How To Make Homemade Yogurt: A Photo Tutorial
There are many reasons to eat yogurt on a regular basis. Today I am going to show you my method for making yogurt at home. Not only is it relatively easy to make, but by making it at home, it ends up being much cheaper and I personally think it tastes a lot better. (Not as tart as the store bought stuff.)
I have tried a few different methods including the crock pot method and the method over on Kitchen Stewardship. The crock pot method didn’t get my yogurt thick enough and I also realized my crock pot wasn’t getting the temperature of the milk high enough at the beginning. (This was, however, easier than my method, so it may be worth giving it a try first to see if you like the results.) The method at Kitchen Stewardship didn’t work for me for some reason because the cooler must not have kept the heat in long enough to incubate the yogurt. That, and I don’t have a cooler (I had to borrow one) and I don’t like having a cooler setting out in my house (and I don’t have a garage to put it in.) For the method I will describe below, I have kind of blended the Kitchen Stewardship method with another method and I am getting really consistent and good results.
Basic Tenets to Yogurt Making
That being said, I believe making yogurt is a lot like parenting—there is more than one right way to do it. You just need to keep some basic tenets in mind. I am going to outline those tenets now.
- Heat the milk to 185F to sterilize the milk. Doesn’t matter how you do it, just get the temperature up there.
- Then cool the milk to around 100F so you can incubate it. Doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to that temperature or how you get it there.
- Add starter yogurt. This can be from a previous batch you’ve made or from yogurt you’ve bought at the store (as long as it has active cultures in it.)
- Keep the yogurt at that 100F temperature for the next 4 – 24 hours so the bacteria get all happy and warm and cozy and then multiply like crazy.
That’s it! It really isn’t hard and it isn’t that time consuming because a lot of it is just waiting for it to reach a correct temperature and then waiting for it to incubate.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt—A Step by Step Photo Tutorial
Here are the things you will need for the way that I prefer to make it.
- Milk (I prefer to buy rBGH free milk.) (Here’s a discussion on rBGH, if you are curious about what that is.)
- Clean glass jars with lids (I usually do 4 at a time, but you could do more or less depending on how much yogurt you want.) These can be any glass jars—I used spaghetti sauce jars, a Ball canning jar, and a coconut oil jar.
- Starter yogurt – enough for 2 TBSP per jar
- Candy thermometer – You might want to check to make sure that the thermometer will fit in the mouth of at least one of your jars. Not that that has happened to me before. :)
- Bath towels or blankets
- Heating pad
- Large pot
Now, put the pot on the stove, put the washcloth in the bottom of it and put the jars in there. (The washcloth is so the jars don’t rattle too much and break.)
Then pour milk into the jars. Leave about an inch of room at the top.
Then pour room temperature water into the pot to about half way up the jars.
Now turn the heat to medium-high and wait. At this point I need to mention that I turned the heat up on high the first time I was going to make this and it heated up too quickly and caused one of the jars to break. (That’s why in the rest of these pictures you won’t see the coconut oil jar anymore.) Also notice I put a spoon and the candy thermometer into the pot of water so that way they can be sterilized too.
I forgot to take a picture of this next step (sorry!), but its pretty self explanatory. After the water has been boiling for a while, you’ll start to notice a skin on the top of the milk. That’s a good sign that you are almost to your temperature. You can start checking the temperature of the milk with the candy thermometer then. (Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship mentions that when the skin forms, its hot enough, but I’ve found that the skin on my milk formed around 165-170F. Just so you know, it took mine another 5 – 10 minutes to get up to the correct temperature.) This entire “milk heating up process” took about 30-45 minutes, with only about 5 minutes of it being actively involved in yogurt making. The rest of the time I cleaned up my kitchen. :)
After it reaches 185F, turn off the burner and take the jars out very carefully. (I had my husband help me with this part so I could take the pictures.) Then put the lids on.
Now, you need the yogurt to cool to around 100F. It can be a little higher or lower. Be aware that the yogurt cultures will die at around 118-120F, so you definitely want the temp below that. Since its winter, I just put mine on my front porch to cool. It took about 45 minutes. I don’t usually measure the temperature again with the candy thermometer. I just know that when they still feel fairly warm, but not so warm that I can’t carry them all into the house with my bare hands, then the temperature is okay.
Now that the temperature is right, you just need to add the culture. The culture I am using in this picture has been saved out from the previous batch I made. My jars are 26 oz size and I add 2 TBSP of starter per jar. (I read that the ratio is 2 TBSP per quart. I have a little under a quart, but it works fine.) I do want to point out that more starter is not better—they need room to get cozy and reproduce. You want to make it hospitable for your yogurt bacteria. :) Too much starter and you won’t have good yogurt.
Stir gently. You don’t want to hurt or kill the bacteria, so just a few gentle stirs with the spoon will be enough.
Then put the lids back on and put them back in the pot that you used for boiling them. (Note that there is no water in it now and I put a dry washcloth in it.)
Next you need to find a place out of the way to incubate your yogurt. I like to put mine on a chair in the dining room. First I put a towel folded in half down on the chair. Then I put the pot with the yogurt on top of that. Then I put the heating pad set on medium on top of that. Then I put another towel folded in half, and then a blanket folded in half on top of that. If you’ll notice, I tucked it down all around the sides so the warm air stays in and cooler air stays out. Really, it just took me longer to write that than it will take you to make your own yogurt a little bacteria love nest. :) Note: You might want to check to make sure your heating pad doesn’t turn off after a set amount of time. Some of them turn off after a few hours as a precautionary thing.
Leave the yogurt completely alone so it can incubate. I usually leave mine for 8 to 10 hours since I leave it overnight. You can play around with how long you like it to incubate and see if it affects the flavor much. The picture below is okf the yogurt the next morning. You’ll notice there is a little whey on top. That is good—it means your yogurt cultures got along very well overnight.
Finally, put them in the refrigerator for a while. This will not only cool the yogurt down (because who wants to eat hot yogurt?!) but will allow the yogurt to sort of “set up.”
That’s it! You are done! Wonderful, fresh yogurt! Yum! You can now add whatever you would like to it or just eat it plain. (That’s how my son likes it.) On Friday I am going to share the granola recipe that I make to go in our morning yogurt.
Cost of Homemade versus Store Brand
Since this is already the Longest Blog Post Ever, I’ll go ahead and do a little cost comparison.
One gallon of whole milk from Wal-mart—$3.13 a gallon (I only use a little over half the gallon, which would be about $1.65.)
1 quart of plain Dannon yogurt—$1.60 (I think. I forgot to check at my store the last time I went. They might be cost more.)
So, 4 quarts of plain Dannon would equal $6.40 (I’m not comparing the Stoneyfield or the Greek yogurt because they cost much more and I’m not using organic milk.)
My family goes through 4 quarts a week between using yogurt to make green smoothies and just eating it for breakfast. By me making it myself, I am saving my family about $250 per year! That’s a lot of money considering the small amount of time I have invested in it.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll at least try to point you in the right direction.