Pardon the slight delay in getting this yogurt post out to ya’ll…I may or may not have been so busy snuggling a newborn and enjoying the bed rest my husband insists I take after having a baby that I didn’t get around to blogging yesterday. Imagine that.
But I really can’t wait another day to teach ya’ll my favorite, easiest technique for making yogurt, so I’m snuggled in bed with my laptop, ready to have at it. This method is so simple, I’m thinking that if we run out of yogurt before my man lets me out of bed, he could even make it. Here’s what I’d tell him to do…
The Easy Way to Make Yogurt
1. Heating. Pour milk into a large sauce pan. The amount you use is up to you–I usually make 3 qts. of yogurt at a time, because that’s about how much we eat of it before it would spoil (your homemade yogurt will last 2-3 weeks.) Heat milk until it’s simmering–bubbles come to the surface, and it begins to form a ‘skin’ on top. Turn milk off.
3. Sterilizing. Pour the hot milk straight into the jars you want your finished yogurt in. I use gallon or quart jars. Use whatever size you want, but do use glass. I used to sterilize the jars separately, but realized that pouring the scalding hot milk into the jars effectively sterilizes them and saves me–and you!–a whole step! Sterilizing is important to make sure only the good bacteria you’ll add with the starter is what’s alive and growing.
3. Cooling. Let milk cool until you can comfortably dip your finger into it–warm, but not burning you. (This is about 115 degrees if you must know, but I like skipping the thermometer and just using my finger–saves me another thing to wash.)
If you don’t want to wait the hour or two for the milk to cool, you can hurry up this step by putting your jars into a saucepan or dishpan of cold tap water. I like to do this because this shrinks my yogurt making session to about the length of time it takes me to serve a meal, and I’m less likely to leave the kitchen and forget about it. Just keep checking the milk, because it cools pretty fast this way.
4. Adding Starter. When milk has cooled to a tolerable temperature, it’s time to add your starter. This is simply a bit of plain, store bought yogurt, or yogurt saved from your last batch. You will need 2-3 T. per quart jar, or a half a cup for a gallon. Stir the yogurt gently into the milk in the jars–emphasis on gently–you’re introducing the yogurt to the milk, not incorporating.
5. Incubating. Cap jar(s), and set into your saucepan or dish pan again. This time, fill the pan up with the hottest water you can get from your tap. You want the hot water to reach up to the level of the milk in the jars. This is how you will incubate your yogurt. Leave on counter 8-12 hours (all day, if you make it in the morning, all night if you make this before bed). At the end of that time, transfer yogurt to fridge to cool.
The finished yogurt will have thickened and have some separated whey on top. It will firm up further in the fridge.
Is it Really That Easy?
Now, a lot of people ask me if that little hot water bath is enough to incubate the yogurt–“don’t you have to switch out the water?” they wonder. And my answer? No, you don’t. I’ve been using this method of incubating yogurt for 5 years, and never had a batch that didn’t work. So, save yourself the trouble of putting your yogurt in the oven, dehydrator, cooler, or wherever else you’ve heard works, and just leave it on the counter (or in the sink) in a pan of water. It works great, I promise.
Edited to Add: It seems the only time this style of incubation doesn’t work is when making less than a quart of yogurt at a time–a small jar or amount just doesn’t hold the heat long enough to give the yogurt a good incubation. If you’re doing smaller jars or less than a quart of milk, I suggest using your oven on warm to incubate, or look into the crock pot method.
Also, if you want to use a thermometer, heat the milk to 185, and cool it to about 115.
Thick, Creamy, Plain Yogurt
The resulting yogurt is so thick and creamy, you’re gonna be amazed. And, you’ll notice I don’t add anything to my yogurt–no sweeteners or flavor. That’s because around here, yogurt is usually a vehicle for fresh or frozen fruit, or other yummy additives, and we find we don’t need the sweetener. If you do want to make a sweeter, vanilla flavored yogurt, you’ll find an equally simple recipe (that just has a few more steps) in my book, Real Fast Food.
One more question I get a lot is…
What kind of milk do you need to use to make yogurt?
Ah, that’s the glory of it, people. This recipe works for raw milk, pasteurized and homogenized milk, and everything in between. Cow milk, Goat milk, Vicuna Milk–it works for all of them. (I haven’t tried the milk from a South American Camel, actually, but this method works for all animal milk!) As I mentioned in my post on What to Do If You Can’t Find or Afford Raw Milk, making store bought milk into yogurt is a great way to make the milk easier to digest, and it can also save you money!
Whaddya think? Is this something you think you could tackle in your real food journey? I think so, and to help you along on your journey I’ve included all of this, as well as eighteen other chapters (plus pretty pictures!), in my guidebook for becoming a real foodie: Your Real Food Journey. Check it out here.
Next up: What’s easier than homemade yogurt? Why, kefir, of course!