Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bucket List Item: Making Yogurt

We go through yogurt quickly.  In fact, I start almost every morning eating a mixture of plain and honey Greek yogurt that Hubby is wonderful about bringing to me before I get up.  (I have had issues with low morning blood sugar, and find that the earlier I eat something with protein in it, the more likely I am to avoid the annoying problems.)  So, I keep buying it $4 per quart.  It was past time to try making our own, since a gallon of milk would give us 4 quarts for the same price or less...and it sounded like more fun to make it than buy it, anyway.  The kids kept asking when 'we' were going to do it.  (Apparently, their part in this was to make sandwiches and keep me company as I worked, but that's OK.)

First I had to find directions.  An internet search gave me too many results with varying instructions, so I went to what I consider the most credible cooking advice source, the Gardenweb Cooking Forum.  Sure enough, I found just what I needed in a discussion entitled Yogurt Making Question.  Lots of helpful advice and information there, but Grainlady's simplified instructions spoke clearly to me and made me believe I could do this.
I decided to try making 2 quarts.

4 quart Saucepan
Candy thermometer
2 quart Measuring pitcher and 1/4 cup measure
Oven with Proof mode for yogurt incubation  
Any oven that can be otherwise set to a temp between 105 and 120 should work.  Some people use heating pads, lamps, or crockpots to keep their yogurt at the incubation temperature range.

2 quarts Whole Milk (You can use lower fat milk, but whole is supposed to make a thicker yogurt, so sounded easier.  I'm not a fan of lower fat dairy products anyway.)
6 Tablespoons (3 per quart of milk) Plain Yogurt with active cultures (the more, the better) and no additives.  Greek-style is recommended.
- Oops.  My Greek yogurt has pectin added, so we'll see how it works.- 

First, I set out 6 Tablespoons of the Greek yogurt to come to room temperature.  Grainlady recommended freezing 3 Tablespoon portions for future batches of yogurt, so I scooped 3 Tablespoon-sized blobs onto wax paper and popped them in the freezer.  (When I discovered that yogurt had pectin in it, I popped them back out and returned them to the container to use, as usual, and wait for a purer quality yogurt to save for yogurt culture.  Stonyfield Farm is the brand she recommends.)                          
I set my oven to Proof and adjusted the temperature to 110 degrees.  In hindsight, this was way sooner than necessary, since it reached that temperature in just a few minutes. Oh, well.                                                                                        
I heated the milk over medium heat in the saucepan with the thermometer suspended in the middle of the milk.  Using a heat-resistant spatula, I swirled the milk around every few minutes to keep it heating evenly.  I needed it to get to 190 to 210 degrees.  I wasn't sure what to do about the skin that formed in the latter stages of heating.  Most I removed as I stirred.                                                                                           
It took approximately 30 to 40 minutes to get the milk to 200 degrees.  I let it heat slowly, especially after reaching 185, because the FAQ page of said that the longer it stayed in that temperature range the more the proteins were denatured, which would result in a thicker yogurt.  For that same reason, once the milk got to 200 degrees, I turned off the flame but left the pan on the burner until the milk slowly cooled to below 185 degrees.

I transferred the milk to the bowl in which I wanted to incubate the yogurt.  I attached the thermometer to the side and waited approximately 35 to 40 minutes for it to cool to 110 degrees.  Anything between 110 and 115 would be all right, but Grainlady said the yogurt would be milder at 110 and tarted at 155...and being a yogurt wimp, I waited for 110.  This would've been a more appropriate time to preheat the oven.  
Maverick CT-03 Digital Oil & Candy Thermomter
digital candy thermometer
Next time I make this, I want to have a digital candy thermometer that will sound an alarm when the temperature is reached, so I don't have to remember to run back and forth to check, and risk missing the right window of opportunity.                                                                                                                                             
As soon as the thermometer read 110, I stirred in the waiting yogurt.  I used a whisk and went ahead and removed the skin which had formed, since it only interfered with stirring...and it seemed gross to drag it through the rest.                                                                                     
I covered it with plastic wrap and placed it on the glide rack in the oven.  Since, according to Grainlady, yogurt responds negatively to jiggling, I wanted the rack that would slide out the farthest and smoothest when I remove the bowl from the oven in 4 or more hours....                            
5 Hours Later (I wasn't home at the 4-hour mark, so it fermented an hour longer than Grainlady said it needed to.  If it's too sour, I might know this is part of the reason.):  So far, so good.  I'm not supposed to shake it around, but I can tell it's thickened.  The top looks a little bubbly and like maybe there are some curds formed under the surface.  I moved it straight to the fridge, where I'm supposed to leave it alone for at least 3 hours to finish.  
I think it worked!!

Follow up tip:  After leaving the yogurt in the fridge for several hours to fully set up, strain it through a towel or a few layers of cheesecloth (I suspend a colander lined in the cloth over a large pot) for 6 or 8 hours, or overnight.  The drained liquid can be used in bread...What you have left is some wonderful Greek yogurt!

After 3 hours in the fridge...Voila'!  Looks and tastes just like yogurt!  :-)


  1. Making yogurt is on my list, too. I even went so far as to print out instructions from a GW member, I can't remember who, but it wasn't Grainlady, and then never followed through. You've given me the courage to try. My instructions use one of those little 6pack coolers to keep the milk at temperature.

  2. I'd be afraid that wouldn't keep it constant enough and would be afraid to try...Not that it wouldn't, I just don't know and that would throw me enough to give up without starting. Knowing my oven would babysit at just the temp I chose gave me courage. ;-) I was half expecting runny-ish yogurt that would have to be drained, since people seemed to have trouble getting it thick (especially when I found out my culture yogurt had 'cheated' in that area)...But this has thickened even more since I took that last photo.

    Hubby said, "Hey...It's just like the real stuff!"

    I do want to try draining some in the future to make yogurt cheese that would work like cream cheese, but I'm assuming, would offer more protein.

  3. I can do this and my oven can proof it. I have a traditional candy thermometer too and good to know I have a reason to get the digital one ;) Thanks for posting this!

  4. Me, too! :-) I just bought the thermometer you see in the pics, and wished I hadn't. But I was so afraid of getting distracted and forgetting to check the falling temps that I won't do this again without better 'help.'


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...