Here are the very reasonable reasons you might want to make your own yogurt:
- Live yogurt is a probiotic – which means it is full of good bacteria that can help you digest your food better. Good digestion leads to vibrant health and beautiful, healthy skin!
- It’s delicious. I love a good bowl of yogurt, fruit, chia seeds, and a handful of nuts. Or I like to use it as a condiment for my meals. Or as a smooth milky base for green smoothies. Possibilities are endless, darling, endless.
- You can ensure that your yogurt doesn’t contain any sweeteners, preservatives, thickeners, or flavours. And you can choose the type and quality of milk you use to make it. And it will probably come out cheaper to make than that buying that tub of organic, artisan sheep’s yogurt!
- If you are lactose intolerant, you can make yogurt that is fermented long enough to be completely lactose free. You can’t get this at the store!
I’ve been making my own yogurt for quite some time now, but you’ve finally caught me on a day when I was up for documenting the process! Now I can share with you the joys of homemade yogurt.
“Hooray” I can hear you say!
Equipment and Ingredients
Things you’ll need to make yogurt:
- Milk of some kind. Raw, or grassfed, or organic, or some combination of those is best and healthiest to use. Essentially you can use any milk of any animal, but I would definitely avoid ultra high pasteurized milk.
- A medium to large pot to heat the milk in.
- A simple food thermometer to check the temperature (temperature is very important in yogurt making). It’s best if it has a clip to clip onto the edge of your pot. Like this one.
- An existing yogurt culture – either a couple tablespoons of plain, active, commercial yogurt, OR freeze dried yogurt starters (which you can get at health food stores, or online).
- A way to keep the yogurt at a constant 100 to 110 degrees fahrenheit for 4 to 8 hours or longer. More on different methods of doing this later on.
STEP 1 – Heating
Heat your chosen milk to 180 degrees on the stove top. The reasons you want to do this is to kill any competing bacteria that exists in the milk. If you skip this step, you may have very inconsistent results in the finished product.
If you are using raw milk, you can skip this step, but as I said – the yogurt might work, or it might not work. And it is usually a lot more runny than normal even if it does. Yes, it sucks killing the enzymes and bacteria in the raw milk, but the yogurt culture will replace that, and apparently slowly pasteurizing it at home doesn’t ruin the milk proteins like it does in commercial pasteurization where they heat it to high temps super fast.
Anyway… steps to step 1:
- Place your milk in a medium to large pot. I usually do two litres of milk at a time.
- Put your burner temp on “3” (on an electric stove), and leave it there.
- Stir often to avoid burning and sticking
- Check temperature often with the food thermometer. When it reaches just over 180 degrees, take it off the stove. 180 is when it’s just on the verge of wanting to boil. I find that in a medium size saucepan, with 2 litres of milk, on “3” heat, it takes approximately 40 to 50 minutes.
STEP 2 – Cooling
The second step is letting the yogurt cool to approximately 110 degrees.
VERY IMPORTANT: when you go to put the yogurt starter into the milk in the next step, it’s extremely important that the temperature of the milk is not more than 115 degrees or less than 95 degrees. If it’s higher than 115, it will kill the bacteria and the yogurt won’t work. If it’s less than 95, it’s too cool for the bacteria to ferment properly, and again, you won’t have very good results. This is why a food thermometer is pretty handy dandy for this whole yogurt making thing.
Anyway, I just leave my milk on the counter to cool. I have found that with my usual 2 litres of milk in my medium saucepan, this takes about one hour and 15 minutes. A cold water bath or the fridge will cool it faster. Just make sure you are checking the temp often so you don’t miss that critical temperature window of 95 to 115 degrees.
Oh yeah, also, try to stir it once in a while as it cools.
STEP 3 – Culturing
Step 3 is adding the starter culture (either the 2 – 3 tablespoons of active, plain, commercial yogurt, or freeze dried yogurt starter culture) to the milk and distributing it evenly. Sometimes just stirring doesn’t quite accomplish that well enough.
In order to get an even distribution, I like to put the milk into the glass mason jar that I’m going to ferment it in, add the starter, close the lid tight on it, and then shake it all up! You could also do it in a blender, or any other way you can think of.
STEP 4 – Jarring
Place the cultured-up milk into whatever you are going to ferment it in. I usually use large mason jars with the lid on, but this sort of depends on what you are using for step 4, so we’ll just go to that step:
STEP 5 – Incubating
Now that you’ve added the starter to the milk – you then need to keep it at a constant 105 or so degrees for the next 4 to 8 hours, or longer if you want lactose free yogurt (which takes almost exactly 24 hours). Again, if you don’t get this part right, you may not end up with good yogurt.
I actually have a fancy excalibur dehydrator, which is perfect for yogurt making. I put the milk into a large mason jar with the lid on tight and place it in. It is big enough to fit tons of big jars, and keeps it at a constant temperature of 105 for as long as you want. It really is set it and forget it. So that’s what I use.
Dehydrators have lots and lots of different uses and are worthy investments if you are dedicated to a real food lifestyle – but good ones are expensive, and if you just want to make yogurt, there are plenty of thriftier ways to keep your yogurt warm.
Some ideas that have worked for others:
- Use a yogurt maker
- Placing it into jars and then into an unheated oven, using the light in the oven to keep it warm. You can also preheat the oven, turn it off, and then keep the oven light on to maintain the temp.
- Use a rice cooker’s warm setting (ie.plugged in, but not on cook). Place the milk right in the rice maker bowl.
- Use a crockpot’s warm setting, or turned off (the crockpot thing is what I would do if I didn’t have the dehydrator)
- Wrap the yogurt in blankets and place on top of the fridge
- Use a stove burner on low to keep a water bath warm (with the yogurt jars placed in the middle of the bath)
- Use a warming tray
- Place the milk directly into a large thermos
- Use an electric blanket to wrap your containers
I’d highly recommend googling your preferred method so you can get the low down on doing it just right!
And also, if you are wanting to make lactose free 24 hour yogurt, you will need to make sure you are choosing a method that can keep it warm for that long. Most of these will only hold for 4 to 8 (even most yogurt makers). The dehydrator is great for that, but I believe you can do it in a crockpot too if it has a warm setting. Google “GAPS yogurt” for more instructions on lactose free yogurt.
STEP 6 – Refrigerating
Decide when it’s done – the longer you ferment it, the thicker it will be, and the more tart and sour it will be. I usually just take it out of the dehydrator somewhere in the span of 24 hours – whenever it’s convenient for me. 8 hours is probably an average time to leave it, but so far, my yogurt has always turned out fine no matter how long it’s stayed in the incubator.
When it’s done, place it in the fridge to set for a couple of hours before stirring it or eating it. It will result in a thicker yogurt.
STEP 7 – Enjoying
Enjoy your new, homemade yogurt, you crafty little devil 😀
The Video Demo of How I Make Yogurt:
- Once you’ve put your yogurt into your incubator, don’t disturb it. As curious as you are about how it’s doing – just leave it!
- It keeps in the fridge for about two weeks. You can eat it after that, but it won’t be as nutritious. The bacteria aren’t as robust as some other fermented foods and will die off after a couple of weeks.
- Because of this, you may be able to use your yogurt as a starter only if you continue to make new batches right away… but if you wait two weeks between batches, the yogurt won’t be strong enough to make new yogurt.
- If you want more info about eating dairy products when you have acne, visit this article I wrote entitled “The Love Vitamin’s Guide to Eating Dairy When You’ve Got Acne“
- If you want to learn about yogurt’s sister food, milk kefir (which is a five times more powerful probiotic than yogurt), click here for my video on that. It’s also a lot less finicky to make, requires no special equipment or temperature taking, and takes about 3 minutes out of your day to maintain.
Have you ever made your own yogurt? Are you interested in trying it?