Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yogurt - Tradition with Cooking

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!


  1. how long does this yogurt keep?

    p.s. I am loving your blog!!!

  2. Thanks Mindy! Yogurt can usually keep really well for at least a month in the fridge. Some keep it up to a couple of months. I think the longest I've kept it is for 2 months, only because I used up all I had by that point. Sometimes I'll make tons of it, so I have lots on hand.

  3. I am trying to use a crock pot and the lowest temp. I can get is 120 degrees. Will this work?

    Can you use flavored yogurt?

  4. I am trying to use a crock pot and the lowest temp. I can get is 120 degrees. Will this work?

    Can you use flavored yogurt?

  5. I am trying to use a crock pot and the lowest temp. I can get is 120 degrees. Will this work?

    Can you use flavored yogurt?

  6. You most likely won't like the results as much with 120 degrees. I've accidentally overheated my yogurt and had it around 120 degrees and while you do get yogurt still, the consistency isn't as smooth or thick. It also can be more sour. The yogurt will separate more from the whey, so you'll likely want to pour off some of the whey before eating it. Of course that's just a preference thing.

    One thing to be careful about when using a crock pot is if you cook acidic foods like tomatoes in it, this can change the texture of your yogurt. Now if you are placing jars in the crock pot and you are using the crock pot to heat the water around the jars, then that should be fine. Actually if you do it this way, you could try adding cold water periodically through the day to lower the water temperature so it stays closer to 110-112 degrees.

    I will say I've done my yogurt anywhere from 95 degrees to 120 degrees and the best results have always been around 110 - 112 degrees, but the yogurt is okay to eat still even if the temperature is a bit low or high.

    You can use flavored yogurt, I've done that once before, but it will then add that flavor to your new batches. It's better to try and use unflavored yogurt. Which ever type of yogurt you use, just make sure it contains active yogurt cultures

    Good luck with making it and let me know if you have any more question!

  7. Why should the milk not be homogenized?

  8. Can you use skim milk and skim yogurt starter (with live cultures)?

  9. Hi, you can use skim milk and yogurt. The flavor might not be quite as good, of course that is a preference thing. I'm assuming you're using a pasteurized milk, if so, make sure it's not ultra-pasteurized. I've heard that this milk does not make yogurt as well, although I've never tried myself.

  10. Hi, I've just discovered your blog and am enjoying browsing. I make yogurt all the time- we go through 1 gal. about every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. I use raw milk but the recipes that I use say to heat it to 190 degrees. Do you seriously heat yours only to 110? If so, I'm going to HAVE to try that! I do use the oven method to keep it warm but I wouldn't think that should make a difference, would it?

  11. Hi Lyida, if you heat your raw milk to 190 degrees you are actually pasteurizing it first. There is no need to do this, and actually plenty of reasons to not, if your milk is coming from a reliable source whom you can trust. I've been making yogurt for several years now and if using raw milk I never heat it above 110 degrees. The only reason it's heated at all is to help the yogurt culture to inoculate. At this temperature your yogurt is then a raw milk yogurt. Now, if you use store bought, pasteurized milk, it's recommended to heat the milk to 165 degrees, I believe, and then let it cool down to 110 degrees before use. I actually need to look into why they recommend this second heating, since pasteurized milk was heated once. The only thing I can puzzle out is that the pasteurized milk is more susceptible to microorganism that could be unhealthy for our body, but honestly not sure.

    I used to use the oven method too, but had more consistent results doing it the way I mention above. The same rules apply, so you still don't need to heat the milk above 110 degrees.

    Hope that helps!

  12. Thank you so much! I'm so excited about trying this- I'd give you a hug if I could! I was so excited that I was going on and on to my husband about this last night. Thankfully, he was sweet enough to be excited with me.

    I always wondered why I had to heat it to 190 and hated that it pretty much "killed" all the good stuff. :) Not only will the yogurt be healthier for us, it will save me time and money not heating the milk that high!

  13. Lydia you bring a big smile to my face! I'm glad you found the information helpful! Good luck with the yogurt making!


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