Homestead Yogurt

Michelle has said before in this blog and elsewhere that growing things makes her feel good. One of the ways she stretches our food dollar is to make yogurt at home, using live cultures.

We use yogurt in place of milk for most things. Not only is it better for us, it keeps better than milk, which is very important, since we have no refrigerator. We used to buy yogurt, but it’s too expensive. We figured out that it’s far cheaper to buy milk and make it into yogurt. This is especially cost effective if we manage to buy milk just after the weekly barge arrives, when the older gallons go on sale, sometimes for half off.

Below, Michelle describes her process:

  • Whole, 2% or Skim Milk
  • Yogurt with live cultures
  • Cooler
  • Jars and Lids
  • Thermometer
  • Funnel
  • Large soup pot (for heating water)

Ratio: 4T Yogurt to 1 quart Milk

  1. Gather enough glass jars and lids to hold the amount of milk you have. Plastic will work if it is dishwasher safe, but may give off flavors. Heat a large amount of water to boiling then take off heat. Pour a little water in each jar to keep warm until yogurt culture is ready.
  2. Heat milk to 180°, stirring constantly.
  3. Take off heat and cool to about 125°. Set whole pan in sink with cold water to speed this up. The milk will cool a little while you work. This is OK as long as it is 70° or more.
  4. Meanwhile remove 1/4 cup milk and add 4T yogurt per quart of milk. This will warm the yogurt closer to the temperature of the milk.
  5. Stir warmed yogurt into cooled milk and pour into emptied warm jars, top with lids and place in cooler.
  6. Pour warm water from kettle (125° or so) in around the jars, but not over tops. Cover and place out of the way for 4 to 8 hours. (If your cooler is not water tight, use a hot water bottle and fill any extra space around jars with a towel.)
  7. Press back of a spoon to the surface to see if the yogurt is set. Cool in refrigerator right away. (We put ours in the root cellar, or on the front porch if the weather’s cool enough.)

Yogurt can be cultured at any temperature between 70° and 120°, but it takes longer to thicken at the lower temperatures and may have a sour flavor. Cooling it quickly develops less acid so it keeps better.

I use whole milk when I can,  but 2% works okay. Powdered milk tends to make it an odd texture, but canned milk can make it richer. I use a candy thermometer and usually make 1/2 gallon at a time, but you can use any amount with the above ratio.

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4 Responses to Homestead Yogurt

  1. Beth says:

    I did it! It worked like it’s supposed to, a bit bland, but a good first effort. Thanks, Michelle!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Excellent, Beth! By the time you get to the end of the batch, I bet it won’t taste so bland. It tends to ripen as it ages. Good on you for trying this!


  3. Beth says:

    Okay, second batch done. I was worried I hadn’t left enough of the first batch to seed the second, and it appears my worry was unfounded. While it went faster this time, knowing more what I was doing, it was good to have a book to read as I stirred. Michelle, does the milk have to heat to 180, and if so, just curious as to why. As you know, it takes quite awhile to heat up and then to cool down again. I confess – I’m looking to cut corners. Still a bit bland, but I’m getting used to it. It’s really good with cherries, or blueberries and granola.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Here’s what I learned at
    Crucial factors for successful yogurt making:
    1. “Pasteurized milk still retains some bacteria which can give an off flavor, or prevent the starter from proper acidification. Scalding and cooling the milk ensures good results.”
    2. The good “bacteria are killed if exposed to temperatures over 55oC (130o F), and do not grow well below 37oC (98oF). So incubate at 50oC, a temperature on the high side of its preferred growth temperature (122oF), a temperature which inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria. ”
    3. “Do not open the starter (either Dannon Plain yogurt, or 8 oz starter from the previous yogurt batch) until you are ready to make the next batch.”
    As for the length of time it takes, you can speed up the cool down part by placing the hot pan of milk in a sink 1/4 full of cold water. The water should be as high as the milk is in the pan. Stir occasionally and watch the temperature.
    I find that whole milk makes a more flavorful yogurt as well. And you may have noticed that it “sharpens” in flavor as it ages.
    Hope this helps. Thanks for asking.

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