Love yogurt? Make your own – make it Greek, even!

I have a confession to make. I wasn’t planning to post about yogurt until I had mastered it.

The plan was to be like Bruce Wayne in the movie Batman Begins, when he goes off to the mountains and trains to become a kick-ass superhero. Only instead of learning ninja moves, I would learn to make yogurt from all types of milk – almond, coconut, cashew, soy – the more obscure the better. Instead of wielding a sword, I would wield a cooking thermometer. I would learn about The Will to Act – in the kitchen. Then, training completed, I would walk down the mountain filled with knowledge, ready to impart my wisdom to the world – a Yogurt Master.

That’s not what happened. I tried and failed, despite numerous attempts, to make the following yogurts: coconut, cashew, almond. I partially succeeded at making soy yogurt. I am not a master.

However, it’s okay to be a Yogurt Novice. I DID succeed at making dairy milk yogurt, both regular and Greek. It’s not that difficult. I figure if I can make it work, anyone can. I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.

 

NOTES ABOUT YOGURT MAKERS AND YOGURT STARTERS

Although my instructions use a yogurt maker, it is possible to make do without one. I haven’t actually tried other methods, but I don’t see why they can’t work. TheKitchn.com offers several alternatives. I use the Eurocuisine yogurt maker which I found at Bed and Bath and Beyond.

There are two ways to “start” the yogurt: by using a freeze-dried starter packet, or by using plain yogurt. I use Yogourmet, which I found at a health food store. One box contains 6 individual freeze-dried packets and costs around six dollars.

If using yogurt as a starter, make sure it is unflavoured and make sure it contains live bacterial cultures. The added flavours and sugars in commercial yogurt can interfere with the fermentation process. The actual amount needed depends on the strength of the yogurt. Different sources will suggest different amounts. My machine’s instruction booklet say to use 6oz, while websites such as makeyourownyogurt claim to only need 2-3 tablespoons. It is a matter of experimentation and finding what works best for you. I have written instructions based on what works best for me.

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING YOGURT

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You will need

1 liter of milk of any fat content (whole, 2%,1%, skimmed)

1 package of yogurt starter, 5 grams

cooking thermometer

saucepan

whisk

yogurt maker with clean glass jars

Cheesecloth and strainer (if you are planning to make greek yogurt)

 

What to do

If you are planning to make Greek yogurt, you will need to make regular yogurt first and then strain it. If you want regular yogurt, follow these steps only and ignore the extra steps at the end.

Bring the milk to a boil in the saucepan. Do not let it overflow. Turn off the heat and remove the pan immediately.

Allow the milk to cool to a temperature between 42°C to 44°C, or 107°-111°F. You can leave it to cool in the pan, or pour the milk into a bowl and place the bowl into a bucket of ice to quicken the cooling process. Do not reheat.

 

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Use a small bowl or measuring cup to scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cooled milk. Add the yogurt starter to the measuring cup and stir until dissolved. Pour it back in with the rest of the milk.

Pour the milk into the glass jars and place the jars into the yogurt maker, following the machine’s instructions.

 

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As you can see, I prefer to use one large glass container, instead of the 8 small individual jars that came with the machine. So long as the glass is clean and the lid fits on top, it’s all good.

The machine will incubate the milk at a temperature between 42°C and 44°C, or 108-112°F. This is the ideal temperature for the bacteria to multiply. Leave it for 7-10 hours. The exact length of time depends on your personal tastes; the longer it sits, the more tangy the yogurt becomes. I like to do 1% milk for 8 hours.

Once the 7-10 hours are up, remove the jars from the machine and place in the fridge. The cooler temperature will stop the bacterial growth. Chill for at least 3 hours before eating.

 

FOR GREEK YOGURT

You will need a cooled batch of yogurt, a strainer, a large bowl, and cheesecloth.

Place the strainer on top of a bowl, then line the strainer with cheesecloth. Place the yogurt on top of the cheesecloth. Leave it in the fridge to strain for 3-4 hours, or longer if needed.

 

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Next, gently lift the cheesecloth from the strainer and scrape the yogurt into a container, using a spoon or spatula. It will be very thick. Discard the strained liquid.

 

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FOR FLAVOURED YOGURT

I like to add honey or maple syrup to it afterwards along with fresh fruit and granola. I haven’t experimented much with different flavours. For those of you who want more ideas, this post on Waking up Vegan looks promising. I will refer to it in the future when I’m ready to upgrade my yogurt making skills.

 

Has anyone else made homemade yogurt? How did it turn out? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

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