. In my opinion longer is better and I almost always let it incubate for 12 hours.

2:57 P.M. Cleanup finished, time to relax.

After 8+ hours: (11:00 P.M. if you started as late in the day as I did.)
Check the yogurt to make sure it has reached the consistency you want. You can always return it to the incubator and let it “work” for a few more hours as long as it maintains the optimal incubation temperature. (85° to 100° F.)
This batch was not quite as “tangy” as I like so it was back into the incubator. I went to bed.

3/29/2011 Finished at 5:30 A.M. (14 1/2 hours incubation).

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I recently made a more solid – Greek type yogurt without straining, using half & half, instead of milk, with a regular yogurt starter culture (from New England Cheesemaking Suply) and allowed it to incubate for 24 hours.
This is a batch I made with half & half and YoLife culture. As you can see in the photo it is very firm and holds its shape nicely as a substitute for sour cream.

You can get an end product that is very similar to clotted cream by using a fresh yogurt culture with heavy cream and again, this will require 24 hours incubation.

For the longer incubation I use the YoLife electric yogurt maker to keep the desirable temp for this extended period.

Resources:
If you don’t have a thermometer that converts to Celsius, this is a good reference:
Convert Me.com

More instructions and trouble shooting.

6 Responses to Homemade Yogurt Start-To-Finish

  1. RobertCollins says:

    Been exploring your site. Nice.

    I use this exact method at home here but I let develop by a handy different method I found and read somewhere on line.

    Heat your smallest oven that will fit you container to 200 degrees F. When it is there and stabilized. put your container in and turn it off as you close the door. Check in 8-12 hrs. or even more according to your taste.

    I’ve also used the put in cooler with/next to a jar of hot from the tap water. That worked well until my 18 month old grandson turned every thing over to see what was inside.

  2. RobertCollins says:

    I went to the link above and read more instr. I add nothing to your post so just thank you for the nice read and skip my comment. I really liked reading about your cookbooks.

    THX Andi

  3. asenjigal says:

    There are numerous methods of keeping the developing yogurt at the proper incubation temperature and they all work well.
    For novices, who can afford it, I recommend one of the yogurt makers that has a large container, at least a quart, because in my opinion the ones with several small containers is a waste of space.
    If one only uses a small amount of yogurt, there is the “Magic” yogurt maker that holds a quart milk carton and which works great for single people.

    A large Thermos or similar vacuum “bottle” can hold the yogurt at the proper temp for up to 5 hours.
    A heating pad can be set on low and wrapped around the yogurt container – I have a neighbor who has been using this method for many years.
    If you have an older gas oven with a standing pilot light, you can set the container, wrapped in a heavy towel, into the oven and it will maintain the temp required.

    Here in the desert, where summer temps are high, I don’t use anything, just leave the closed container on a shelf on my deck but out of direct sunlight. Works great.

    A friend who lives in the mountains, where the days are cooler, has one of the glass garden “cloches” and simply places that over the jars containing the yogurt and allows the sun to keep the heat at the desired temp.

    Yogurt has been an important way of preserving milk for thousands of years. Ancient peoples did not have our advantages and still managed to produce an excellent result. Sometimes it just takes a little imagination or ingenuity.
    Don’t be afraid to try.

  4. Darienne says:

    Hi Andie, good advice in your reply to the replies. It’s almost funny to think about how we make yogurt versus how the peoples going back into time immemorial made yogurt…no ovens, no fridges, AND no yogurt makers… Not to mention no stores in which to buy it.

  5. nazar says:

    wow this yoget recipe is amazing
    thank you for sending me the link through the thermomix forum site
    and l love some off your other recipes too
    l want to try first the easy pita bread they sound yummy
    l also have been looking through your site and l love your big pantry its so big l am very jealous of your pantry
    l have a smaller corner pantry and find it very had to organize and things get lost in the corner and it annoys me
    l get the impression that you love to cook and love to collect things
    l live in the south west corner of western australia . we don’t have snow here and rarely does the summers have many days were the temp are over 40 c
    l have 2 boys 3 and 12
    thanks for sharing your knowledge on this blog its great
    from michelle

    • asenjigal says:

      I do love to cook. I’m 72 and have been cooking most of my life and enjoyed almost every bit of it. I started working in my mom’s bakery when I was 15 and after a brief hiatus in the Army, resumed baking and have continued it to date.
      I “discovered” yogurt in the 1960s and learned how to make it and have been tweaking my method until I think I have actually perfected it. At least I get consistent results.
      I’ve also been making my own butter all these years and for me it is so easy, I can’t imagine why more people don’t. I used to make aged cheeses but haven’t done this for a few years.
      I’ve been collecting kitchen stuff for several decades. I became fascinated with the Art Deco designs in the ’70s and began collecting the appliances from the ’30s, which I think are quite beautiful.
      I do love my big pantry, couldn’t function without it.

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