I am such a chump. My exasperation comes from the fact that I’ve been paying too much money for inferior yogurt all these years! Any time I buy something at the grocery store, I always ask myself, “Can I make this? Would it be cheaper? Could I make it better?”. One of those things we all buy, but rarely think about is yogurt. Yogurt has turned into this weird phenomenon, slowly taking over the entire dairy aisle. You hear a lot of words like “probiotic”, “clinically or scientifically proven”, “healthy”, etc. In reality though, it is all about the money. The average advertised price of 6 ounces Greek yogurt is $0.99 and the average advertised price of 6 ounces of regular yogurt is $0.53 (see the USDA National Dairy report). What if I told you, you can make tastier, creamier, healthier yogurt for $0.15 to $0.35 per 6 ounces of yogurt? I was so angry with myself when I realized that making yogurt wasn’t that big of a deal.
Making yogurt involves just a few things: milk, yogurt starter, and love. Yogurt is easy to make. The only hurdle is finding a warm place to sit the yogurt for up to 12 hours. I’ve done many experiments to find the ideal solution that doesn’t require that I tend to the yogurt for 12 hours, lose a night of sleep, or waste money constantly replacing lightbulbs. I have tried making yogurt several ways:
- Place quart mason jars in a cooler and fill the cooler with warm water (110 degrees F), but found I couldn’t keep my water above 100 degrees F for longer than 45 minutes. There’s no way I’m going to change the water 16 times over the span of 12 hours.
- Place quart mason jars in a small bathroom trash can and wrap a heating pad around them, but discovered modern heating pads turn off every 60 minutes. Dang.
- Place yogurt in the oven with the oven light turned on, but since our place isn’t heated during the winter the oven light did not keep the temperature high enough. I also questioned how much it’s going to cost to replace that oven light when it eventually burns out.
- Incubate the milk in a crockpot, but all crockpots heat the milk too hot and eventually kill the active cultures that make your yogurt. Whoops.
- Finally, I gave up trying to be a true anarchist and bought a Euro Cuisine yogurt maker, so I could let my yogurt sit at temperature for 12 hours and not have to hang around the house all day or wake up every hour or replace oven lightbulbs.
I know, I know. Alton Brown is yelling at me that I just wasted money on a “uni-tasker”. However, if you eat yogurt daily like we do, then buying this device is practical. I don’t like having a ton of devices in my kitchen. Besides the cost, I’ve never had a kitchen big enough to store even my dinnerware let alone lots of kitchen stuff. However, if you have a heating pad or can find a heating pad that does not have an auto-off feature, then by all means use the heating pad instead of buying a yogurt maker. I just found the price of a heating pad to be the same as the yogurt maker (about $30) and the heating pad doesn’t provide you with personal, serving-sized, glass jars.
The first ingredient, milk. We make our yogurt using raw milk. Raw milk is pretty much milk straight from the cow (or goat) that hasn’t been sterilized at high temperatures under pressure. We use raw milk because reasons. There are two types of yogurt cultures: direct set cultures and reusable cultures. The direct set method uses a powder to add the cultures to the milk. The alternative is to actually use old yogurt to provide the cultures for the next batch of yogurt. For more information about these two methods, visit Cultures for Health website. The cultures already present in raw milk can make the process a bit more unpredictable and difficult, so instead of trying to propagate our cultures and maintain them, I use fresh direct set cultures each time I make yogurt. I’m not really thrilled about wasting 10+ cups of milk and have our cultures not set our yogurt. Since not everyone has access to or wants to consume raw milk, you can make direct set yogurt from just about anything though: raw milk, regular milk, skim milk, goat’s milk, and any non-milk alternative (soy, coconut, rice, nut, etc.). But there’s nothing so wonderful as seeing cream on top yogurt, because you used raw milk and diving into it like you would creme brulee. It’s my Amelie moment every time.
The second ingredient, cultures. I use Cultures for Health, Traditional Flavor Yogurt Starter. Nothing fancy. Buy a box and store it in the freezer. Each box will make 56 servings of yogurt. Once you get the hang of making regular yogurt, there are a ton of other options as well: Greek, Bulgarian, Finland Viili, Scandinavian Pilmä, Republic of Georgia Matsoni, etc. I just haven’t explored these other options yet.
The last ingredient is love. You will love yourself very much if you make your own yogurt. This summer I am going to be making crazy amounts of fruit jams and jellies. All you need is a dollop of fresh jelly and yogurt and you have something absolutely sublime. Homemade yogurt is actually so good. Don’t let the commercials fool you.
- 10 1/2 cups milk or milk alternative
- 2 packets of yogurt starter, store packets in the freezer
- Place milk in a large pot and use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of your milk. Slowly heat milk to 160 – 180 degrees F and maintain the heat between 160 – 180 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Stir occasionally just to prevent a film from developing on your milk, but you do not need to constantly stir as stirring reduces the temperature of the milk.
- Before turning off your stove, make sure to bring your milk all the way up to 180 degrees F, then turn off your stove and let the milk cool to 110 degrees F. If your burner stays hot, move your pot to a cool burner.
- Once the temperature reaches 110 degrees F, add the yogurt cultures and stir gently until dissolved and distributed throughout the milk.
- If using a Euro Cuisine, pour milk into each jar, otherwise pour milk into a clean, sterile container.
- Place the mixture at 105 to 110 degrees for 7 to 9 hours until firm.
- If using a Euro Cuisine, you do not need to incubate your yogurt with the lids on.
- When your yogurt is set, refrigerate completely before eating.
- Inevitably you will want to read more about making your own yogurt. I suggest checking out Cultures for Health website for all the information you will need. Don’t be afraid of making basic plain yogurt. It’s wonderful. Easy. You’ll be happy you did.