Homemade Yogurt

If you take a spin through the Internet, you will find a lot of different yogurt-making instructions, using all types of gadgets and equipment. Pots, double-boilers, thermometers, crock pots, towels, jars, pressure cookers, heading pads, and honest-to-goodness yogurt makers. Here is just a sampling of some of the recipes I read:
The recurring theme through most of the recipes I read was something like this:
  • Retain 1/4 cup of a previous batch or container of yogurt, as long as it is a type that has active cultures. Plain is best. Take it out so it approaches room temperature while you do the next steps.
  • Bring four cups of milk to 185 degrees Fahrenheit slowly and being careful not to burn it.
  • Cool the milk to 110 - 120 degrees.
  • Add your yogurt to the milk and stir it together.
  • Keep the mixture at 110 - 120 degrees for 4 to 7 hours.
  • You have yogurt! Some recipes say to strain it, some don't.
So I decided to try the simplest method possible, that didn't require me to buy any new equipment.

I purchased one litre of Avalon milk from Sunnyside Market (in Kensington). It comes in a glass bottle with a plastic cap. The bottles are returnable; you pay a deposit which is refunded when you bring the bottle back to the store. I eat yogurt pretty much every weekday, so I tend to have it on hand. It was the plain, all natural variety with active cultures, which I bought at Sunnyside. I noticed that they also sell powdered yogurt starter there, but I don't plan on trying it.

Here is roughly what I did to make my first batch of yogurt:
  • Took out 1/4 cup of yogurt and let it sit in the measuring cup on the counter.
  • Set the oven to preheat to the lowest setting (170 degrees) and turned on the oven light.
  • Heated the litre of milk in a pot on the stove to 185 degrees, using a thermometer to monitor the temp.
  • Poured the hot milk into a washed mason jar.
  • Waited for the milk to cool to 110 degrees.
  • Added the yogurt starter and stirred.
  • Turned off the oven but left the light on.
  • Put the mason jar in the oven. When putting it in, I opened the door all the way to let some heat out, since 170 degrees is too hot.
  • Left it over night.
The end results was pretty good, in my opinion. It seemed very similar to my previous store-bought yogurt. it tasted nice and tangy. It was pretty thin, but the yogurt I tend to buy is actually pretty thin. My understanding is that many store-bought yogurts contain gelatin to thicken them.

In its thin form, I ended up with nearly a litre of yogurt, which was pretty great. However, I wanted to try straining it just to see what the results would be. I draped a cheesecloth over a bowl, poured on the yogurt, bundled up the edges, and held the whole deal over the bowl. A surprising amount of water poured out of the cheese cloth and I was left with only about half a litre of yogurt, which was much thicker.

I'm pretty happy with how this went, although I think there are a few things I need to improve on next time.
  • I don't have a clip for my thermometer, so I had to hold it in the pot to measure. As a result, I think my temperatures were inaccurate, and the milk got too hot.
  • I burned the milk a little bit on the bottom. A DIY double-boiler could avoid this.
  • It took forever to cool. Next time I may cool it in a water bath.
You can expect another post in the future, when I've ironed some of these issues out. In the meantime, don't be afraid to try it. If you eat as much yogurt as I do, you could avoid one or two plastic containers each week going into your recycle bin!


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