We go though buckets of yogurt at our house a week, everyone loves it. But the cost for it keeps going up and I recently acquired a lot of milk so I decided to try it. To be completely honest, its REALLY simple. But you are thinking, is it really that big of a savings? Normally when we shop we buy 4 quarts of yogurt every two weeks (like I said we go though buckets!) At $1.96 a quart, that's $15.86 a month just on yogurt. I can buy a gallon of milk for $2.39 right now and it makes 4 quarts, or $.60 a quart (or $4.80 a month for 8 quarts). That's about the price most pay for a single 6oz serving cup of yogurt. So there is a big savings here. Also I love knowing exactly what is going into my family's food, homemade tastes better and we reduce the amount of garbage we throw out and recycle each week by making our own.
Well here it is, Ma Bacon's adventure into homemade yogurt.
First you need some equipment.
*glass quart size jars with lids and rims- I found quart canning jars great for this.
*Milk- any kind from skim to whole. My research has told me not to use milk with UHT (ultra high temperature pasteurization) As for the amount, that is up to you, this is another thing I like about homemade yogurt, you can make as little or as much as you like. The same amount of milk you use, is how much yogurt you will make.
*Cooler big that will fit your quart jars
*One 6-8oz good yogurt for starter - I'll explain more later.
Now that you've found everything, it's time to get started.
First we want to sterilize our jars and lids. You can do this by placing them in a large stock pot and placing about an inch of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and let the pot boil for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the burner. If you don't need to use this pot to heat your yogurt, you can just leave the jars in there until you need them. If you don't have a large pot, you can run the jars, lids and rings though a hot cycle on your dishwasher.
Now that your jars are clean, lets get started on making that yogurt. Take your milk and pour it into a large pot. The first time I used a gallon of skim milk. I have to say I was a bit nervous to use the fat free milk and worrying about how it would set up. Most sites I found say to use whole milk, however there are those who commented that said their skim milk worked fine. So I decided to give it a shot since it's what I had at home.
Start to warm your milk, I started to heat mine around medium heat or a '6' on my stove. I stirred it often while it warmed with a whisk. You want to heat it slowly to 190*. This is scalding the milk, you don't want to boil it though so make sure you keep an eye on it. This was not an easy job to do a half hour before lunch time at our house, next time I'll make it when the kids are occupied better! Once you reach 190* turn down the heat on the stove. You want to maintain cooking the 190* milk for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, it's time to cool the milk back down.
Once we have the milk cooled to 120*, it's time to add the starter yogurt. Now lets talk about that stater yogurt. There is a lot of talk about it when I did my research. Most of it points to the same direction, don't skim the pennies here. All the websites I went to said that you should spend the extra money and get a good quality name brand yogurt for your starter. There either hasn't been much luck with store brands or people just haven't tried it in fear their yogurt won't turn out. I decided I'd go with the flow on this one and bought some better yogurt. You want a higher fat if possible plain or vanilla yogurt with LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES. This is what is going to turn your milk into yogurt.
I used 6 ounces of yogurt to my one gallon of milk. Dump it in and mix it around thoroughly. This is important, you want all the starter yogurt to spread well though the milk. The active cultures needs to mix with the milk to make the yogurt. Once you have made a successful batch of homemade yogurt, you can use that as your starter. Take 6oz out right away, place it in a container and toss it in the freezer. This way you will make sure you have enough to start a new batch. You can do this for a few batches of yogurt. I've read over time that it will lose some of it's potency, and you will have to buy a new starter, but this should make 4-6 more batches before having to buy another little 6oz container.
Now if you want vanilla yogurt, you want to add your ingredients to this step. I made vanilla yogurt since I started with a vanilla starter and the kids really like vanilla. Once my starter was mixed in I add 3/4 cup sugar and 1 TBSP vanilla extract to the milk. You can adjust it to your taste here. Next time I make it I'll stick to the 3/4 cup sugar, but I think I'll increase the vanilla to 1.5-2 TBSP.
Once everything is mixed to how you want it, It's time to put it in the jars. I strain mine just to make sure there are no chunks in it. I placed a wire strainer over the top of my jars and poured. Oh the pouring, here's another tip I used, I poured my milk from the pot into a large measuring cup. This makes it SO much easier to pour into the jars then and less spilling all over the place. For some reason I had a lot of extra liquid left over, I'm not sure how 4 quarts of milk make over 4 quarts of yogurt. I didn't add in that much extra, but I had enough that I could probably fill up a pint jar or so.
Once you've filled up your jars, you might want to skim off the bubbles. This isn't necessary, but helps with the yogurt's texture. I just took a spoon and scooped them off. See, no more bubbles!
Place the lids and rings on them and they are ready to incubate. This is where your cooler comes into play. I took my cooler and pre-warmed it first, especially since it was sitting out in our cold garage. I place it in the bath tub and filled it with hot water while I made the yogurt. Before I placed my jars in it I dumped the water out so I started with a warm cooler. Place the jars in there and now add more water. This water should be about 120*. Our water from our tap comes out a lot hotter than 120* I found out. Turning it down will be something for the honey-do list. I added one gallon of 120* water to the cooler, next time I'll add 2 gallons to make sure the jars are covered better. You want water to be about to the bottom of the jar lids. Close the cooler and let it sit for 4 hours. (wall froggies not necessary!) I left my cooler right in the bath tub, it was one place I didn't think the kids would bother it. Also it made dumping the water out later a lot easier. Where you leave the cooler doesn't matter so much as long as it's a draft free place. So don't place it next to an open window or cold door.
After the four hours is up, it's time to move your yogurt. The exact time it needs to incubate in the cooler is a guess. I've read anywhere from 3- 10 hours are needed. Most say about 4 hours. I have read too the longer it sits the thicker it will get, but also the more tangy tasting it will be. This isn't an exact science, and I think next time I'll play around with the time I leave it in there.
Now this is where I made some mistakes (yup, I'm not perfect!) I decided to take one of my jars and test it out. I pulled it out of the water and tipped it a bit to see how thick it was. It wasn't quite as runny as milk, but not as think as store bought yogurt, somewhere in between. I even opened one jar up and mixed it around to see what happened during it's 4 hours in hiding. One note on the jars I didn't touch, the lids sealed down like what happens during a canning process. Just because they are sealed does not make them self stable. But this will make them last longer in the fridge so it's best to not open all of them up! Opened jars of yogurt will last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge, unopened can last up to 4 weeks!
They look so pretty don't they?!
The yogurt looked kinda 'sludgy'. What a fun word huh?! Everything I read said it will firm up more in the fridge so that's what I did. I put the top back on the first jar and placed all of them in the fridge. I put mine to the back where i know it's the coldest. The other jars I left untouched, I didn't even shake them like a present waiting for Christmas morning.
The next day I re-opened my tester jar. The yogurt was thicker but not store bought thick. I was expecting this since all the research said homemade yogurt would be a bit thinner since there are not as many additives. Also this is expected to be thinner with low fat milk vs. whole milk. None the less, it still tasted delicious. There was also a layer of liquid on the top. Don't worry this is normal, it's whey from the yogurt separating. You can either pour it off or mix it back in. We just mix it in, just like when it happens to our store bought yogurt. Another thing you can do if your yogurt is too runny is strain it. You can line a drainer with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place your yogurt in it. Let the whey drain off. The longer you let it drain, the thicker the yogurt. This will become the consistency of greek yogurt.
We ate up that jar within 2 days it was that good. Now if you're not much for a plain or vanilla yogurt eater, no problem. The boys liked theirs with some strawberry jam mixed in, I like mine with some honey or maple syrup, or tossing in a handful or raisins and dried cranberries. I found mashing a banana and mixing it to be wonderful too! The possibilities are endless.
Since we finished the first jar so fast, we cracked open a second. And to my delightful surprise, it was creamy and thick! Just like store bought yogurt. So the lesson learned, don't play around with the yogurt! Take them right from the cooler of water and place them in the fridge untouched and unopened. This will help create a thicker yogurt. Mine now looks like the low fat yogurt you buy at the store.
So there you have it, homemade yogurt. Saves money, tastes yummy, and it's so good for you. I'm going to keep making it and hoping to perfect the recipe. I'll keep sharing my findings so you can make it at home too!
I have updated my process after my first attempt. You can check out what I did different here! Enjoy!
I have found that making yogurt is very forgiving over the past few months of making this recipe. I've been making 'mommy yogurt' as Little Miss Bacon calls it, at least twice a month now. I have had many readers ask questions and I wanted to put a few things on here to help out others that might have the same questions.
*Do I need to recheck the water bath temp after I place the jars in it?
-Nope! I have never re-checked the water bath temp to make sure it stays at 120*. I put the jars in the hot water and close the cooler and don't peek at all. When I take the jars out I know the water has cooled some. I have never re-checked the temp on it but I can tell just by touching the water it's not as hot as when I put the jars in. I've never had a problem with the yogurt from the water cooling.
*I left my yogurt sit longer than 4 hours, will it still be ok?
-YES! I have found many times I forget to pull the yogurt out of the water bath and it always turns out fine. Actually though these little mistakes I have found that letting the yogurt sit for 7-8 hours makes the best thick yogurt! So now I always let it sit longer. Sometimes I let it go overnight if I'm making it late at night. Always good yogurt!
*Whole milk makes the thickest yogurt.
*Can I use a sugar substitute?
-Yes! I have had a reader report back to me that she has successfully made the yogurt using stevia in place of sugar for vanilla yogurt. Also Since my kids are so sweet already, I have scaled my sugar back to 1/2 cup per gallon of milk used. No one has noticed a difference in the vanilla yogurt!
*I live in high altitudes, can I still make yogurt?
-I'm happy to report a few readers have been brave to try this for me and report back. They have had success with warming the milk to 170-180* and had the yogurt turn out. They did say that it took the yogurt a long time to reach that point (about an hour) but was worth it for cheap, delicious, homemade yogurt!
THANK YOU to all my readers who have used my recipe and passed it on! This is the most looked at recipe on my blog. I'm happy I have helped so many venture into homemade yogurt. And thanks to all those readers who have wrote to me letting me know the variations they have tried to make this yogurt work for them! I love hearing your stories.