Meatless Monday: Homemade Yogurt

Did you know that yogurt has about 11 grams of protein per 1 cup serving? 

Yes, yogurt has protein!  All milk products contain protein but yogurt has one of the highest grams per 8 ounce measure of the milk products.  That's why many nutritionists include it in breakfast menus.

I have been asked several questions about the yogurt I made at the beginning of this month when I was working on the challenge to feed 2 on $20 for one week.  This was the most successful part of that challenge and certainly has been the nicest.  It's hard to feel deprived if you've a quantity of rich, lovely, creamy yogurt on hand to eat as you choose.  Currently I'm looking forward to an after dinner treat of yogurt with fresh raspberries atop.  Oh YUM!

First I want to reply to Becky who said that her yogurt was always too tart for her family.  The only thing I can suggest is to incubate it for a shorter period of time.  This recipe calls for three hours, I think.  The longer it sits the more tart it becomes.  Letting it sit longer can also make it thicker but you can see from the photo how nice and thick this came out.  That jar sat on it's side for four or five shots since I never get a clear shot at anything that isn't blurry on my first try!

I have made this in the crockpot but it takes about an hour from start to incubate if you do it on the stove top and I much prefer that method.  It takes forever to get milk to temperature in the crockpot, especially if you must (and you MUST) check the temperature periodically.  You'll  need to use a medium low heat and stir frequently on the stovetop.  As it nears the proper temperature you'll want to stir it constantly or it will stick to the pan and start to scorch.

It is best to use a plain yogurt that has none of the added ingredients like gelatin or cornstarch which are added to thicken.  Dannon is the one most experienced yogurt makers recommend.  It is only necessary for the first batch.  You can use some of your homemade for the second batch you make but you MUST use it from a freshly opened jar, not one that's been open a week.  So plan to start your next batch of yogurt before you open the last jar!   This homemade yogurt can be used repeatedly but after a length of time you will need to purchase a starter yogurt to use once again.  I don't know why this is so.  I've only been told it is and so I am passing that along to you all.

If you prefer a Greek type yogurt, do NOT use a Greek yogurt as starter.  You can thicken the prepared yogurt by layering a colander or strainer with cheesecloth and pouring in your homemade yogurt.  Be sure to catch the whey in a bowl.  It's great for use in baking and is full of good nutrients.  It will take a day or so for the yogurt to drain thoroughly. You'll want to cover the strainer.  Personally I like the thickness of my yogurt and don't feel I want it any thicker.  It's soft but mounds slightly like whipped cream does.

If you do happen to end up with a yogurt that is too liquid, you can use it in baking.  It's a great substitute for anything that calls for a cultured milk product.  You can even freeze it for later use in baking, so there need not be any waste of this if it fails. 
The first few times I made yogurt I thought it very stressful. All those exact temperature warnings!  Well it isn't hard.  It's like any other cooking.  The more you do it, the more comfortable you'll become with the process.  Make sure you have a good thermometer.  Mine has 'lost' it's numbers and I have to replace it.  I don't know why some manufacturers will use decals for something that is going to be used in hot liquids and oils.

Yogurt will keep for one month if unopened.  Once open it's best to use it within 7 days.

Homemade Yogurt

1/2 gallon whole milk (it must be whole!)
3 ounces of plain yogurt

Do not open yogurt until you need it, much later in this recipe.  Start by sterilizing your jars.  I had two 3 cup jars and 1 pint jar of finished product.  If you're making this for a family you can double the ingredients and you will need four 1 quart jars and possibly a pint jar as well.  I kept the sterilizing water on very low heat on back of the stove after I'd removed the jars from the boiling water.  Turn them upside down on a towel to drain and then turn them upright when they are cool enough to handle.  If you are reusing jar lids, then cover them with boiling water and remove to drain.  You aren't going to seal the jars but you'll want really clean lids just the same.  You do NOT need to use canning jar lids and rings.  You can use any type of lid that fits your jar, but it must be clean, sterilized, and it must fit the jar very well.

Heat milk in a tall saucepan or Dutch oven, over medium low to low heat until it registers 185-190F on a candy thermometer.  It seems to take forever but after you hit 180F it rises pretty quickly.  Stir frequently as it heats and when it hits about 180 you'll want to stand at the stove and stir it pretty much constantly.  I allowed mine to hit 190F before I stopped.  This is the maximum heat the milk can reach or the yogurt will likely fail. 

The minute your thermometer hits the right temperature, you should immediately remove it from the stove and set it in a pan of cool water to start to lower the temperature.  I used a dishpan.  You don't want it to be too full of water. You want just enough to come up over the bottom of the pan and onlya little way up the sides. Watch the candy thermometer as the temperature starts moving down.  I stirred the milk which helped it to cool even more quickly.   When the milk is between 120-118F open the yogurt, remove from pan from the cool water and whisk yogurt into the milk.  Take a moment to cover the remaining yogurt and pop into the freezer, unless you choose to use it all.  It's not necessary to use the full 6 ounces.  You should be able to use it again.  I've frozen starter yogurt and thawed to use  with success many times.

Whisk the milk and yogurt until you are sure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  I usually work up a few bubbles, as I whisk it briskly.  I have never sweetened yogurt nor flavored it at this stage.   Pour into your sterilized jars. Cap and  place in an insulated cooler.  I used our big old cooler we use for shopping, but used to have one of those hard 6 pack Igloo coolers and that worked just as well and required way less water.

Now check your water on the back of the stove.  You want it to be about 120F maximum.  If it's too hot add cold water but watch that thermometer.  This is the best temperature for incubation.  You really don't want it too cool.  You'll need enough water to come up to the shoulders of the jars, so keep this in mind.  Pour into the cooler, shut the lid and walk away.  Don't even think about opening it up for at least three hours.  If your floors and home are particularly cold then go ahead and cover the cooler with a couple of blankets just to insure the heat stays in there.  I just put my cooler on the rug and left it alone.  We typically keep the house between 68F and 75F.

In three hours, you can check the yogurt. Mine looked exactly as you see it.  That photo was fresh from the incubation period.

I have had yogurt fail. I tell you truthfully that the few times it did, I did not sterilize my jars.  Clean isn't good enough though some sites will tell you it's fine.  You'll want them to be freshly sterilized.  If you're sterilizing your jars and the yogurt fails then it's likely the temperature for incubation was too low.  You can add a little warm water (make sure the water in the incubator does not go over 120F!) let it sit longer, but you're likely going to get a tangy yogurt.  

As I said, this all sounds far more difficult than it is.  The end result truly is far better than anything you've tasted from stores.  I eat mine plain over dry cereal with fruit and nuts, or I melt about a teaspoon of jelly (raspberry is especially nice) and let cool slightly then stir into a half cup measure of yogurt. 


Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Sounds like you have mastered making yogurt...[I wish I liked yogurt.. but just don't have a taste for it.. I have tried many different brands from the store..
Hope you have a good day.

Delroise said...

Want to know a draw back to homemade yogurt?? According to my sister and niece, now that they make their own, neither can stand the taste of store bought yogurt. Would you agree with their opinion??

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

Thank you for posting your yogurt recipe! It seems do-able to me. I thought making yogurt would be a more daunting project. I can't stand the tartness of store bought yogurt, and I wonder how many of those "active cultures" are inactivated by various fruit flavoring and sugar substitutes, but I believe real yogurt is a healthy food. I have another problem with store bought yogurt, and this is weird, but it seems to make me hungrier after I eat it than I had am before I eat it. I think that the tartness of the store bought bothers my stomach, and it just feels like I'm hungry. The last thing I need is a food that makes me hungrier when I eat it.

I will have to find some jars to use for it, a cooking thermometer, and purchase plain store bought yogurt, but am looking forward to making it. When I finally get it made, I'll let you know how it turned out.

Anonymous said...

Very informative, Terri. Thanks!

Not sure when I'll get the time to try this--this week's crazy busy, but I'll remember for a week that is less hectic.

Debby in KS said...

Hmmm. I wonder which I'll brave up to first?! Yogurt or soap?!
Thanks for the great instructions.

Anonymous said...

Dear Terri,

I'm having to sign in anonymously as my frugalluxuries email was hacked and has been unaccessible to me for quite some time now. We are still working to untangle that mess. I've just spent the past hour or so catching up on your wonderful blog and enjoying it so very much. I went all the way back to your summer reading and wanted to thank you so much for including me. I am honored. Your budget menu experiment has me very intrigued and I especially loved your post on the lentils. I've never prepared them but definitely will now that I've read about your experience...lentil tacos are a great idea. I have already decided to freeze any excess thanks to your warning of how much they multiply in volume when cooked!

Your yogurt looks amazing! It's good to know that it wasn't difficult to make. I've always wanted to try it, but must confess that the process does intimidate me a bit. No one really eats much yogurt in our house but I was thinking it might make a nice creamy base for salad dressings in lieu of mayonnaise...and probably much better for us! Haha.

I must thank you so much for all of your wonderful, educational and insightful posts. They are soothing, cozy, useful and so down to earth and comforting to me. Life has kept me busy with family these past few years, but I am making a little vow to myself to visit here much more often.

Thank you for all you do.


P.S. I loved reading the story about John's word "expectatious" !

Terri Cheney said...

Thank you dear Tracey! You warm my heart with your lovely compliments! Thank you for taking time to catch up here!

Terri Cheney said...

Susie, If the yogurts you're eating have aspartame or Splenda which goes by another gosh awful long silly name on labels, then you will indeed feel hungrier following the eating of them! That is the downside to both those artificial sweeteners as well as to High fructose corn syrups. If you choose NOT to make your own yogurt you might try Yoplait brands and choose one with natural sweeteners. It might be worth the extra cost. I do like the homemade though because I know it's all milk product, period. I have to get busy tomorrow and make another batch...

Terri Cheney said...

Delorise, I do find, having had homemade and opting for store bought that I can be very picky about brands of yogurt. Yoplait does have an orange crème that is super yummy to me. I can't quite replicate that yet, but I'm going to look for some orange extract and we'll see how that goes. I don't think orange marmalade would quite do it.

Lana said...

It completely wipes out all the goodness of homemade, but what about a spoonful of Tang powder or something similar for the orange cream yogurt?

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