Monday, March 7, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt has such a universal appeal and is found in almost every nationality's cuisine. It is easily substituted for sour cream and is so full of beneficial bacteria essential for our bodies to stay healthy. If you strain it longer than you would for making Greek yogurt and keep squeezing out the extra liquid, you can make a yogurt cheese that is like cream cheese. I have wanted to make yogurt for many years. In fact, I bought a yogurt maker about 10-12 years ago. However, since I am a notorious procrastinator with my fingers in too many pots, it was not until recently that I decided I needed to give it a try. Part of the impetus was the rising cost of yogurt and the fact that they are full of sugar. Since my youngest is recently Type I diabetic, I decided it would be good to try making some with Xylitol, since I really do not care for the other chemically altered/produced artificial sweeteners.

Here is the picture of the type of yogurt maker that I used, which holds about 2 quarts or slightly more.

This is basically a small plastic pail with a handle and lid that snaps on tightly, then sets down into a styrofoam insulated tub with an insulated lid.  I have seen others write about putting the yogurt in glass jars with lids and wrapping them up in towels or newspaper to be stored in a small styrofoam cooler or some other type of cooler that is thick (insulated with foam). Others even use a heating pad underneath the pot of yogurt mixture for the required amount of processing time. Basically anything that will help insulate the yogurt for about 8-12 hours will do the job. One of my newly purchased recipe books entitled The Indian Slow Cooker even has a recipe for making yogurt in the crockpot/slow cooker.

Notice I have a thermometer there. It is important to get the milk hot enough to take care of unwanted bacteria, but not too hot to boil or even scald the milk. You will also want to be sure you have brought the milk back down to the right temperature (110-118 degree F, or 45-48 degrees C) or else the culture you add will be killed quickly. There is only a small window of temperature that is ideal for the yogurt bacteria to reproduce.

I used the instructions that came with my yogurt maker because it seemed so easy. For the starter, I bought a small container of plain yogurt with no other additives, preservatives or thickeners. It is recommended in my instruction booklet that you get new starter about once a month in order to prevent problems from an aging culture. I am not sure if this is affected by whether you make yogurt more or less frequently. I kept some of the original yogurt aside to use later and put it in the freezer until needed.


2 liters of milk (either homogenized, raw, 2 % or skimmed- I used 2%)
1/2 cup non-fat milk powder (optional)
2 tsp plain and unflavored gelatin (optional)
4 Tbsp plain yogurt or 1 packet yogurt culture

Put a 3 liter or 3-quart pot inside a larger pot filled with water (to make a double boiler). Pour the milk into the smaller pot and add the other ingredients, mixing together well. Heat the milk to 180 degrees F/ 82 degrees C, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, have a sink partially filled with very cold water. After the milk has reached 180 degrees, place the pot in the cold water and  continue stirring and checking the temperature. When it reaches 118 degrees F/ 48 degrees C, add in a packet of yogurt culture or 4 Tbsp of last prepared plain yogurt (or store-bought). Mix well.

Pour mixture into a container rinsed with boiling water. Cover and wrap it up with either towels or newspaper, placing it in a cooler or styrofoam container, or placing it on a heating pad covered with towels.

Curdling requires at least 3-5 hours (some say 7-8 hours). I started mine before bed and checked it about 10  hours later and it was perfect. The longer you let it set, the stronger flavor it may have. However, my yogurt was very mild flavored even being left for 10 hours.

When the yogurt has been allowed to set adequate time, you may test it by seeing how firm it is. If it is firm enough, then stir the contents and then put into other smaller containers that have been dipped in boiling water, if desired. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably longer.  When ready to eat, serve plain or with fruit, jam, fruit syrup or other sweeteners.

If you want a Greek-style yogurt, you may take a mesh drainer and line it with doubled cheesecloth. Put the yogurt into the cheesecloth, close it around the yogurt and then squeeze it tightly over the sink to express the extra liquid. You should then place it in a drainer sitting inside a larger bowl (making sure it sits up off the bottom of the bowl enough). Allow it to continue to drain for 2-3 hours. Then again take it and squeeze out any extra liquid. After that is complete, you may then remove the cheesecloth and store it in the refrigerator. The amount of yogurt will be reduced approximately by half from when you started, but it should be very thick.

Yogurt may be prepared from non-fat powdered milk, as well. To make 2 liters of non-fat milk, use 3 cups of milk powder and fill the remainder with water.  Gelatin delays production of liquid when the curd is cut into. Addition of milk powder increases firmness and nutritive value of the yogurt.

There is also a milk-reduction method I just learned about from a fellow food blogger on Spoon and Chopsticks.  Yogurt making is really not hard or time-consuming. It is so much cheaper and healthier to make your own. So be brave and give it a try. Don't procrastinate like I did!!!  Good luck.


  1. What a great informative article!!! I've also just started making my own raw yogurt (heated only to 110F) from raw cow's milk. I had always thought it was some complicated process, but I have the whole thing down to around ten minutes!!! The yogurt isn't as thick as the store bought kind, but it tastes great, and if you drain the whey off for a day, it turns into the creamiest goodness you could every want. The longer you drain it the thicker it gets, till it's almost the consistency of cream cheese. oh yum. We use it instead of sour cream and to make creamy dressings and dips. We love it. I put it in smoothies or just mix it with some fruit preserves or jam for a sweet start to the day or a light dessert. It's so great to know my family is eating such a healthy treat. (sidenote: the liquid that drains off the yogurt is whey protein... a VERY nutritious substance that health "nuts" and body builders use to fuel their metabolic processes. (you've probably seen the whey protein powder in stores) It has very high protein without all the milk solids that trigger allergic reactions in people who are lactose intolerant. It has similar attributes to the colostrum from a mother's breast milk. It is oxygen rich so a tablespoon or two in scrambled eggs makes them light and fluffy. I add it to my stock for soups and to smoothies or anything else I can sneak it into. I have even been pouring it over my puppies' food, and they can't get enough. It's like they revert back to nursing infants. It's so cute.

  2. Thanks, Liz. I meant to write something about saving the liquid from the straining process. Great info!!! Thanks for the ideas how to use it.

  3. You're welcome, and by the way, I have a Salton Yogurt Maker, family size, which holds about two quarts, and keeps the milk at exactly 100 degrees. It has 5 jars with lids that set in a holder. It really makes it easy. All I do it heat 2 quarts raw milk to 110 degrees (remove from heat at 100 degrees to keep it from going over 110, or it will destroy the enzymes). Whisk together 1/4 cup of the warm milk with 2 tablespoons of yogurt from a previous batch, then whisk in another 1/4 cup of warm milk and another 2 tablespoons of yogurt. Combine that mixture with the rest of the milk and stir well. Then put it in the yogurt maker and let it rest for about 9 hours. Other than getting the temperature stable, it seems like the whole process is quite foolproof. I've tried it with more and less yogurt, at the higher temperature (180), and with shorter and longer incubation times. It always turns out good. Like you said, the longer it sets the stronger the flavor, so I keep it to the shorter side (8/9 hours, 10 at the most.) I haven't tried adding the gelatin but I expect it will thicken it up.

  4. Thank you so much. This is very informative. I find dishes with yogurt so good.

  5. Wow. I am so inspired. My mom used to make yogurt in the oven when I was little and it was so good. We use Xylitol around our house too because everything has so much darned sugar in it.

    Now I have to try this. Thanks for explaining the whole process. I only remember a few things from when my mom did it.


  6. You've got a great blog here! Thanks for the add from FB. This is a good post. I like your heating pad/towel/cooler idea ~ you don't have to have a yogurt maker! I've done min in an oven (convection ovens go to lower temps) and in a crock pot.

  7. Wow, this is wonderful! Have you tried to make Indian Cheese--Paneer? I have that on my list of recipes to try. Thanks for dropping by -- I shall definitely be checking out more of your recipes. : )

  8. Hi Sarah ,I am Indian by birth, lives in Canada.I like your detailed post on yogurt and appreciate that you make your own yogurt.
    I would like to share how make it everyday.I boil the milk and leave it on the counter to come to right temperature then pour it in a ceramic or glass or earthenware pot. Add the 1-2 tsp yogurt ( starter)as per the milk amount and then place that container in oven (off)at 10:30 Pm. Cover it with kitchen towel.Yogurt is ready in 5-6 hours but I pick up in the morning at 7.


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