We all know the advantages of eating a clean diet. As good as fruit and vegetables are, having a daily fill of probiotics is also important. In a related article on how probiotics are good for the digestive and immune system, the author writes, “Having a healthy digestive system is important because a healthy system filters out things that can damage it (like that bad bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and waste products). It also helps us absorb and deliver the good stuff like nutrients from our food.”
With that in mind, rather than going out and spending money on buying yogurt at the stores, I feel it is important to learn how easy it is to make fresh yogurt. The only equipment you really need is a metal sauce pan, a candy thermometer, some leftover plain yogurt and milk.
To make fresh yogurt, I use a Yogotherm. I purchased this product because I wanted an off grid method of making yogurt. The Yogotherm has a food grade plastic bucket that the yogurt mixture goes into. When you secure the lid, you place the bucket into a styrofoam container which helps to maintain the temperature for a longer period of time. If you don’t have a yogurt maker, then you can easily find recipes using the oven or replicate the process using these instructions from Granny Spears.
“All you do is stir the warmed milk into the starter, giving it a good whisk to make sure it is well blended together, put on the lid and leave it. To keep it warm I would sit the pot on a flat pillow and put a couple of towels around it and set it down on a small table to the side of the range. I’d turn the whole thing around before I went to bed to try and keep the heating even. By morning the milk had fermented and we could eat the ‘thick milk’ with fruit for breakfast, a few wheat berries would be added in if we had them.”
The Secrets to Making Good Yogurt
- Temperature – You need to ensure that you have a dependable cooking thermometer or candy thermometer to monitor the heat – this is the secret to making good yogurt. Be sure to keep the temperature of your yogurt only between 90-110F during the cooking process. Any temperature over 116 or so kills the bacteria completely. On the other side, temperatures over 110F tends to hinder them and you get runny or cottage cheesy yogurt. I’ve found that about 100-110F makes the best thickness.
- Quality of starter – You want to use a good quality starter. I wanted a thick “Greek” style yogurt, so I used Fage yogurt as my starter. I’ve heard from other homesteaders that if you have used the same yogurt to restart your new batches, sometimes it just starts to wear out. For more consistent batches, replace your starter every 6 months.
- Amount of Starter – Make sure that you are adding enough starter to get the desired result. Too little starter makes runny yogurt, but too much makes cause separation and you end up with whey and thick cheese. If this happens, make use of the cheese with this recipe.
- Quality of Milk – You can use raw milk or pasteurized milk. Raw milk has a tendency to compete with the natural probiotics and can cause the yogurt to be thinner. Further, using skim milk can also make for a thinner batch, so if you prefer a thicker consistency, go with the full fat milk.
- Time Matters – Time does make a difference when you ferment yogurt. After you have made your yogurt, allow the mixture to rest and go through the fermenting process. No matter how tempted you are – don’t disturb the yogurt. Resist checking on it and stirring it. It needs to sit undisturbed for 8 hours or more. Moreover, longer fermenting times typically make for more sour yogurt (as do higher temperatures). Eight hours is sufficient to make yogurt, but I prefer mine to sit out for at least 10 hours. Experiment with 4, 6, or 8 hours to see what you like. Make multiple jars using different fermenting times to see which taste you like.
- Save Your Culture – According to CulturesForHealth.com, you can easily save some of your culture for future yogurt making. Simply put some fresh, active yogurt in clean ice cube trays. For each cube, use the amount of yogurt that it will take to culture 1 cup of milk. When the cubes are frozen, put them in an airtight container in the freezer. When you’re ready to make yogurt, take out as many cubes as you’ll need (1 cube per cup of milk). Allow them to thaw before adding to the prepared milk. It’s best to use these within a month for best results. Cultures can also be dried. Spread a small amount of starter on a piece of unbleached parchment paper. Leave the yogurt or buttermilk to dry in a warm, safe spot no more than 80°F. Once it is completely dry, store in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. Under ideal conditions, the starter will keep for up to a few months. To rehydrate the yogurt or buttermilk, grind up the dried starter and place one teaspoon dried yogurt in a cup of milk that has been prepared according to the instructions for activation for the type of culture you’re using. Mix well to fully incorporate. Culture as you normally would but keep in mind that this rehydrated batch will generally take twice as long to culture: 8 to 12 hours for thermophilic (heated) yogurts and 24 to 48 hours for mesophilic (counter-top) varieties.
- To Make Thicker Yogurt – A tip I learned from a friend on how to thicken your homemade yogurt, is to strain it with cheesecloth for 30 to 60 minutes. This will allow the whey to separate and you are left with a thicker yogurt.
- 4 cups milk
- 3-4 tablespoons yogurt
- In a medium metal saucepan, over low heat, warm milk until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir intermittently to prevent scolded milk or a skin from forming on the heated milk.
- Remove from heat and allow milk to cool to 11o degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small bowl, pour 1 cup warm milk and 3-4 tablespoons of yogurt and stir softly.
- Add yogurt mixture to warm milk in sauce pan and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Pour into Yogotherm and all yogurt to set undisturbed at room temperature over night or for 10 hours. The texture should be smooth with no chunks or separation.
- After 10 hours, refrigerate.
- When your fresh yogurt is running low, reserve 3 tablespoons to make more yogurt and repeat the process.
As you can see, making yogurt is quite simple; all you need are a few tools. Making homemade yogurt will save you money at the grocery store, keep you healthy and can be used as substitutes for sour cream and oil in certain recipes, which makes for a healthier cooking option.
Whip up some homemade yogurt and let us know how it turned out!