How to Make Yogurt

October 26, 2011 5:00 am
Posted in: How to Make...
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Katie Kimball is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and The Everything Beans Book (Get $3 off until 10/31 with coupon code FALL4BEANS). She blogs at Kitchen Stewardship, where she offers weekly “Monday Missions” with practical baby steps, healthy recipes, green living ideas, and prayerful encouragement. You can follow Katie on Twitter and Facebook.

Katie also teaches GNOWFGLINS Real Food eCourses and cooking classes, including an in-depth series on Cheese & Cultured Dairy.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Even when it’s not October #Unprocessed, I make a ridiculous number of things from scratch.

I tend to get a little pushy when it comes to making your own yogurt. Frankly, I think everyone should do it! If ever there was a homemade yogurt pusher, it’d be me.

I don’t need a trench coat (“Wanna buy some yo-gaht?”) to push this deal. Yogurt is one of the many from-scratch practices that saves a ton of money over buying it at the store. My family of four eaters, two of whom are under seven years old, goes through a gallon or two of homemade yogurt per week — no exaggeration.

With current milk prices of about $3-ish per gallon and a 32-oz. tub of plain yogurt ringing in at $2-3, I figure I save $600-800 per year just on this one food. Plus, I’m always pleased as punch to see healthful probiotics going into my kiddos, especially during cold and flu season.

Each batch takes only about 17 minutes, split up into four parts. I’m willing to teach you my secret method, but only if you promise to eat yogurt with as little sweetener as possible. ;)

The basic steps of yogurt-making…

…are easier than chocolate chip cookies:

  1. Heat to sterilize the milk (185 degrees).
  2. Cool milk to proper incubation temperature (90-120 degrees).
  3. Add starter yogurt.
  4. Incubate at warm temperature 4-24 hours.

Supplies

  • Glass jars (quart canning jars or empty mayo or spaghetti sauce jars work great)
  • Milk (any, from skim to whole – but skim will be very runny unless you add powdered milk, which seems a little #processed for this challenge. You could always just grab raw milk straight from the cows!)
  • Candy thermometer, but I can show you how to do it without one too
  • Pot large enough to hold your glass jars
  • 2 Tbs of plain yogurt per quart of milk (Buy the freshest yogurt possible at a store and make sure it has “live and active cultures.” I prefer Dannon or Stonyfield. I know they have the three top cultures that I’m looking for to help the gut.)
  • Picnic cooler
  • Bath/beach towel
  • Timer

Method

1. Put a dishcloth in the bottom of a large pot, and place the clean jars on the cloth.

2. Pour milk into your jars to about an inch from the top.

3. Place jars into the pot and fill pot with tap water around the jars.

4. Cook on high heat until boiling and get the milk to about 185 (you can’t burn it with this method, so if you forget it for a while, it’s OK!). Turn off the heat and put lids on the jars.

5. Put the pot in the cooler with the towel underneath and the lid on both pot and cooler.

6. Cool the milk. You can do it on the counter, in the garage in winter, or in a sinkful of cold water with ice packs.

7. Get milk to about 110 degrees. I know the milk is about ready when I can pick up the jars and hold them without burning my hands.

8. Stir in ~2 Tbs. plain yogurt for each quart of milk.

9. Get those lids on again and nestle your jars in the cooler. Keep them wrapped in one half of the towel and take the lid off the pot to let the heat out, then close the lid of the cooler to keep the heat in.

My yogurt jars happily nestled in the cooler, ready to incubate.
Before I close the lid, I’ll wrap the towel end from the right around the jars.

10. Incubate 4-24 hours. Shorter incubation makes sweeter yogurt, longer is more tart. Also lower incubation temperature makes sweeter yogurt and higher makes more tart. I’ve had good success at 4 hours and at 24 (add a teapot of boiling water at the 12-hour mark if going for the full 24, which gets rid of almost all the lactose in the milk).

11. When the time is up, put the jars into the freezer for about an hour to make a creamier consistency. Do not stir first. No room in the freezer? They can go right into the fridge.

That’s it! You have created yogurt!

More Information

32 Comments on "How to Make Yogurt"
  1. Comment left on:
    October 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I make mine in a thermos. In the evening heat the milk to 185 in the microwave, cool to ~115, stir in starter yogurt, pour into pre-heated, high quality thermos. That’s it. By morning you’ve got yogurt!

  2. Comment left on:
    November 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm
    EagleOne says:

    Forgive me, Katie Kimball, for saying this: the amount of energy and time shown spent on making your ‘kind’ of yogurt may very well equal that of putting man to Mars.
    I am from India. I eat fresh, homemade yogurt twice everyday without fail. Only 10 min process time, and voila! 8 hours later, I have a tub of yogurt as creamy as vanilla icecream.

    185 to 110 degrees…God damn! Whew!

  3. Comment left on:
    November 15, 2011 at 11:36 am
    Melissa says:

    I’m surprise no one has mentioned this yet, but there is so way you can put hot jars in cold water, they crack! I should have thought of this (as I’ve had pyrexs shatter in the oven if I add cold liquid), and just tried to make yogurt following your instructions, but my jars all broke in the sink!

    Next time, I’ll just leave them on the counter to cool.

    • Comment left on:
      November 15, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      Melissa,
      Oh, dear, I’m so sorry I was sharing the condensed version here. When I describe every breath of the process, I do say that I put the jars in an empty sink and slowly add cold water. Every so often I break one, but not every time. I always cool on the countertop unless I’m in a time crunch, if only because it’s one less step and saves water. Sorry you lost your jars and milk! :(
      Katie

    • Comment left on:
      November 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

      Thank you Melissa, I can avoid this because of you

  4. .
    March 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    [...] so knowledgeable about natural parenting & fooding! Her recipe is over at Eating Rules today, here. Her original recipe is posted here on her blog from a few Aprils [...]

  5. Comment left on:
    October 8, 2012 at 9:20 am
    Doreen says:

    I’ve been wanting to try this for a while now, but have been reluctant to spend the money on one of those yogurt makers (and what do you do when the power goes out?). I’m definitely going to give this a try–we go through a lot of yogurt with three people who eat it regularly. Here’s hoping!

  6. Comment left on:
    October 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm
    Shannan says:

    I make mine in my large crockpot. I wrap my crackpot in large towels and fleece . With my crockpot on low. I cover the top with towels after 2 1/2 – 3 hours it is at 178-180. Unplug crockpot. I take the lid off and let it cool to 120.take two cups of the cooled milk out and mix with the yogurt until there are no lumps and add it to crackpot cover with lid and towels and leave overnight. Remove invert from crockpot and chill and eat. For fruit flavors I puree fruit and freeze in ice cube trays. The kids microwave the ice cubes and mix with yogurt and eat.

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