How to Make Yogurt at Home
I read all the nutrition books when my youngest was an infant. We did all the “right” things and were so proud to have a little one who would eat beet greens like candy! Then, it happened—somewhere between the ages of 2 and 3 her taste buds changed and suddenly, overnight, she became a picky eater. Our pediatrician told us not to worry, that many kids this age were what she jokingly called “fruit-tarians” and to continue to offer her a rainbow of food colors to ensure she was getting all she needed in terms of nutrition. Thankfully, one of those foods that she continued to enjoy was yogurt—packing a nutritional punch and easing this worried mother’s mind a little.
I now have two children and both of them are picky eaters. Despite this, they would happily eat yogurt three times a day if I let them. The only challenge for this one-income family is the yogurt I want to purchase for them at the store – organic, grass-fed milk, local (if possible) and low- or no-added sugars (some of those yogurts have 30-40% of your daily sugar intake!!) is expensive. Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned to make delicious yogurt at home that my kids love.
Making Homemade Yogurt
Making yogurt at home is easy, economical, and gives you greater control over the ingredients. For the cost of a half-gallon of milk and an individual serving of plain yogurt, I can make 2 quarts of yogurt in less time than it takes to cook dinner. Here is the process that works best for me, along with some tips I’ve learned along the way.
Ingredients: We prefer using whole milk for a creamier, richer yogurt. You’ll also need a yogurt culture which you can purchase as a powdered culture (at a health food store or an online cheesemaking supply store) or buy an individual serving of unflavored high-quality yogurt. Many people will make yogurt with just these ingredients. Our family likes the consistency that comes with adding a small packet of gelatin (non-flavored) and a 1/2 cup of nonfat milk.
Materials and Process: I don’t have a double-boiler and choose to use a makeshift one by placing a large mixing bowl over a large stockpot filled with water. You’ll need a food thermometer handy. Mix all the ingredients, with the exception of the yogurt, into the milk and heat to 165*F in the mixing bowl. After you’ve reached the proper temperature, chill the milk to 115*F (this will ensure the active bacteria in the yogurt starter aren’t killed by the heat). I do this by filling in my sink with cold water and tossing in a couple of ice packs. Place the mixing bowl in the sink—it speeds up the process significantly. Then whisk in the yogurt culture to the milk mixture. Pour it into the container and let those cultures work their magic.
For a more detailed recipe, follow this recipe from the University of Missouri Cooperative Extension.
Incubating Homemade Yogurt
I started with a fancy yogurt “maker” found at a yard sale for $5. The cost was right and those little glass cups were adorable! Unfortunately, as time went on I realized that the amount of work going into making yogurt this way was not making enough for my family. I discovered the “Yogotherm” a few years ago and love how well it works. There are really endless options available, some of which are explored in the recipe from the University of Missouri Cooperative Extension.
When all is said and done, you’re left with a delicious, healthy food you made yourself! Many choose to strain some of the whey out of the yogurt to make Greek yogurt. My kids love mix-ins, so we use a little maple syrup, local honey, or a spoonful of our favorite jam. You can take it up a notch and add vanilla extract and vanilla bean for a truly special treat. The cost for me to make 2 quarts of yogurt at home? Maybe $5. The cost of two quarts of our favorite yogurt at the store: $14!
By Claire Schreiber, UMaine Extension Master Food Preserver Volunteer