Saturday, June 5, 2010

Yummy Yogurt

Well, I've finally had enough people ask me about yogurt making. I know there are dozens of tutorials out there already, but here is my own, for easy referrals.

Upon moving to Denver, I discovered that out here, milk is dirt cheap compared to PA (despite PA's abundance of cows). At under $2/gallon, it's definitely worthwhile to make my own yogurt! I first tried it before traveling to West Africa for 3 weeks last summer and realized how incredibly easy it is. It does take time, but making your own yogurt is simple, fun and tasty.

So, how?

In a nutshell:
  1. Heat milk to 180 F (ish - hot but not boiling)
  2. Cool to 110 F (ish - still warm, but doesn't hurt your finger)
  3. Whisk in starter - some plain yogurt or freeze-dried starter
  4. Pour into glass containers
  5. Stick somewhere slightly warm and forget about it for 6-8 hours or overnight.
  6. Remember about it, discover you've made yogurt, and enjoy! (well, maybe refrigerate first...)
So you can do it now, right? Still have questions? Detailed version below!

1. Heat milk to 180 F (ish)
I use a candy thermometer (after my very slow digital one fell into the hot milk a few too many times). This works great, but in reality, you don't need a thermometer - I've done it plenty of times without. Heat it to near boiling (like when you start to hear it, or when it's too hot to really touch for long). Then proceed to step 2!

*Note: you can use powdered milk for this (overseas, for example, where that's cheaper), or you can add a bit of powdered milk or evaporated milk to make the yogurt thicker. DON'T use the nasty instant milk powder, though. I've not had very good results with it! I get the expensive stuff from the natural foods aisle and add a couple tablespoons per quart of milk. Works well to thicken, but not necessary.

2. Cool to 110 F (ish - still warm, but doesn't hurt your finger)
Again, I use a thermometer, but I've done it without. When it feels "lukewarm" (like, if your coffee got this temperature you'd microwave it or throw it out), it's ready.

3. Whisk in starter - some plain yogurt or freeze-dried starter
You can use it, but I haven't had great luck with store-bought yogurt as a starter. I use YoGourmet starter, from a natural foods store/aisle. It's usually refrigerated near the yogurt, if you're looking for it. Once you've made a batch, though, you can use that yogurt as a starter, and keep the rest of your purchased starter for several batches from now. Supposedly the yogurt cultures eventually get a bit unbalanced and you should start from a fresh starter.
You can also freeze some yogurt in ~1/4 C batches to use later - that will keep your starter good longer, since each comes from the original batch. Doing this, one envelope of starter lasts me for 20 or so batches - freezing 5 starters, using them up then making 5 more from the last batch, etc. about 4 times before using a new envelope of starter.

4. Pour into glass containers
Rinse them well with hot water first to make sure you don't have other contaminants in them. I like to use jam-sized canning jars and make individual serving containers. If you don't fill them all the way, you'll have room to add some sugar or honey and some fresh cut fruit on top.

5. Stick somewhere slightly warm and forget about it for 6-8 hours or overnight.
I've seen a lot of suggestions for this, from an oven with pilot light on (gas oven) to just wrapping the already warm jars in thick blankets, to putting them in a cooler along with a few large containers of warm water. My personal favorite is to turn my oven on for a bit while I'm waiting for the milk to cool with a baking stone (or heavy ceramic casserole dish, etc.) in it. Then turn the oven off, but the heat from the stone will keep it slightly warm. You're going for around 80-90 F.
Even better is to make cookies in the oven first :) Then you have a pre-warmed stone and fresh cookies to boot!

Then just leave it be. In 6 or so hours, you will have yogurt! If you like it thicker, stronger flavored, or if you're lactose intolerant, leave it in for 8 or 10 hours or overnight. The longer it stays unrefrigerated, the longer the bacteria have to digest the sugars (lactose!) in the milk, producing the acid that turns your milk to yogurt. I nearly always leave mine overnight, and the last batch was in there a good 12 hours and still is great.

6. Remember about it, discover you've made yogurt, and enjoy! (well, maybe refrigerate first!)
Put some lids on and throw it in the fridge. Enjoy with sugar, honey, applesauce, fresh/canned/frozen fruit, even Nutella!

*Note: always mix in your extras after incubation. Yeasts and other bacteria from fruit can change how it works. Exception: I have tried adding some instant coffee and/or cocoa powder (sans sugar) before culturing the yogurt. I found it takes a bit longer to set, especially the coffee, but it does set, and tastes great! Add a spoonful of sugar before eating.... Yum yum :)


  1. Wow, sounds like you have had many of the same experiences making yogurt we have had. We were fortunate enough to get a Warning Pro Yogurt Maker on sale for under $30 and bought it - it's temperature controlled unlike the rest on the market. And after trying literally dozens of cultures, we have settled on Activia as the best. I make 3 - 4 quarts of Activia yogurt every couple of days for my wife and I - yes, we do eat a lot of yogurt and it does work as advertised.

    Check out our website:

  2. I've had enough success with the stock pot on the stove method as to not want one more appliance! But love making it, and eating it at least daily! Nice website - I've been converting as many people as possible :)

  3. your tutorial sounds a lot like mine. so glad it's working for you!

    temp: I sometimes put my jar on the warming section of my stove or in the oven on super low or in a cooler with hot water...only do these things if it's really cold in my kitchen. Otherwise, the counter always works.

    still think kefir is worth a try if you are drinking a lot of smoothies. more nutritional benefits, even easier prep process (add grains to raw milk, let sit out all night. strain. drink.) Of course, you have to get your hands on some grains to begin with, but maybe that's easier in a big city?


  4. Yeah, I have no idea where to get grains OR raw milk :) Does it get thick like yogurt, or just like buttermilk?