Homemade Yogurt

May 18, 2011 · 6 comments

It’s not hard to make your own yogurt at home. Whether it’s cheaper or better than good commercially produced yogurt is debatable if you start with store-bought milk, but anyone with a dairy animal or access to good-quality fresh milk, should get used to making and eating lots of yogurt. It’s fun, and it’s good for you.

What is yogurt?

In this day and age, that might be a dumb question. Everyone knows what it looks like and tastes like, but what IS it? Well, yogurt is simply incubated milk with active live cultures. Unlike cheese, nothing is taken out of the milk to produce yogurt. The milk is just fermented by the culture.

What is different about homemade yogurt?

Almost all commercially produced yogurt has added powdered milk to boost thickness and protein content. Personally, I don’t add any powdered milk to my yogurt because I don’t see the point of buying powdered milk when I have a dairy goat. It’s also a known thing that cow yogurt will get thicker than goat yogurt, so the result is that my yogurt comes out thicker than milk, but still fairly runny. When you scoop it with a spoon, you will see the impression for only a few seconds before the mass slumps down to fill it in.

I only ever make plain yogurt and add flavors or sweetener after the fact.

How To:

You can make your own yogurt from skim or whole milk (or whatever you prefer). I pasteurize my milk for yogurt, but I know folks who don’t, and they haven’t died yet (more on pasteurized vs. raw another day).

There are three possible sources for starter culture: freeze-dried packaged culture, commercially produced plain yogurt WITH ACTIVE LIVE BACTERIA, or your last batch of yogurt. I have started yogurt by each of these methods with good results.

Heat milk to about 115° (over 120° will kill your culture). Add culture (1 packet of freeze dried stuff per gallon of milk or a couple Tbs. of yogurt per gallon of milk), and mix it thoroughly.








For the next 4-12 hours, you want to keep the temperature of your milk + culture mixture between 100° and 117° in order to let it thicken up. There are many many suggested ways to incubate your milk. You can buy a fancy electric yogurt maker, wrap a jar of milk in a heating pad and blanket, or put it in a yogotherm. I’ve even heard of burying a jar of milk in a hot compost pile or other seemignly unsanitary practices. What I’ve found to be the best non-electric method that works for me is to put a half-gallon jar of milk mixture in a hot-water bath inside a big lunch cooler. This particular Coleman cooler fits up to three half gallon jars.

I place my jar in the cooler and fill it  up to the lid with the hottest tap water I can get (about 110°). Be aware that those plastic lids are not water tight, so don’t submerge your jar unless you use a regular canning lid and ring. Then shut the cooler lid. I usually mix my milk and culture in the morning, let it incubate all day, and then put it in the fridge before I go to bed. It will set up a little further once it chills in the fridge.

Yogurt is a delicious substance on it’s own or with flavorings or sweetener, but I also end up using it often as an ingredient in pancakes or biscuits (where buttermilk is called for) or in Indian dishes like naan or tandoori marinade. I’ll have to post some recipes one of these days. Delicious!


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

glenda May 18, 2011 at 9:22 am

you can buy kitchen specialty strainers or make your own with a funnel and coffee filter or some medium tight woven fabric (sterilize it) like muslin but cheesecloth is too loose.

then what you have is cream cheese. here’s how =you put the plain yogurt in the filtering container so even more of the liquids can drain away and then you finish with a cheese that will be non fat cream cheese to be used like “Philadelphia cream cheese” in your recipes.

Galloping Gourmet sells a yogurt cheese strainer.


Camille May 18, 2011 at 9:30 am

I tried it once. I used the same method that I use for draining chevre curds (tie up and hang a “bag” of yogurt in butter muslin). The yogurt ended up clogging the little holes in the butter muslin, and it didn’t drain very well. I’ll have to try again with something else. It sounds pretty good.


glenda May 18, 2011 at 9:23 am

oh don’t be in a hurry cause it takes quite a while for the liquids to drain off, just cover the whole contraption with a tighter woven fabric to keep pests off.


glenda May 18, 2011 at 10:06 am

Camille – that Gourmet cheese strainer is like one of those coffee filters that are used over and over, it has a mesh type weave in the base of it. I have used it quite a bit and its guilty of clogging up too, so one of the lightly woven clothes might work better, but I know cheesecloth won’t work I tried it and my whole batch ran right thru!! LOL.

I have not tried that lightlly woven tulle or nylon net fabric, but it might work if its small enough holes between the weave of the net. if anyone tries netting, let the rest of us know how it works. love making my own cream cheese!


Laurie October 31, 2011 at 5:38 am

I’ve been making yogurt with a heating pad & blanket. I may have to try the cooler method. Yesterday, I made ricotta cheese for the first time. I was surprised how easy that was. I’ll have to try cream cheese next!


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