Around here we make our own yogurt, too. Why? Because homemade yogurt has such a light and fresh flavor and it goes perfectly with our homemade granola. A yogurt maker is helpful in keeping the yogurt just the right temperature while it incubates, but you don’t need one to make yogurt at home. You just need towels or blankets to wrap around the pot and a draft-free spot that will stay nice and warm for a few hours.
So here’s the strategy, formula, and technique. The proportions are more or less, give or take. Multiply or divide as you wish:
Makes about 4c
You can use whole milk, skim milk, or anything in between, but keep in mind that the milks with less fat will create more whey, so your yield will be less.
In a heavy saucepan, heat 5c milk over a medium-low burner to 180. It is important to use a thermometer for this, and not just guess at it. Turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes.
Remove pot from burner and remove lid. Let cool to about 110. A little more is OK and a little less is OK, just make sure it’s between 100 and 115.
At this point I strain the milk into a glass measuring cup or pitcher to get rid of any skin that has formed on top or bottom of the milk. To the strained milk, add 1 T + 1tsp fresh plain yogurt, and mix it in thoroughly. Don’t use yogurt that has sweetener, flavoring, gelatin or starch thickeners added to it. Use plain, unadulterated yogurt. Over the years I’ve made it with many different yogurt starters, and my favorite by far is Chobani Plain 0% Greek Yogurt.
You may add up to ½ c powdered milk, if you like. It gives it a little extra nutrition, and if you’re using 1%, 2%, or skim milk, it cuts down on the extra whey. This is optional; I usually don’t bother with it, but it does give the yogurt a good consistency.
If you’ve got a yogurt maker, use it to incubate the yogurt.I’m fortunate enough to be the proud keeper of my mother-in-law’s Thriftee Yogurt Maker from the ‘70s. If you’re not that fortunate, put the warm milk/yogurt mixture in a pot, bowl, or jar that has a good lid. To make sure it’s not too cold, hold under hot water or microwave briefly. Wrap the container with towels or a blanket and set in a warm, draft free spot, wherever that is. It could be a corner on your counter, by a heating vent, or even outside in summertime. If you’ve got a thermal cooler or one of those nifty casseroles with a thermal carrying case, use it.
The yogurt needs to incubate for 4 to 6 hours, or until thickened. If it’s still thin after 6 hours, don’t worry, just keep it warm and wait until it does thicken. Once it has thickened, though, refrigerate right away. Yogurt that is left longer begins to get sour, which can be good in a recipe and not so good for breakfast.
Here's a plug for local honey: if you sweeten your yogurt with local honey, it may help you with seasonal pollen allergies!
For Greek style yogurt, use full fat milk, with cream added if you dare. When it’s done, drain in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter until very thick.
For yogurt cheese, drain until it is as thick as cream cheese.
To make yogurt with at thermophilic cheese culture, use approximately 1 tsp lactic bacterial culture. Sprinkle it onto cooled milk, wait a few minutes until dissolved, and stir in. Purchase a cheese making supply house or an old fashioned health food store.