We recently started to increase our consumption of yogurt – Eli loves it with mashed bananas, and we like to use it in homemade granola or strawberry-banana flaxseed smoothies. But with the rising food costs, spending $5 a week on 2 quarts of Trader Joe’s Cream Line French village yogurt, as good of a deal that it is, doesn’t make the cut for our budget.
Yogurt-making hasn’t boded well for me in the past. I tried it once, only to find my yogurt half-set and as tart as a lemon. My Turkish neighbors make their own yogurt all the time, and make it look so easy, so that spurred me on to try again. I started to scour for recipes on the internet and fiddle around, and after a bit of trial and error, this is the recipe I like:
Jenni’s Homemade Yogurt
Makes 4 cups
1 qt whole milk
1/3 cup nonfat powdered dry milk
2 tbsp starter yogurt
1/4 c. heavy cream (optional)
Mix the whole milk with the powdered milk and cream (the cream adds a bit of silkiness to the texture.) Pour into a saucepan, and heat until bubbles form around the edge (180 degrees). Cool to 110 degrees. Take a ladleful of warm milk and in a separate bowl whisk it together with the starter yogurt. Pour the starter/milk mixture back into the pot of milk and whisk thoroughly to combine. Pour into a 1 qt container (I use old yogurt containers that have been washed thoroughly), and set in a thermos or cooler and surround with hot water. I’ve used a cooler and filled old glass jars with hot water, or a thermos that’s large enough to hold the container of yogurt plus some hot water on the bottom. It should just be hot water, not boiling. Cover the thermos/cooler, and let incubate for 5-6 hours (some recipes call for longer, but we’ve found that it gets too tart that way).
You can also use a yogurt incubator, which usually sells for between $25-50, but I’ve been pretty happy with the results we’ve found using coolers. Michael says he likes this yogurt better than the store-bought.
Additional notes: I use a candy thermometer to gauge the heat of the milk. You can try to do it by finger tests, but it’s easier for me with a thermometer. I purchased one at Williams-Sonoma for $19.99, and given that we’re now making yogurt for $1.25 a quart at two quarts a week, I know that the thermometer will pay for itself.
Starter yogurt is simply plain yogurt with live active cultures. You can check the label on the container to see if it contains live cultures. You can use starter from the yogurt that you make, but after a few batches, you usually need to use some fresh starter. A tip I picked up on the internet is to get a big container of plain yogurt and freeze it in ice cube trays (an ice cube is just about 2 Tbsp). When you need fresh starter, just pull one of the cubes out of the freezer and let it thaw to room temperature (I’m not sure if microwaving it will kill the active cultures, but you can try).