The Easiest, Inexpensive Way to Make Yogurt from Scratch
Yogurt is one of those amazing superfoods we often get confused about. The health benefits include healthy probiotics, vitamins D and B12, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, iodine, zinc, and healthy fat. Yogurt also can help you lower blood pressure, stabilize your appetite, recover quickly from workouts, and even shed weight. (1)
It is available everywhere, and the options at most supermarkets are borderline overwhelming. In fact, some people believe that any type of yogurt is beneficial. Sadly, many yogurts on the market have more sugar than junk food, and many marketed towards children are filled with food coloring. (2) While yogurt does contain natural sugars from lactose, the excess sugar added to some yogurts just doesn’t make sense for eating healthy.
A personal frustration of mine is that many yogurts are low fat or fat free. I want full fat yogurt for myself and my family, but it isn’t always available, and when it is, it can be expensive. (3) So, with all the hurdles from high prices, crazy added sugar, and fat free options, what am I to do? I could just give up yogurt altogether, or I can make my own for a fraction of the price. It may sound intimidating, but homemade yogurt is easy to make. The best part is that it is completely customizable and so affordable. For the price of a gallon of milk and a single serving of plain yogurt you can make 3-4 quarts of fresh yogurt at home. There are many options that work, but this is my favorite. Let’s dive in.
The Basics of Making Homemade Yogurt
This yogurt is made with 2 ingredients: milk and a culture of healthy bacteria (plain yogurt). It really isn’t a recipe, but rather a guide to follow for thermophilic yogurt. There are only a few simple supplies needed: a Candy Thermometer, a large pot with a lid, and a Heating Pad.
- Start off by pouring the desired amount of milk into a large pot. Usually, I make 3-4 quarts of yogurt, so I add 3-4 quarts of milk. Add your candy thermometer to the side of the pot.
- Heat the milk on medium heat to a temperature of 185 degrees F. to prepare it for inoculation. Stir occasionally. It is important to not exceed this temperature, or the yogurt may not culture. Some people heat their milk to 160 degrees F.
- Cool the milk to a temperature of 110-115 degrees F. The quickest way is by placing the pot in an ice bath in the sink. Stir often to help the milk cool evenly. This ensures the heat doesn’t kill the good bacteria in the culture.
- Add a cup of the warmed milk to the plain yogurt culture. Generally, 2 Tablespoons of culture is sufficient for every quart of milk. Gently stir the culture into the large pot of milk.
- Place a lid on your pot, and set the pot on a heating pad, turned to low heat. Cover the pot with a large bath towel to keep the pot warm. Leave it sit, covered and untouched for at least 7 hours. The longer you let it culture, the tangier the yogurt will taste. Between 7-12 hours is ideal. (To make vanilla yogurt, my favorite, you can slice a vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the milk. Wait to add any sweetener until the yogurt is finished.)
- Take the pot off the heating pad after 7-12 hours and whisk or stir well. Recover the pot and refrigerate at least 6 hours, or overnight. This cools the yogurt and stops the fermentation process.
- For thick yogurt, strain the cooled yogurt using a fine sieve and cheesecloth, or a flour sack towel. This drains off the whey from the yogurt and leaves behind a thick Greek-style yogurt that is lower in sugar and higher in protein. I typically get 3 quarts of thick yogurt and 1 quart of whey for every gallon of milk I use.
- Using a funnel, ladle the finished yogurt into jars, (I like to use quart sized mason jars), and refrigerate until ready to use. Yogurt lasts at least a week.
Top your homemade yogurt with fresh fruit, granola, jam, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and you have a delicious, healthy snack for your family. My girls love pureed fruit swirled in to give it color. It is also a great alternative to sour cream in recipes. And the whey is a superfood of its own. I love using whey to make my super soft homemade bread. For more ideas on using whey, here is a great article.
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Now that you know how to make fresh yogurt from scratch, all that’s left is to decide how to eat it! I want to hear from you: Have you ever made homemade yogurt before? What is your favorite way to top plain yogurt?