Homemade Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt Recipe


Wayne Bremser is our first guest contributer. His homemade yogurt recipe is today's feature.

"Do you like plain yogurt?" Answer this question before buying a yogurt maker. There are countless ways to flavor yogurt and even more ways to cook with it, but what makes homemade yogurt worth the effort is tasting the immediate result of your labor.

When I was young nothing could convince me to eat plain yogurt. It was like eating straight sour cream. There was something unsettlingly vague about its gelatinous quality; it wasn't sprightly and proud of itself like Jell-O and it didn't melt in the mouth like ice cream.

My mother coerced me to eat bright pink strawberry yogurt. And I enjoyed it. Since then most of my experience with yogurt has been with the flavored commercial variety - a harsh, uniform substance that relies on mass production techniques, copious amounts of sugar and various thickeners to hide its inconsistencies.

Like wine, yogurt was discovered as a result of neglect. Upon finding that goat's milk left in a clay pot in the sun had turned into a strange semi-solid, imagine the courage it took for a person ten thousand years ago to taste it.

Making yogurt is far easier and quicker than wine, but each batch will taste slightly different, as it involves selecting from the infinite possibilities of milk, bacteria and time. Yogurt still involves the same process of discovery that our ancestors happened upon, but with the precise measurement of temperature and
time, you'll enjoy experimenting to determine your favorite recipe. Along the way you will learn to appreciate the inconsistencies.

Do you like plain yogurt? If you aren't sure maybe you haven't tried the right kind. In your local health or specialty food store look for Fage, the popular brand of "strained" Greek yogurt. This product is closer to a yogurt cheese, rich like a cream cheese, and will give you an idea of what you can easily make at home.

There are dozens of yogurt makers to choose from and they all work the same way - you create a concoction of milk and starter, the bacteria that makes yogurt. You pour the milk into the yogurt maker, whose main job is to keep the mixture heated at a constant temperature for four to eight hours.

The primary difference between makers is the configuration of the containers. Many makers have six or eight individual cups that mimic the size of store bought yogurt. The maker I have been using is one quart, the same size as the large family-sized container of yogurt. I'd rather clean only one container. Multiple containers might be better suited for a household with children or someone paranoid about roommates' double dipping.

A big decision that will affect the flavor and consistency of your yogurt is the starter you use. If milk is the body of your yogurt, then the starter is the brains. For your first batch, I recommend using a typical, plain organic yogurt like Stoneyfield Farm. The package must indicate live cultures (and the yogurt has to be reasonably fresh for those cultures to remain live) or the process will not work.

Think of the starter as the brains of the whole process. It contains the bacteria that triggers the fermentation process which turns the milk into yogurt. There are several types of bacteria - Stoneyfield Farm yogurt claims six "active cultures" (including L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei and L. Reuteri), while Fage's package only claims two: Streptococcus Thermophillus and Lactobacillus Bulgaricus.

Certain types of bacteria ferment faster than others do. Some bacteria work at the beginning of the process and some later in the process. Yogurt that ferments quickly is more likely to leak whey (the watery substance that you'll see in a large container of yogurt that is several days old). Slower fermentation results in a dense network of proteins that embraces the whey.

Typically the more types of bacteria used, the faster the fermentation process. Some large dairy companies rely on a faster process to produce more yogurt, but use thickeners to reduce the degree of whey leakage. You can use the yogurt you produce as a starter for the next batch, but after several cycles the strength of the cultures decline.

Batches I started with Stoneyfield yogurt fermented faster, from four to five hours. The Fage yogurt took significantly longer to ferment to a firm consistency - six to eight hours. Was the extra time because there were only two types of bacteria, rather than six? Or because the Fage yogurt was imported from Greece, wasn't as fresh and had a lower bacteria count?

Both starters produced great tasting yogurt. The longer fermentation time led to thicker yogurt, mimicking the source of the Fage starter. The creamier, mousse-y consistency mutes the tang, delivering a softer flavor, closer to a pear than yogurt's typical green apple. The Stoneyfield starter produced a more "classic" yogurt flavor and consistency. You can add more powdered milk to produce a richer yogurt.

Another option is using Yogourmet powdered starter. The package lists three types of bacteria that have been freeze-dried into a powder that you mix with some milk. Fermentation to firm yogurt was fast, just over four hours. The consistency was similar to the Stoneyfield starter, but the flavor was a bit more tart.

At the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market an artisan yogurt maker sells a wonderful product called Saint Benoit. The yogurt is sold plain or flavored (strawberry, honey, plum). They use fresh, whole Jersey milk from a farm in Sonoma County located two miles from their kitchen. The yogurt is produced in ceramic jars selling for $3.25 each, which includes a dollar and a quarter deposit for the jar. After you savor the natural layer of cream at the top of a jar, the yogurt has a smooth, weightless flavor that, when served very cold, replaces heavy dairy on the tongue with the crisp flavor of a delicate, yet indistinct fruit.

Their web site invokes the French term terroir, which is commonly associated with wine production. They claim the cultures used are imported from France (they are the same two types of bacteria that Fage uses). While I did not excel as a biology student, their claim struck me as odd. What difference would it make - aren't bacteria simple, one-cell organisms? Have the French located a unique unicellular creature in their hallowed soil that produces yogurt like none other in the world?

To find out I invested in a jar of Saint Benoit to use as a starter. Using the freshest, organic whole milk I could find and eschewing powdered milk, I was able to produce yogurt with 6 hours of fermentation that had the same fluffy, smooth consistency of the original Saint Benoit. Having robbed a nation's intellectual property - I've continued to produce batches using the same cultures with only a slight decline in quality.



After you've tried the basic yogurt recipe, please download the homemade yogurt tasting notes PDF to print out. It will help you create your favorite yogurt.

Once you've discovered that you love making yogurt, I would suggest investing in another yogurt maker. I use dueling Salton YM9s that allow me to make a double batch of yogurt that will last all week and provide me with starter for the next round. At $18 each, they are a relatively small investment in money and counter space. Another idea to make the tedious heating process easier, suggested by a 101 Cookbooks reader, is a digital thermometer with an alarm, allowing you to do other activities while your milk is on the stove. It would be great to get recommendations a good digital thermometer (one that is accurate in liquids).

Yogurt has been called a "superfood," praised for its high calcium content, protein and B vitamins. Perhaps most importantly, scientists have proven that live cultures help maintain a delicate balance of microorganisms in the body, promoting healthy digestive and immune systems. The best way to enjoy these health benefits is to make yogurt yourself with fresh, organic milk.

Regardless of nutrition, yogurt is delicious and an important ingredient. Nearly every nation's cuisine has a recipe that uses yogurt. Hopefully in the future you'll see some of the best ones we discover reviewed here. Until then, I'll be enjoying my homemade yogurt plain or with a simple swirl of the best maple syrup I can find.

 
 
 
 

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

4 cups of fresh, organic 2% milk
1/3 cup of powdered milk
1/2 cup organic yogurt (this will be your starter)

Making yogurt begins with milk. Readers of 101 Cookbooks will not be surprised with the advice to buy organic milk that is fresh as possible. Slowly heat the milk on the stove over low-medium heat.

At this point you can choose to add powdered milk. Powdered milk creates thicker yogurt that takes less time to ferment. It's optional if you are using whole milk or two percent. Some skim and one percent milk include added milk proteins which make the product taste less watery and will behave the same way as if you added powdered milk.

For your first batch we are going to go with two-percent milk plus 1/3 cup of powdered milk. This combination of milk with the powder will produce a delicious, basic yogurt.

The most tedious thing about making yogurt is watching the milk get hot. You need it to hit 170 degrees, but not have it boil. So you want to pay attention to the pot and have a thermometer at hand. Once you've hit the target temperature, remove from heat and then wait for the milk to cool. Unless you put the pot in the refrigerator it will take some time to cool to 108-112 degrees.

If you are using existing yogurt as a starter, have it handy in a cup. When the milk is cooled to the proper temperature, mix a small amount it in with the yogurt. This will break up the yogurt and makes blending it with the rest of the milk easier. Once you add the starter, the milk can be placed in the pre-heated yogurt maker for four to eight hours. Refrigerate before serving. Makes one quart.

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Your Comments


lily
June 19, 2005

thank you so much for this post, especially for the details about starters. i've been meaning to try yogurt-making but didn't know how to choose a recipe. now i have the information i need to get started.

also, thank you Heidi for such an enjoyable and informative site.

 

Whitney
June 19, 2005

Wayne, Didn't Heather or I try to force Amish Friendship Bread upon you some years back and you were resistant to caring for a "starter"? I suppose you would be more open to it now.

Ryan wants to know if the classifying of yogurt as a superfood applies to Yoplait and other sugary treats.

 

Julie
June 19, 2005

This is a great post. I'm inspired to dig out the yogurt maker and make some this week! Also, fyi, Saint Benoit is also available at Andronico's on Irving ($3.99 each/$1.25 deposit back) - I have some in the fridge and will use it as my starter. Thanks for all the great info!

 

annie
June 20, 2005

Yay! My yogurt maker arrives today. Thanks for the great and informative post.

 

Elaine
June 20, 2005

Wayne, thanks so much for this blog. My other half, Vince, and I have been talking about buying a yogurt maker, but were hesitant as the recipes and info I was finding didn't appear to be very helpful. Dueling YM's! I love it, am now thinking about getting two as well.
Thanks also to Heidi for a wonderful site, loved the apple salsa!

 

Abby
June 20, 2005

Wayne, I have been making yogurt for long time, your recipe is great. However, I do not use yogurt maker, I use my oven over night at warm setting, very inexpensive and yogurt comes out great. Also if you want to make your yogurt very thick, after the yogurt is made put it in a clean cotton bag and let it hang several hours to drain water from yogurt, then you have something like cram cheese it is fantastic. enjoy.

 

Wayne
June 20, 2005

Abby, thanks for the comment. You can make it in your oven overnight - depending on the oven. The lowest temperature on ours is 170 degrees, which is a bit too hot (and would probably kill the cultures). But if it works for you, that's good.

I assume there is also a method to make it in the sun - since that is how it was done in ancient times.

 

bea
June 20, 2005

Aha! That is why my friend made yogurt only in the summertime - she didn't use a yogurt maker or stove, but let the hot summer heat in her very hot bakery keep the yogurt warm till the morning.

I prefer air conditioning, so I think I'll get a yogurt maker.... And I really do like a very tart yogurt, which is very hard to find commercially.

 

tom
June 20, 2005

Great post. For those of us who are worried about overheating in the oven, what I've done for years is to place my milk and cultures in a large glass jar with tight lid (I can't be bothered with a lot of small individual yogurt containers)and set in inside my large pressure cooker pot with warm water up to the top of the jar at a temperature slightly warmer than 112 degrees, and heat the oven briefly, then turn it off, before going to bed. I like my yogurt tangy, but you could leave it in for a shorter period of time for a milder taste. I've found the regular Pavel's Russian style yogurt makes a good starter.

 

Kim
June 21, 2005

Straining the yogurt results in labneh ... also sold by my local dairy farmer at the market as yogurt cheese. YUM.

Great post, btw :-)

 

Joanna
June 21, 2005

I've got a yoghurt maker and its instructions tell me to use UHT (Ultra Heat Treated) milk, not fresh. If using UHT you don't need to heat the milk, you can just pour it in (UHT milk doesn't need chilling so I just keep it in my cupboard). I have been using an organic UHT and it tastes lovely, but it comes out a bit thin.

 

Farmgirl
June 21, 2005

What a great post. Thanks for sharing all that info. Homemade yogurt is the best. Twelve years ago, I bought a still new Salton 5-jar yogurt maker at a yard sale for a dollar. What a great investment! Hundreds of batches later, it's still going strong.

To make yogurt cheese I use a 16 oz. Yogurt Strainer made by Progressive. They came two in a pack for about $4 and look like cone-shaped coffee filters. So easy to use and no mess. Don't know if they're still available; I ordered mine years ago from Walnut Acres.

 

Wayne
June 21, 2005

Joanna - so the yogurt maker tells you to use UHT? And you can't use any other kind of milk? That's strange! My understanding is the UHT milk has far less lactose and protein than regular milk (these are the things that make milk go sour, I think). So perhaps add more powdered milk. And definitely try regular milk at some point - the resulting yogurt will be richer and have more protein.

 

Amy
June 21, 2005

Love yogurt. Love all things home/handmade. My question is...is it really worth the effort when there are great products on the shelf at the grocery (Fage, fancy french, etc)? And, is it cost effective? I'm curious to have the foodies weigh in. Thanks.

 

Wayne
June 21, 2005

Amy - you raise a good point. The cost is one thing, the time/effort is more important to me than the money.

The yogurt I make is better than Fage - and it is organic and I can be sure the cultures are live. Fage retails here in San Francisco for $1.89 (at Trader Joe's) for 7oz. So it would take 4 or so to make a quart - almost $8. Granted there is Wallaby, a good organic yogurt that probably is $4 or so a quart.

I buy organic milk that is about $4-5 for two quarts. The starter is from previous batch or Yogourmet ($0.45 for each quart).

I'd say it's worth it to eat it as yogurt, as an ingredient, it depends.

 

Jane
June 21, 2005

I just purchased a yogurt maker, (French women don't get fat I've heard.) Anyway, I need some GOOD ideas for flavoring it until I can get used to eating it plain. I've tried fresh fruit, but find I need a little sugar ... can anyone help?

 

Judy
June 21, 2005

Jane, Just use Splenda. Works just like sugar. Redone a recipe for my Niece who is diabetic. Tried the recipe before sending it to her it's just like the orginal.

 

ann
June 21, 2005

What a great post. I read it today and immediately ordered a yogurt maker. It will work wonderfully with a recipe I have for home made granola. Thank you!

 

Joanna
June 22, 2005

Wayne - re UHT. Yes, the yoghurt maker recommends this as it says that there is a risk of getting unwanted bacteria (that will make you ill) if you use fresh milk UNLESS you scald the fresh milk yourself. It then gives a bothersome set of instructions on how to do so.
I was worried that I might go down with food poisoning, plus I hate the smell of scalded milk, so I have been using UHT but on reflection people have been making yoghurt from fresh milk for centuries and it is not a usual source of food poisoning - quite the reverse! So I will be brave in future. I'll let you know how I get on (if I survive, of course)

 

Rance
June 22, 2005

I noticed that your recipe says to add powdered milk. We used to make it using nothing but powdered milk. It does save the pasteurization step.

As far as the incubation, we just put it in a pyrex bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and put it in a picnic cooler overnight. Worked great. We always used Dannon for our starter.

Someone gave us a Salton yogurt maker which we used a couple of times before we went back to the old method. The best part of it was the stirring spoon with a thermometer built in. It had two temperature marks -- one to tell you how hot to heat your milk to pasteurize it, the other to tell you when it had cooled down enough to avoid killing your starter.

 

Daldianus
June 23, 2005

I need to by a Yogurt Starter now! Thanks for all the info.

 

June
June 25, 2005

I've been making yogurt with the Salton machine for a couple of years now. I love it! However, I hated the heating of the milk on the stove part. So I switched to the microwave. I put 4 cups of whole organic milk in a pyrex measuring cup and heat on high for 5 minutes (yours may be different). It heats in uneven layers in the cup, but by stirring it around for a moment it is the perfect temperature to add culture, then pour into yogurt machine. Total work time 6 minutes. I never use powdered milk. I love this site...Thanks Heidi!

 

Linda
June 27, 2005

I loved this posting on yogurt. I bought a Salton YM and am on batch #2. Way better than store bought, especially with my homemade strawberry jam mixed in. Heavenly! Thanks for the encouragement to start. Question - my YM directions say to heat the milk to 185 but you say 170 - what's the difference? any harm as long as it doesn't boil? (i use a ditigal thermometer for the milk - works well but it would be nice to have one that hooks like a candy thermometer to the pan without touching sides or bottom).

Heidi - your site is my homepage these days. I really love your take on food. Thanks!
Linda

 

Gopi
June 28, 2005

Bea: My local grocer carries Bulgarian yoghurt, which is very tart. It comes in glass jars.

Rance: I've tried using Dannon as a starter, and my yoghurt always turns out in the same goopy mess that Dannon is.

I usually get my starter by buying a small tub of yoghurt from an Indian grocer. Their yoghurt tends to contain a mix of L. acidophilus, L. bifidus, and L. bulgaricus. I like the taste that that mix provides.

No yoghurt-maker for me. I just heat the milk, let it cool to about 50°C, inoculate, and then let it sit overnight for a very tart yoghurt.