How To Make Yogurt

Instant Read Thermometer
stainless steel pot

yogurt starter

Anyone Can Make Yogurt

If you don't cook much, or consider yourself a poor cook, making your own yogurt is a great place to start. It's pretty hard to mess up yogurt if you follow our easy instructions. Better still your friends will be massively impressed that you can make yogurt. We know, we've been there. Let's just say that some of the DealCloset people aren't exactly known for fine culinary achivement. In fact, some of us aren't even well known for following instructions very well. If we can do it and get it right every time you can too!

Why Make Yogurt

The primary reason we started experimenting with making yogurt was to save money. Our household eats a lot of yogurt, and almost exclusively the Fage greek yogurt. Fage is really expensive even if bought in bulk. A quick calculation showed that making our own yogurt cost 1/10th what it cost to buy Fage! That's a big enough savings to justify experimentation.

Yogurt Doesn't Take Much Time To Make

We have been making yogurt for several months now. The first batch took about an hour since we didn't know what we were doing. Every batch since then has taken about 20 minutes including clean up.

We make this recipe before going to bed. We prefer a very firm yogurt so we incubate for about 12 hours. It's ready in the morning and only takes about 5 minutes to put into glass containers.

Tools You Need to Make Yogurt

Many of you probably remember the 70's and the expensive yogurt machines. My Mother bought one, but never used it. The instructions seemed so complicated and it seemed so fiddly. The DealCloset method to make yogurt is much cheaper, and very simple! Look to the left for examples of the suggested items. You need:
  • Large Stainless steel or Glass Pot (to warm milk)
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Immersion blender
  • Spoon to stir Large Pot
  • Yogurt Starter
  • Pan or container that maintains contents at 90-100 degrees (incubator pot)
  • Milk Powder
  • Tablespoon of sugar (optional, but it helps)
  • Teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
  • Glass Container to Store Yogurt in the refrigerator
  • Sharpie pen to mark the yogurt storage container

At the left there are examples of the products we use to make and store yogurt. The instant read thermometer is the most expensive product, and the one you're most unlikely to have. Other thermometers should work, but the instant read of the Thermapen really helps to get done faster.

Ways to Incubate Yogurt

We've been using a Farberware electric fry pan received as a wedding gift a very long time ago for the incubation phase. It seems these aren't popular anymore, but can be purchased used from eBay inexpensively (around $20). We think this is the easiest most fool proof solution, and it's not very expensive.

Other solutions would be a crockpot, or an oven that can warm to about 100 degrees. Some people use a very good cooler in a hot water bath. Other people use a 100 Watt (not less) light bulb in a clamp on fixture and put that inside a drawer or a cooler. Often ovens with a pilot light will work, but most modern ovens don't have pilot lights! We tried to use a crockpot, but it was fiddly, and the electric fry pan had actual temperatures on it. That was much easier.

Other Tools and Requirements to Make Yogurt

We've been using an immersion blender to mix up the milk powder, but a regular blender would work too.

Yogurt starter is required. You can use very fresh Dannon plain yogurt, but we don't care for the taste. The Eurocuisine tastes good to us and one packet can last 3-6 months since the last batch of yogurt can start the next batch. This chaining can continue up to 3 generations. The yogurt can also be stored in the freezer as starter, but we think it looses some potency after freezing.

Yogurt does best with extra milk solids. We use regular milk powder exclusively in our recipe, but not instant milk powder. For everyone (and I'm sure it's everyone) saying ICK! I hate milk powder, just wait one second... The new stuff they are making is frankly spactacular. When reconstituted and refrigerated overnight certain picky eaters prefer it over fresh milk. I stopped drinking fresh milk in the 70's when the milkman changed from glass to cardboard containers. I always felt the milk tasted funny. The reconstituted milk finally tastes like it used to taste.

If you still are unconvinced, no problem, use regular milk and fortify it with some additional milk powder. We have used Bob's Red Mill milk powder which is readily available in stores. Now that we make a lot of yogurt, we use the milk powder from Walton Feed in the 5 gallon bucket. They can take a while to deliver so order early. Right now it's probably more economical to use Costco milk and augment it with milk powder, but that is probably temporary.

Yogurt Recipe (1/2 Gallon batch)

2 2/3 Dry Milk Powder
7 2/3 cups Water (Above 2 ingredients reconstitute 1/2 gallon of milk)
1 or 2 cups extra Milk Powder (according to your preferance)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 packet yogurt starter, or 1 tablespoon yogurt from previous batch

If you don't want to use all milk powder then use 1/2 gallon milk instead of the first two ingredients. You technically don't need a tablespoon of sugar, but I put it in to make sure the yogurt starter has plenty to eat.

Get out your pot for incubating the yogurt and fill with water. Turn the pot to the correct temperature to preheat it. (This step is important since it assures that the yogurt mixture will never get too hot while incubating).

Place water in large stainless steel pot, add the milk powder.

Stir well and blend with immersion blender.

Heat milk to 180 degrees stirring constantly to avoid scortching the milk. This takes us about 10 minutes.

Check that the pre-heating incubator pot is at the right temperature and adjust as needed.

Fill sink with cold water about as deep, but not deeper, than your large pot with the milk.

When the milk you are heating reaches 180 degrees transfer the pot (covered if you like) to the cold water in the sink.

Wait 10 minutes or so for the hot milk to reach 90-113 degrees.

Perform final check that the water in the incubator pot is 90-113 degrees.

When the milk between 90-113 degrees remove it from the sink and empty the water. Empty the water from the incubator pot. Put the cooled milk in the incubator pot and cover. The pot should maintain the milk between 90 - 113 degrees. Much over 115 degrees the yogurt culture will die. Temperatures lower than 90 degrees may not get fast enough growth of the yogurt and instead sour the milk.

Stir in the yogurt starter, sugar, and vanilla.

You can check the temperature a few times afterwards, but otherwise don't move the milk around!

The yogurt is done between 4-6 hours later, but we wait about 12 hours for thicker yogurt. It's supposed to be tarter with long incubation times, but it doesn't seem that way to us.

Transfer the completed yogurt to your glass containers and refrigerate. Be sure to save some in a seperate container dated and labled for the next batch. We usually save around 1 cup for that and use 1 tablespoon per batch as a starter.

Before serving the yogurt the first time whisk it vigorously to break up the curds.

How to Make Greek Yogurt

If you want even thicker yogurt (greek style yogurt) get cheese cloth or flour sack cloth and wrap the yogurt in that. Tie up the cloth to make a satchel and stick a long spoon through the knot. Suspend the satchel on the spoon over a pot and place in a refridgerator till you get the desired thickness. I'm guessing you'll want something like 6 or 12 hours of draining.

The liquid you see with draining or on top of the yogurt is normal. It's called whey. Don't throw whey out, it's good for you and has a lot of protein. You can use whey when cooking muffins, pancakes, or anything that calls for milk, juice or water. It's especially good for cooking beans since combined it makes a complete protein.

We used to separate out the whey before using the very long incubation times listed here. Now we just put everything together in two containers and after cooling we mix it up. The picky one likes it.

Why heat to 180 degrees?

Milk has several proteins, but one in particular will cause your yogurt to come out slimy or ropey: Lactoglobulin. To get perfect yogurt we need to denature that protein by heating it. Denaturing means the protein looses its usual three dimensional structure and instead is randomly structured. So don't miss that 180 degree heat!

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