Yes, I make my own yogurt from scratch. No, it is not time-efficient! But I love the ritual of it, and I also love knowing that I am one step closer to running a dairy farm out of my Tuscan villa during vacations from traveling the world saving babies. Depending on the type of milk I use, I actually end up saving quite a bit of money, too. (When I have an income, I buy my milk from the farmers’ market, and that definitely does not save me money … but it’s worth it for the local-organicness of it all.)
A few basic requirements for making yogurt my way:
– an oven with a pilot light (If your oven does not have a pilot light, it won’t be the right temperature for incubating the yogurt.)
– a stainless steel half gallon double boiler, or something that passes for one (I balance a big stainless steel bowl on top of a giant pot.)
– a dairy thermometer (or any liquid-safe thermometer that displays temperatures between 90 and 180 degrees)
– clean glass jars with lids for incubation (I use empty applesauce jars.)
– an uninterrupted overnight span of 8-14 hours
– half gallon milk (I buy skim by the gallon and process it in half gallon batches for increased cost-effectiveness.)
– 1/4 to 1/2 cup room temperature starter culture (This can be freeze-dried cultures or already-existing yogurt, either from your last batch or store-bought. When I don’t have yogurt from my last batch available, I start fresh with a combination of yogurt from Stonyfield Farm and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy because they contain the best variety of cultures I have found.)
1. Heat milk in double boiler until temperature reaches 175-180 degrees. I stir the milk a bit throughout the heating with a stainless steel spoon to ensure that it doesn’t boil or form a skin on top.
2. Remove bowl from pot and place on a surface away from heat. Cool until temperature is between 90 and 110 degrees, about one hour.
3. Use a stainless steel whisk to mix starter culture into milk.
4. Pour milk/culture mixture into a glass or stainless steel container with a pouring spout.
5. Pour into clean glass jars, cover, and place in OFF oven.
6. Close oven door. I usually stick a post-it over the oven knob to remind me (and everyone else) when the yogurt went in and that the oven is off-limits.
7. Go to sleep for 8 – 14 hours while the yogurt incubates (I have had the best luck quality-wise with 10 hours). When you wake up, remove the yogurt from the oven and refrigerate it. You’ll be so excited and surprised when you see that you actually have yogurt and not rancid milk. (I do this one to two times per week, and I have never had rancid milk waiting in the morning!)
8. Optional: If you plan to do this again within the next week, immediately spoon out some of your yogurt to reserve in a refrigerated container so that you have a carefully protected starter culture when you are ready.
9. Optional: Follow procedure for Greek yogurt if you like a thicker texture.