I was at the local grocery store, today, and was showing my husband (who absolutely never has any idea wth I am doing in the kitchen all the time, but prudently leaves me to it) how much it would cost if I bought all the things I make from scratch, at the store. My favorite example was the look on his face when I showed him a quart of Greek-style yogurt, with honey and vanilla ticketed at (brace yourself) $6.79!
The brand was local, from a dairy about 40 miles from here, and that is lovely. But the milk I use for my yogurt comes from here, in Oregon, too, and my yogurt costs under $1 a quart to make. Wanna know how???
- 1 quart of whole milk (you can use skim or 2% or whatever, but I believe in adding fat, not reducing it, where it comes to yogurt) I add a splash of heavy cream to mine because I am decadent like that.
- 1/4 cup of yogurt (if you didn’t already make your own, you will have to buy some). It HAS to be the kind with active, live cultures. If you are lucky enough to live in Oregon then buy Nancy’s which comes from Springfield Creamery. It is the real deal, and is chock full of those lovely little bacteria that tummies love. If you’re not, here is a list of brands which all are certified to contain these helpful friends: live yogurt brands
- a thermometer that measures up to 200 degrees. I highly recommend getting the kind that clips on to the side of the pan. Soooo much easier than the poke-it-in kind I have to use for cheesemaking.
- A quart mason jar with lid and ring.
- a good saucepan, not aluminum
- a tea kettle or other device for boiling water
Begin by setting the kettle to boil, and washing out the jar and rinsing the lid and ring. Your items need to be sterilized, and this is a super-easy way to do this. When the water boils, fill the jar with the boiling water and slip the lid and ring into a bowl and cover with boiling water.
The lid and ring can be removed after just a minute or 2, but leave the water in the jar to keep it warm.
Meanwhile, place milk in the saucepan and place it over high heat, stirring constantly until it comes to 185 degrees. The milk proteins need to reach this temperature for yogurt culture. Some people use a double boiler for this, and if you are the sort who wanders off during boring parts of cooking, I would suggest this for you, as well. DO NOT BURN THE MILK! On high, on my range, it takes about 10 minutes to bring a quart of milk to 185. I do not take my eyes or stirring spoon off of it, ever.
When the milk reaches the magical 185 degree temp (don’t worry if it is closer to 190, but again, don’t let it burn!) remove it from the heat and pour it back into the measuring cup (after washing it, of course), or into another container. The pan is still very hot, and the idea, now, is to cool the milk back down to 120 degrees. Some people give the milk an ice water bath at this point, but I just set a timer for about 45 minutes and go on about my life.
When the milk reaches 120 (or even 115, but don’t let the temp drop any lower. You want the incubation to begin immediately, and retain the heat as long as possible) thoroughly stir in the 1/4 cup of yogurt.
Then, empty the hot water out of the jar (taking care not to burn yourself- it will be hot) and pour the milk mixture into it. Place the lid on it, and screw down the ring fairly tightly.
Nighty night, yogurt! I always make this mixture shortly before I go to bed, and leave it until I wake up in the morning. Normally, about 10 hours, altogether. I have left it for as few as 7 and as many as 12 hours. The yogurt was lovely each time. Keep in mind, the longer the yogurt incubates, the more tart it will become due to the lactic acid fermentation taking place. If your house is a cold one, then place a heating pad underneath the towel so it will help to keep it warm overnight. Our house is about 67 overnight, and I have never needed a heating pad. If you are concerned about temperature, use the heating pad.
In the morning, remove the towel and put the brand new yogurt in the fridge. As soon as its chilled, it is ready to eat!
Now…if you like that super-thick, creamy Greek-style yogurt that costs an arm and a leg, there is a great (free!) trick for that, too! In the morning, when you remove the towel, pour the entire contents of the jar into a coffee filter-lined strainer or colander that is situated over a bowl. Be sure the strainer sits up high enough that the whey (the liquid that drains away) will not be reabsorbed by contact with the coffee filter. Place the whole thing in the fridge for a couple of hours (as few as 1, as many as 3, depending on how thick you like it- I always drain for 3). I just throw the jar (complete with remnants from the yogurt and all) lid on, into the fridge, too. When the draining is done, I put the yogurt back in the jar (the volume is now reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2. I just carefully lift the coffee filter out of the strainer and pour it into the jar. If it doesn’t all come away easily- and it almost always does- I gently scrape it with a rubber spatula) and I keep the whey liquid in a bottle in the fridge for use when I make ricotta and also as the liquid in my homemade bread.
As I said, in draining, you do lose some volume, however the finished product is so thick a spoon will stand up in it, and to me, it is worth it.
If you don’t drain it, it will have the same consistency as store-bought regular yogurt, once it has chilled a few hours.
Enjoy your fresh yogurt within 2 weeks of making, and don’t forget to save 1/4 of a cup to make your next batch! When I bought my original batch, I froze what I didn’t need to make the first batch in ice cube trays (2 cubes made 1/4 of a cup) and then put it in a zip-loc freezer bag, so I could start a whole new batch, even if I accidentally ate all mine. This has happened .Just take the cubes out of the freezer and allow them to thaw before adding them to cooked milk which has cooled to 120 degrees.
I took these pics while making tonight’s batch, and, tomorrow, I will post pictures of the draining process, so you can get a sense of what that’s like.
For the $6.79 version, add 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla and 3 tbsp of honey to the finished, drained product. It’s a bit less than a quart, but its also less than a dollar!
Enjoy a little culture in your life, save a bunch of money and have a happy tummy!