This is one item I make all the time. My husband, son and I eat yogurt just about everyday, I also use it in soaking grains to help aid in digestion. A quart container of organic yogurt is roughly $4, where as a 1/2 gallon of organic milk is $3-4. I can make twice as much yogurt at home for the same price. Who doesn't want to save a penny these days, plus yogurt is fairly easy to make, although it can take a bit of practice. Hopefully with what I lay out below, you'll have an easy time of it and fall in love with this homemade food.
Now most of us aren't fans of plain yogurt, we culturally aren't used to eating sour items like this, however a little maple syrup or Stevia sweetens this awesome food fabulously. I love using Stevia, because a very tiny bit goes an extremely long way. A pinch of Stevia will sweeten a small bowl of yogurt. Also, consider using fresh or pureed fruit or pure vanilla extract. One of the things I like to do for my son, who doesn't like berries in their whole form, is buy them frozen or use the ones I froze from the summer time and heat them up to a simmer in a small pot. Using an immersion blender, I puree the fruit. If it's not thick enough, I add some GMO free corn starch or arrowroot and then allow to cool. Place the fruit mixture in a glass container in the fridge and add a couple tablespoons of it to your yogurt along with a little maple syrup and you've got a delicious yogurt that very closely mimics the store-bought stuff. Also consider throwing a couple of different fruits into the blender with your yogurt and you have a fabulous fruit smoothy!
Items You'll Need To Make Your Homemade Yogurt
- Approx. 1/2 gallon of organic whole milk - not ultra-pasteurized or homogenized (and you don't have to use cow's milk, goat's milk works great too)
- Approx. 1 pint of previous-made or store-bought plain yogurt (if store bought, make sure it has live cultures – it should tell you this on the packaging)
- 5 glass mason jars with lids (pint size works great and the rings aren't necessary)
- 5 rubber bands
- 1 large pot, preferable one that has a thick bottom and transfers heat well. (I use a large Le Creuset and it works fabulously)
- 1 smaller pot to warm milk in – make sure it can hold at least 2 quarts of milk
- Thermometer that can read temps as low as 100 degrees min.
- Small stirring spoon
- Tablespoon measuring spoon
A couple of key points to help your yogurt turn out better. Make sure your mason jars are very clean the first time you use them (you might even consider boiling them for 5 min. before their first use), it's very important there is no soap or food residue in them. Once you have your 5 jars, designate them as yogurt only jars. This is where the rubber bands come in. I use 5 purple rubber bands to mark my yogurt jars, to make sure I always remember which ones they are and so other people know to not use them for anything else. Once you use your yogurt jars you'll never want to wash them out with soap or ever stick them in the dishwasher. Use your hand or a rag and warm/hot water to rinse them out and allow to air dry. This is a hint a friend told me about and once I started doing it I couldn't believe how much better my yogurt got – it was so much thicker and creamier. One thing to note, homemade yogurt is normally not quite as thick as the store bought stuff. This is because the store bought stuff has thickeners in it. You can add gelatin or powdered milk to your yogurt to thicken it more, but I can't say I've every tried this because I love it just how it is.
To Get Started
This process is really very easy. First measure out 5 pints of milk and pour into smaller pot. Heat milk on medium until it reaches 180 degrees for pasteurized milk or 110 degrees for raw milk. If using pasteurized milk, allow it to cool to 110 degrees before proceeding. You can help this process along by placing the pot of milk in a large bowl of cold water.
Next, add 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt to each of your mason jars and then pour warmed milk on top until jar is full. Stir yogurt in each jar (make sure to stir very well) and then place lid on top. Place jars into a pot of warm water (100 to 110 degrees works well), keep water about 1/4" to 1/2" away from top of jars, so none of it accidentally seeps in.
Keep water in pot at approximately 100 to 110 degrees for about 8-10 hours. It's a good idea to keep a thermometer in the water at all times to make sure you water doesn't get too hot. I have a "keep warm" setting on my stove top and this works great for keeping the water at the perfect temp. You can also use the smallest burner, probably set at the lowest setting too. You'll have to experiment with this part. Every stove is different. Some people even place the jars of yogurt in the oven with the light on and let them sit overnight. I haven't had the best success with doing this, which is why I outlined the stove top method.
Finally, place your jars of warm yogurt in the fridge until yogurt is chilled. Voila! You're finished and you have a wonderful, healthy homemade product to enjoy daily. Always remember to leave some yogurt left over from each batch so you have something to start your new batch of yogurt with. It's easy to want to just eat it all up!