Y’all, this is what started my whole kitchen adventure right here! I don’t even remember how I heard about homemade yogurt. It seems so mysterious and complicated, like something that you HAVE to buy. But once I heard about it, the idea grew on me quite a bit. I discovered that I have a bit of an independent streak. I like the idea of knowing how to do some things myself instead of paying for someone to do it for me. And since my first homemade batch, I’ve not bought a container of the store-bought kind! It really is that easy and delicious.
Start with a large pot, a digital thermometer or a candy thermometer (whichever you have), a spoon, two empty gallon jugs, about a quarter to a half a cup of plain yogurt with live and active cultures, and an ice chest. I use whole milk for my yogurt. I’ve never tried making it with two percent or skim. I think two percent might work, but I would avoid skim because I believe it might be too processed to turn into yogurt. You can used pasteurized milk or organic milk, just make sure that it doesn’t say, “Ultra-Pasteurized,” because that will fail to produce yogurt as well.
You can make a half gallon of yogurt at first, if you want to experiment with a smaller batch or if you don’t think you will eat very much within a week. I typically make an entire gallon because my husband and I both eat yogurt a few mornings a week for breakfast.
Pour the milk into a pot that will fit it and plunk in your thermometer. Make sure that the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan or it will give you an overly hot reading. Heat the milk over medium heat to be 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This kills any bad stuff in your milk. It’s best to not let your milk get hotter and come to a boil, but if you get distracted and it does, you can still use it. You just might have to strain off some scalded milk from the bottom of the pan. Not that I know that from experience or anything….ahem.
While your milk is getting close to 180 degrees, fill the two empty gallon jugs with very hot tap water and place in your ice chest, closing the lid to create a warm environment.
Let your milk cool to between 115-120 degrees and then whisk in your plain yogurt. Make sure that it is yogurt that says, “Live and Active Cultures,” as the active cultures are what spread through the milk to turn it to yogurt while it incubates. Place your pot in the ice chest with the hot jugs still in there, and close the lid tightly. Don’t touch for at least 4 hours.
When you open the lid after 4 hours, you should have slightly jiggly but solid yogurt. If your pot still has liquidy milk in there, it is fine to put it back in the incubator for up to four more hours and then recheck it. Once it is done, put it in the fridge for several hours to cool. It will firm up even more in the fridge.
If it still hasn’t formed into yogurt after incubating for up to eight hours, then it’s mostly likely due to three possibilities:
- You added the plain yogurt when the temperature was too high and accidentally killed the good bugs.
- You used ultra-pasteurized milk.
- You didn’t use a quality plain yogurt as your starter that had live, active cultures.
Honestly, in all the times I’ve made yogurt, I’ve only had one failed batch, so it is pretty rare.
After it chills in the fridge for a couple hours, you can pour it into whatever container you would like to store it in. I like to use mason jars. Reserve a quarter to a half a cup of your first batch to be your starter for the next batch! You can’t use the starter indefinitely, unless you order a special heirloom starter. But you should be able to use your own starter for three batches or more. Then, I just buy a single serving of plain yogurt to start fresh.
If you like greek-style yogurt, you can strain it by placing a few cups at a time into a colander lined with a thin plain cotton flour sack style kitchen towel. Let it strain for anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the consistency you like. Scrape the finished product into a jar, you can dump the whey or save it for other uses, and rinse the towel and throw it in the wash.
I think there is nothing that compares to the mild taste, the richness, and the perfect flavor of homemade plain yogurt- try it for yourself, you will be amazed!
If you do make your own batch, take a picture of the results and tag me on my new Instagram account @KitchenWithKeri.
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1 gallon whole milk
¼ to ½ cup yogurt with live active cultures