Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Monday Mission: Homemade Yogurt, the Easy Way

April 13th, 2009 · 317 Comments · Do It Yourself, Frugality, KS lifestyle, Recipes, Super Foods

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to make homemade yogurt.  (Don’t worry, if you’re not ready for it yet, I have a few intermediate baby steps for you!) This is the second Super Food Challenge.

It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure Monday Mission today…Find your yogurt profile below, and take one (maybe two?) step forward.

Homemade Yogurt Tutorial



Level of Commitment for top three: Baby Steps

    1. I don’t eat yogurt…Your challenge is to try to find some way to eat yogurt that you like!  I found that starting with a plain vanilla worked for me.  Put your favorite breakfast cereal on top if you have to – the yogurt is even healthier than the milk you’d usually use.  Check out the serving suggestions below the recipe for other ways to incorporate yogurt into your meal planning.
    2. I eat run-of-the-mill sweetened yogurt cups…Try buying a 32 oz. tub of yogurt…you’ll save money and have less packaging waste to recycle.
    3. I buy big tubs of vanilla yogurt…Move on to plain yogurt, and use fresh or frozen fruit and your own sweetener.  You’ll find that you can probably use less total sugar than the presweetened storebought brands.  You might even try honey or real maple syrup to avoid refined sugar.
    4. I use plain yogurt and add fresh fruit…You’re ready to make your own, baby!  Move on to the directions…

 

 

Impact Ratings: earthhalf-poshealthpositivemoneypositive Level of Commitment: Making Strides Yogurt is a foundational Kitchen Stewardship recipe because it saves SO much money, improves your nutrition SO much and really is quite easy.  (Broth is the first.)  I think everyone should make homemade yogurt!

NOTE:  Yogurt recipe ideas and 30 other Healthy Snacks to Go recipes now available as an eBook!

Why Make Homemade Yogurt?

I’ll bet a lot of people are apprehensive about making homemade yogurt for a variety of reasons:

  1. too much time
  2. too complicated
  3. afraid it won’t work out
  4. growing bacteria just sounds scary and dangerous

My job is to dispel all your fears and teach the no dishes, no fuss way to make homemade yogurt.  Here’s your motivation:

  1. At current prices of $1.99/gallon for milk and $2-3 per 32 oz. tub of plain yogurt, I save $6-10 every time I make a gallon of yogurt, which I do almost every week.  That’s about $300 a year off my food budget. UPDATE, 9/2011: With another eater around and rising prices on food, my new estimate is that we save $600-800 per year, just by making homemade yogurt, about 1.5 gallons per week. Yes, we eat it that often. More if organic! Click HERE for the breakdown and more budget tips
  2. Nutritionally, I can be totally in charge of the ingredients.  No high fructose corn syrup or fake foods for my family.  Just the health benefits of yogurt, thank you!
  3. Environmentally, I save about 200 32 oz. plastic tubs from going into landfills or being recycled every year.
  4. If you compare to the little plastic presweetened cups, the savings are immeasurably greater in every category.
    exclamation_32x32For example, the last time I read the nutrition facts on a 6 oz. yogurt cup, it contained about 45 grams of sugar.  One teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams, and an 8 oz cup of milk has 12.  I don’t think I could add enough fruit to make 45, so I guarantee you can cut your sugar intake…significantly…by using plain yogurt!
How Much Time Does it Take to Make Homemade Yogurt?

Grand Total15 minutes active work, an hour and a half that you’ll need to be at home.

  • 5 minutes to pour milk into jars
  • a few minutes over the next 20 minutes to check on temperature
  • a few minutes to move the jars to cool them
  • wait an hour and a half or more
  • 5 minutes to stir in the starter and put them to incubate
  • a few minutes to get the jars in the freezer and then the fridge
How Complicated Is It?

The basic steps:

  1. Heat to sterilize the milk.  (185 degrees)
  2. Cool milk to proper incubation temperature.  (90-110 degrees)
  3. Add starter yogurt.
  4. Incubate at warm temperature 4-24 hours.

**If you have raw milk and want to make raw yogurt, click HERE.
*Here’s an option to make crock pot yogurt.

Let’s get started.  There are a bunch of ways to do this, but here’s the easiest method, in my opinion. I realize this post looks very long, but it’s just because I want to hold your hand through every step to take the fear out of the process, which is really simple once you read through this and try it once.

Hear ye, hear ye, visual learners! I have a video of this super simple, no dishes homemade yogurt method as a guest lecture in the GNOWFGLINS Cultured Dairy & Cheesemaking eCourse. Enrollment is open continually and the yogurt lesson is up mid-March. Various levels of membership allow you to “Pay What You Can” and you can view all 40+ weeks of past courses as well! Click HERE for more info.

 

I also created an update with more photos and streamlined steps. Here’s the new homemade yogurt tutorial along with a yogurt troubleshooting guide!

Supplies necessary:

  • Glass jars (quart wide mouth canning jars or empty mayo or spaghetti sauce jars work great)
  • Milk (any, from skim to whole)
  • Candy thermometer, but I can show you how to do it without one too
  • Pot large enough to hold your glass jars
  • 2 Tbs of plain yogurt per quart of milk (Buy the freshest yogurt possible at a store and make sure it has “live and active cultures”.  I prefer Dannon.  I know it has the three top cultures that I’m looking for to help the gut.  The little cups are often on sale for 40-50 cents.)
  • picnic cooler
  • bath/beach towel
  • timer

Prep:

  • Run jars and lids through the dishwasher to sterilize.  They should be totally dry before capping.  I let them air dry completely on top of my toaster oven.  If you’re a real baby stepper, just put this step on your to-do list for this week, along with “print and read yogurt directions”. Then NEXT week you can tackle “make yogurt” on a day of your choosing! {As long as your jars have been thoroughly cleaned, absolutely completely dried out, and then capped, I wouldn’t worry too much about the bacteria…but don’t take my word on it.}
  • Get out picnic cooler and clean bath towel.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt, The Easy Way

The very first time you make yogurt will take a little more attention, because you’ll have to check temperatures to figure out the timing.  After that, it’s a piece of cake!

  1. Put your sink washcloth in the bottom of the pot.  This will prevent the jars from breaking if they start shaking when the water boils (especially if you forget about them).added bonusAdded bonus: You know how sometimes even after washing your dishrag, it still smells sour?  This will knock the stink right out!
  2. Pour milk into your jars to about an inch from the top.
  3. Place jars into the potand fill pot with tap water around the jars.

    make homemade yogurt without a yogurt maker

    Milk ready to boil in the pot. You can see two mayo jars, one canning jar, and a spaghetti sauce jar.

  4. Put candy thermometer on edge of pot.  Heat on high until boiling (now your thermometer is sterilized).  Sometimes I put a spoon in there too so I know it’s sterile for stirring the yogurt starter in.
  5. Move thermometer into one of the jars; turn heat to medium-low or so, just enough to keep the water boiling.
  6. When the milk is at about 185 (you can’t burn it with this method, so if you forget it for a while, it’s OK!) turn off the heat and put lids on the jars.
    The no-thermometer method:  When a “skin” appears on the top, you’re at temp.  Just scoop the skin off and throw it in the sink.
  7. Cool the jars of milk in the refrigerator on the counter. {I used to cool jars in the fridge, but I realized that it was raising the temp of my fridge, and that’s not good for the rest of my food!} Optional: Take starter yogurt out and let it sit on the counter. This ensures that it’s not too cold when you mix it into the warm milk. You can also cool the milk in a sinkful of cold water with ice or ice packs if you’re in a hurry. It works in about 20-30 minutes with water just halfway up the sides of the jars at my house. {In the winter, I put the jars in my cold garage
    UPDATE:  I don’t tax my poor refrigerator with hot milk anymore.  Click here to see my new method and other updates.
  8. Put a lid on your pot of boiling water and arrange the towel in the cooler so you can put the pot in there without melting anything, then close the lid, towel and all.
  9. Your goal is to get the milk down to about 110 degrees. Incubation happens between 90-120 degrees, so you have decent wiggle room, but 100-112 is optimal.  At my house it takes at least 90 minutes on the counter, 50 minutes in the fridge, 20 in the sink.  The first few times you make yogurt, you’ll figure out what your fridge can do.  Keep your thermometer sterile and check after about 45 minutes, or leave the thermometer in the jar for the first time only and check at intervals, keeping in mind that opening the fridge will change the temperature in there just a bit, so adjust next time when you simply set the timer. UPDATE:  I’ve found that I prefer the thickness of the yogurt better at ~100 degrees.
    No-thermometer method:  You can learn what the jars feel like from the outside.  I’ve found that I can’t hold onto the jars with bare hands for more than a few seconds, it’s still too hot.  Give it 5-10 more minutes and check again.  118 degrees is the temp at which enzymes and yogurt bacteria die.  It’s also the temp at which humans say “ouch!”  God built in a way for us to know when our food is too hot for our health!  Another way to check the temp of the milk is to use a clean spoon and drip a bit onto your wrist.  You want it to feel warm, but not painful.  Remember that your body temperature is about 98, and your goal is approximately 10 degrees higher.  If you do have a thermometer, I would recommend the first few times to use it and your wrist so that you know what 110 feels like for future reference.*If you miss and it gets too cold, just heat it up again in the pot on the stove.  It’s just milk at this point, so you’re not out anything!
  10. Stir in ~2 Tbs. plain yogurt for each quart of milk.  Stir gently; remember that you’re dealing with living organisms and you don’t want to knock them senseless!  More is not better; too much starter can make bad yogurt.  Again, these living organisms need room to reproduce.  If you ask too many to live together, it’s like making tenements and living conditions aren’t as nice for your friendly bacteria!
  11. Get those lids on again and nestle your jars in the cooler.  Keep them wrapped in one half of the towel and take the lid off the pot to let the heat out, then close the lid of the cooler to keep the heat in.
    My yogurt jars happily nestled in the cooler, ready to incubate.  Before I close the lid, I'll wrap the towel end from the right around the jars.

    My yogurt jars happily nestled in the cooler, ready to incubate. Before I close the lid, I’ll wrap the towel end from the right around the jars.

    Keep the cooler still, more or less.  Jiggling will affect the consistency of the yogurt.  Don’t let the kiddos “cooler-race” in the kitchen!  If you have no room in your kitchen, put the cooler in another room and leave yourself a note to remind you when to take the yogurt out.

  12. You have to make a call on whether you check your yogurt temp every hour or so (you can add more boiling water to the pot if the temp is getting too low) or just let it go and see what happens.  Keep in mind that again, when you open your cooler, you’re affecting the temperature.  I would recommend leaving it alone, and as long as your cooler is tough enough to keep the heat in the first time, you will never have to babysit your yogurt.  This is NOT rocket science!
  13. Incubate 4-24 hours. Shorter incubation makes sweeter yogurt, longer is more tart.  Also lower incubation temperature makes sweeter yogurt and higher makes more tart.  I’ve had good success between 4 and 8.  I forgot it once when my goal was 4 hours and found I liked it better at 6.  I forgot it once at 6 hours and found that 8 is fine, but I liked 6 better.  More recently I read that after incubating a full 24 hours, almost all the lactose is eaten by the bacteria, making the yogurt extremely digestible.  I tried leaving one jar for 24 hours, and it wasn’t too bad.  I usually shoot for about 16 nowadays.  Experiment to see what you prefer! UPDATE: Since exploring a gluten sensitivity and Crohn’s related issues, all our yogurt incubates for 24 hours.
    Note:  If you incubate longer than 8 hours, I would recommend setting a teapot to boil and pouring the contents into your pot.  For 24-hour-yogurt, I add boiling water before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning.  I’ve never “checked” on the temp of my yogurt – I prefer to leave it alone – and I’ve had no problems.
  14. When the time is up, put the jars into the freezer for about an hour. This improves the texture.  No room in the freezer?  (I did have a broken jar once when I put it directly into the ice.)  Just go right in the fridge.  If you forget the yogurt in the freezer, it’s fine.  Yogurt can freeze!  Just thaw in your fridge.
    Note:  Don’t get too interested in what it looks like until the yogurt is cold.  I have a feeling stirring, and definitely shaking, the jars at this point hurts the process.
  15. That’s it!  You have created yogurt!

UPDATE: I’ve edited this post with most of my new recommendations, but here are two posts detailing some of the important updates I’ve made to my method over the past two years: Homemade Yogurt Updates: Other steps you can take if you’re not ready for homemade (wimps!), New ways to cool the milk, Skim Milk + Cream for homemade yogurt, What Milk SHOULD I Use?, and Greek Yogurt; and 7 Excuses for not Making Homemade Yogurt Denied plus info on 24-hour yogurt and dairy-free yogurt made from coconut milk. Don’t forget you can see video of the method in this eCourse as well.

UPDATE 2012: If this post overwhelms you, be sure to check out the Cliff’s notes version HERE.

What Does it Look Like?

Most of the time, the finished product will have a yellowish “whey” around the thicker yogurt.  This is normal!  You can pour it off (into your soup, preferably – there’s protein in that whey!) or stir it in, depending on what consistency you want.

easy homemade yogurt recipe

See the whey? Looks gross, but it’s just what you want!

8-hour yogurt on the left, 16-hour on the right.  The 16-hour yogurt is a bit thicker, but not appreciably so.

8-hour yogurt on the left, 16-hour on the right. The 16-hour yogurt is a bit thicker, but not appreciably so.

The Easy Clean Up

Lay out your towel to dry and use it for your showers.  Air dry your pot and cooler and put them away.  Your only “dishes” include a spoon and a thermometer (maybe).  Nice!

When your yogurt is cooled and ready to eat, take out a few Tablespoons for a starter for your next batch. Store it in a clean container and date it (I use a glass baby food jar that has been through the dishwasher).  Best practice is to take your starter out first so that it’s the least contaminated by folks dipping out yogurt throughout the week.

I’ve found that I can make a batch every one to two weeks or so and the starter is still plenty strong.  I might buy a new starter at the store every two months.  If my yogurt starts getting runny, especially twice in a row, I can solve it by buying a new starter.

Serving Suggestions

Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks…We like the plain yogurt at our house with a bit of sugar (about a tsp per serving) or honey and frozen fruit.  Yum-O!  When I sweeten a whole quart, I use about ¼ c. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Remember to stir gently – if you whip up your yogurt too hard, it will remain runny.

Sour Cream Sub…Plain Yogurt can substitute in any recipe that calls for sour cream.

Smoothies…Add milk, fresh or frozen fruit, maybe a few ice cubes, and blend.  A snack or a dessert!  Green smoothies are all the rage right now.  I use half yogurt and half milk with the fruit, and my boys think a frozen banana really makes it great!

Bake with it…you can use yogurt instead of milk in biscuits, cornbread, and pancakes. I also just read that you can replace some of the butter or oil in muffin or brownie recipes and all of the fat in cake mixes.

Dips and dressings…Add chopped cucumber and dill weed to plain yogurt and eat as a salad or with grilled meat.  I’ll share some more recipes later in the week.

UPDATE:  A new post about what to do with your plain yogurt.

Here is how thick my yogurt turns out.  It can get a bit smoother after stirring well, but gently.

Here is how thick my yogurt turns out. It can get a bit smoother after stirring well, but gently.

Yogurt definitely keeps well for two weeks, probably longer, but it does get more tart with age.

A Note on Skim vs. Whole Milk

For the first 3 years of my yogurt making, I used skim milk and added powdered dry milk to thicken it up.  After doing more research on dairy, I’m pretty convinced that skim milk, which has powdered milk added to it anyway, is pretty bad for you.  (Here’s the explanation of that: oxidized cholesterol).  However, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool low-fat/no-fat kind of person and are going to use skim milk, add this step:

At 110 degrees, pour about ¼ cup (just dump some in) nonfat dry milk into each jar.  This has 3 purposes:  added protein, added calcium, and it can thicken the finished product a bit.

added bonusAdded bonus:  if you do choose skim or reduced fat milk for the adults in your family but have a child under two who requires whole milk, you can make different versions at the same time.  Just label the top of your jars.

A Note on Organic Milk

Organic yogurt is a great step toward health for your family.  Pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, etc. are found in higher concentrations in animal products because the animals eat lots of grains or plant products to produce that one gallon of milk or one pound of meat.  When making your own yogurt, however, it’s not recommended to use “ultra-high-temperature” pasteurized milk (UHT), which applies to most organic milk, definitely that sold in cardboard cartons.  Here is an explanation of why.  If you have the money to buy organic milk, I’d highly recommend looking into getting it from a local farm.  See www.realmilk.com for more.

Safety notes
  • Remember that you’re dealing with bacteria here and asking it to multiply on purpose.  Be aware of introducing naughty bacteria into your milk/yogurt.
  • While the milk is being sterilized, try to keep the inside of the lids out of the air (bacteria-city).  I just put them facing each other on the counter.
  • If your stirring spoon can come right out of the hot dishwasher, kudos to you.  Some people put a spoon into a clean plastic bag when they take it out of the dishwasher if they know they’re making yogurt soon.  Or, you can put it in the pot of boiling water and use tongs to get it out.
  • Wash your hands well at every step!
  • Think about where you set your candy thermometer while the milk is cooling if you need to use it to check for the 110 degrees.

Note:  I have loosened up a lot over the years on my bacteria-consciousness.  I still wash my hands before doing each step, but you ought to do that whenever you’re cooking anyway.  Just keep things clean and don’t worry.  This isn’t rocket science!  You’ll know by the smell if the bacteria is wrong in the finished product.

Troubleshooting
  • Yogurt too runny?
    • Yogurt got too cool while incubating (bacteria inactive)  I’m pretty sure this is not a big deal as long as the yogurt is at the proper temp for at least the first four hours.
    • Milk too hot when starter stirred in (bacteria dies)  This one is a deal breaker!
    • Stirred too hard when introducing starter
    • Weak starter – buy new yogurt at the store
    • What to do with failure?  There’s nothing wrong with runny yogurt.  Stir in some unflavored gelatin and use it anyway or be creative with runny half-milk, half-yogurt.  Smoothies, anyone?  Use it in baking like you would milk, or make cream of vegetable soup.  If your yogurt incubated WAY too hot, it’s pretty much just milk.  Make hot chocolate and try again tomorrow!
  • Cottage-cheese-like consistency?
    • This is my most common problem.  I really believe the freezer step helps guarantee a creamier consistency.  I also think the precise temperature when you stir in the starter may make a difference here, but I haven’t pinpointed exactly how to make perfect yogurt every time.  Also make sure you’re not overdoing the amount of starter. Just 2 Tbs! Sometimes just stirring gently will help out with this problem.
  • Tastes sour?
    • Too much starter
    • Incubated too hot or for too long for your taste
  • Strong, yucky smell?
    • Introduced bad bacteria into yogurt, then let it multiply.  Throw away this batch and be more careful next time!
  • Need more help?
Who Should Make Their Own Yogurt?

Best of luck to all of you! I’m convinced that everyone should make homemade yogurt, if you eat it at all.  I used to think you had to be an at-home-mom or have time on the weekends, but now that I’ve successfully cultured 24-hour-yogurt, I really think anyone could do it, even if you work all day long.  Just start the yogurt while you’re making dinner, add boiling water before bed and in the morning during breakfast, and remove the yogurt after work the next day.  You could also just incubate overnight and put in the freezer in the morning.  I have accidentally left yogurt in the freezer overnight with no negative repercussions.  You can do this!  It’s NOT rocket science, it’s just a little food science that anyone who can make chocolate chip cookies (and I barely can do that!) can handle.  Check back this week for more recipes and rationale for making your own delicious, nutritious homemade yogurt!

UPDATE: You can also make it even easier, incubating on the countertop if you try a Cultures for Health starter.

For more great ideas for the kitchen and balancing your nutrition, budget and earth, see these links:

This post will be entered in Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family this week. Also find more milk recipes at Tammy’s Recipes. After School Frugal snacks at Cents to Get Debt Free and ways to cut the food budget at Beauty and Bedlam.

worksformewed

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317 Comments so far ↓

  • Brittany

    Another easy way to make yogurt is in your Crockpot.

    You put 4 cups of milk in, and put it on low for 2.5 hours. At the end of 2.5 hours, turn off the Crockpot (no opening the lid!) and leave it for another 3 hours. At the end of that 3 hours, ladle out 2 cups and mix it with 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (saved from the last batch or bought at the store). Stir it back in with the rest and wrap the Crockpot in a heavy towel to incubate for 8+ hours (Mine works best if I leave it overnight). Voila! Yogurt!

    Jaime Kiser Reply:

    I love making yogurt this way but it was a complete mess after I froze it. It thawed and became all seperated. Any suggestions on making freezable yogurt?
    .-= Jaime Kiser´s last blog ..I love you, even though you’re square =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Jaime,
    I’ve never had completely frozen yogurt that thawed well. The cultures are still alive for your next batch, but you’re right, the texture is awful for eating. Are you looking for “freeze now, eat later” or “frozen yogurt” like ice cream? The only thing that *might* make the yogurt not separate is the same thing we do to freeze unhomogenized milk: shake the jar every half hour or so while it freezes. Of course, you’ll probably have very runny yogurt then, but at least it might not be separated.
    Good luck!
    Katie

    Jennifer Reply:

    Would this work for a non-dairy milk as well? I’m thinking almond milk or soy milk (I know, I know, but my son won’t eat coconut milk yogurt).

    Katie Reply:

    Jennifer,
    I would try it with almond milk first, as soy has a lot of question marks around it, especially for young growing children. The bacteria need a sugar to eat, and I’m not sure of the sugar content in almond milk, but perhaps even just adding a dash of sugar would do it. I tried coconut milk yogurt once, and it came out sort of drinkable, and totally gross tasting! So I’m not very well-versed in the non-dairy side, but it’s worth a try with one jar, you know? Good luck! :) Katie

    Steph Reply:

    Can the crockpot method be made with raw milk? Thanks.

    Katie Reply:

    Yes! If you want the yogurt to be raw and not pasteurized at all, you’ll have to test the temp of the milk to make sure it doesn’t get beyond 110F, and set your timer for that, but it should work out just fine. :) Katie

    Steph Reply:

    Would making in in the crockpot work with raw milk?

    Tif Reply:

    I love the crock pot method, it’s all I’ve used.

    I have a tip for fellow yogurt fans that maybe don’t want to dive into making their own yogurt but still want a healthier alternative to the commercial sweetened varieties. My work schedule gets crazy sometimes so I simply just don’t have time to tend to yogurt. When this happens, I puchase 1 tub of plain organic yogurt and 1 tub of sweetened organic or as-natural-as-possible yogurt (I love Greek Gods). I mix both together in a large bowl then put it back into the containers… or divvy out into small reusable containers for the rest of the week. It cuts the sugar in half and tastes way better then “run of the mill” sweetened yogurts… why do commercial yogurt producers try to cover the taste of yogurt with so much sugar?? Oh, maybe it’s because they are trying to cover up the taste of other questionable ingredients in their yogurt…

    Katie Reply:

    GREAT ideas! :) Katie

    Verna Reply:

    “Will it affect the good bacteria or the nutrition of the yogurt if you add sweeteners or sugar?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Verna,
    Once the yogurt is cultured (finished) you shouldn’t be able to hurt the bacteria. Good point that eating sugar isn’t all that great for your personal bacteria or system, but it is fine in the yogurt. :) Katie

    Suzy Q Reply:

    In my crockpot and my house we’ve gotten it down to a science. I pour 1 gallon of raw or yucky pasterurized milk (the Weston Price foundation says this is pretty much the only acceptable way to use it) into my crockpot and turn it on low for 3 hours, Then I shut it off and let it sit for three hours, then I add one cup of plain yogurt (usually from my last batch). Put the lid back on, wrap it in a big towel and let it sit til the next day (sometimes first thing in the morning, sometimes I forget til lunch time. I usually start it about 3 PM. As long as I don’t forget my every 3 hours time limit, my batches always work great. I use it in place of buttermilk and a thick cup of yogurt in place of the milk in your whole wheat biscuits makes all the difference in the world for fluffy biscuits!

  • Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    So much great info, Katie!!!

  • Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home

    I just posted about making yogurt in my crock pot!

    http://www.heaveninthehome.com/2009/04/10/crockpot-yogurt/

    It is SO easy and always turns out well. My only regret is not starting this sooner!

  • Innkeeper Seely

    We serve yogurt every day but I’ve never made it before. This sure would be less expensive than the stuff we buy. The crock pot method is singing to me though.

  • Sharon

    I have wanted to do this for quite a while but never had the courage—you make it sound SO easy! Love it! Thanks!!

  • Katie

    Niki – The link for borax is here: http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsworkfaqs/a/howboraxworks.htm. There’s a pretty good discussion going on in my dishwasher post. I am sure Dr. Bronner’s would work, as would other castille soaps. Please let me know if you try the DW detergent; I’m so interested to know if it works! So glad you like the site!

  • Niki

    WOW, what a great detailed post. Nobody should have problems making yogurt with all you have given them. I find so many yogurt makers at the thrift stores for cheap and makes the steps all that much easier. You mentioned in my post on homemade dishwashing detergent that borax is really bad. I knew it was but only in large quantities as it still is a natural product. Do you have the link to that info, I would love to read more. The recipe you provided calls for castille soap, would this be Dr. Bronners? Thanks for the info and great site, I just signed up for the reader

  • Katie

    Yay! Take courage and eat yogurt! :)

  • Katie

    I’m not offended if you try the crockpot method…I’m curious to try it myself for comparison’s sake. Thanks for visiting!

  • sustainableeats

    What a great detailed post. I’ll have to try the freeer step since I’ve never done that. Thanks for the tip!

  • Crystal

    What great instructions! I now have the courage to try this. I’ve been wanting to make my own yogurt for a while now, but I just haven’t been brave enough to do it. The way you explain it I feel like I can do it! Thanks. I look forward to reading more at your site.

  • Sara

    Wow, great details. Thanks for sharing.

  • Merf

    Thanks for all the great information! I made yogurt a few times, and then let it slide when I no longer had access to raw milk. Now I occasionally am able to get it, but usually buy the non-homogonized. Do you know if you can continue to make yogurt, switching between raw and pasturized milk?

  • Susanna

    Thanks for sharing these instructions. I’ve been making my own yogurt with raw milk, but our source is not milking for a couple months so now I have to make it with store-bought milk. I only have the courage to do this since you quoted Sally Fallon saying it was OK. I’m a big fan of the raw milk benefits! But we also like to eat cultured dairy, and I rely on it for soaking grains and for including in smoothies. So tonight I”ll be giving it a try with some pasteurized, homogenized, whole milk. I have an insulated cooler, so I just line mine with a towel and then I used a couple jars of hot water to surround my jars of yogurt. That’s been working very well for me. But I’m also very anti-dishes and I often spill some milk when I’m pouring it from the pot I heated it in into the glass jars, so maybe I’ll have to try your entire method. :)
    I’ve been enjoying your blog. Thanks for all your hard work and for the Christ-centered perspective you operate from!

  • Katie

    Susanna – You are very welcome. I’m touched to know that you’re appreciating my efforts! I hope the yogurt works great for you!

  • Katie

    Merf – So that would mean using raw milk yogurt as a starter for a store milk batch and vice versa…I guess I can only theorize whether it would make an impact or not. You can use store yogurt to start a raw milk yogurt, so I bet it would be fine both ways. If it were me, and I didn’t have a lot of access to raw milk, I would probably just drink it straight and make yogurt from store stuff, getting the best of both worlds. Best of luck!

  • Katie

    Helen – You mean you hung the yogurt to thicken it into yogurt cheese? The whey is priceless! Keep in in the fridge for up to 4 months and use it for: soaking grains (see posts at thenourishinggourmet.com or passionatehomemaking.com for how and why), add to soups, smoothies, casseroles, cream sauces, etc (i.e. anything you can sneak it into) for extra nutrients, add to homemade condiments to extend their life. There are probably more uses, too, but I’m rather new to this! I always use all of mine up just for soaking grains for breads, biscuits, oatmeal and cooked brown rice. But I usually only make about a quart of yogurt a month into cheese… Hope that helps!

    Kristy Reply:

    Pets and houseplants/gardens love whey as well. Also, the crockpot insert is a great container for making yogurt in with the cooler method because it keeps the temperature so stable. The hardest part is leaving it alone for the full ferment time! (especially the first time)

    Katie Reply:

    Kristy, Great notes! Thank you much…welcome to KS!

  • Helen

    I just finished draing my yogurt made out of raw milk. I have one quart of whey leftover and not sure what to do with it.

  • Sarah W

    I love the no dishes method! I’ve been making home made yogurt for a few weeks now and let it incubate in the oven with the light on (per NT.) Do you think this would also work with your method if I wanted to try without using a cooler?

    I had no idea the amount of starter made a difference… I just make a little jar of yogurt to be my starter for the next batch… probably a couple ounces. So far it has turned out fine. I also shook my little guys to make sure they got distributed in the warm milk well – oops! But they seemed to do OK anyways.

    Katie Reply:

    Sarah,
    As long as the incubation arena is between 90-110 degrees, it should work no matter how you begin the process or what the yogurt is in. The source I learned from even had “a hot car in the summer” on the list of possible incubation places! I just choose the cooler because I couldn’t figure out the whole light in the oven thing. My light doesn’t give off any heat, I guess…
    I also use a little jar – baby food – for my next starter, and I don’t measure perfectly to be sure. As long as your yogurt is yummy, you’re doing great!
    Thanks for stopping by – come again! :) Katie

  • Katie

    WordPress won’t let me add anything more to this post – it’s too long! Sheesh. Here’s the latest update:
    UPDATE 5/30/09: The raw milk yogurt experiment:
    1. on the counter: no good. Temp not nearly high enough to incubate yogurt. It’s pretty much milk with yogurt suspended in it. I only left it 4 hours; maybe some would say to go longer, but I didn’t want to waste the milk. We’ll have smoothies with it tomorrow!
    2. 4 hours is a good time in the cooler; the yogurt is plenty thick enough. Ha
    3. I have to disagree with Sally Fallon. I tried 5 Tbs of starter (slightly more than she recommends) and 2 Tbs, along with the 3+ Tbs that Nourishing Traditions calls for. The 5 Tbs version was awful: all whey and a little sludge. Both the 2 and 3+ Tbs version worked fine, but the 2 Tbs version is much smoother, although very whey-filled. I can’t even handle the texture of the Fallon version. It will be hung to make cream cheese for sure.

    See photos at this page: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/raw-milk-yogurt-escapades/

  • Christine

    Hi Katie, I have a question (or two) for you. My yogurt is coming out too runny and with a poor consistancy (not very smooth – more like buttermilk) and tastes more like milk than yogurt. Can you think of what I can do to fix this? I have made good batches as well, but I seem to have more batches that do not work out than do.

    Second – have you ever tried to make homemade sour cream? We use alot of sourcream in our house and I would love to reduce the amount of containers and save some money if possible!

    Thanks!!

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Hmmmm…troubleshooting yogurt from afar is tricky. Let me ask you a few questions: store milk or raw milk? What are you using for starter? If it tastes like milk, I’m wondering if your starter bacteria died. That would mean either too hot to start, or it got waaaaay too cool quickly before the bacteria could multiply. If there’s any steam coming out of the jar when you stir the hot milk, it hasn’t cooled enough and will kill your bacteria. Can you figure out if you’re doing anything different between the good and failed batches? things like: temp in house, opening the fridge door a lot while milk is cooling, different starters, etc.

    re: sour cream: Yes! I use raw milk, so getting cream to start with is easy. If you had to buy cream to make sour cream, I don’t know that you’d save any packaging or money, but then again I’ve never priced cream at quantities larger than 8 oz. I actually am adding a page to my “Homemade butter” (under Recipes tab) page next Friday detailing how to make sour cream a bit. Can you wait that long? :) Thanks!

    I hope you can get your yogurt to work out!!

    Christine Reply:

    Thanks for getting back to me!

    I am not noticing a difference in what I could be doing between my good verses failed batches, that is the biggest problem. I have found lots to do with the failed batches at least, I just use it like buttermilk in recipes and it tastes really good, but I still want yogurt! I don’t use raw milk, mainly because I have no idea how to even get it. I use whole milk and watch my temperatures closely, I have tried two different starters, both have given me good and failed batches. Maybe it is cooling down to quickly or I am not letting it sit and culture long enough (I typically let it sit between 4 – 6 hours), how long did you say you normally let your yogurt culture? Maybe I should be checking for temperatures and letting it culture longer.

    I will just keep at it, when the batch does work it is the best yogurt I have ever had, I can never go back to store bought again. Thanks for your help, I sure do appreciate your trying to trouble shoot for me!

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  • Presley

    I make yogurt using a thermos. I heat the milk in a pan, not by double boiling, and I’ve never had it burn. Then I let it cool, put it in a thermos, and add the starter. When I’m ready to stop incubation, I put the thermos, opened, in the fridge. Then I just pour out however much I want from my thermos each time I want yogurt.

    Once I made a batch that I didn’t like the consistency of, and I got some cheesecloth and strained it. I used the whey as the liquid in biscuits (you can also use it to make ricotta), and I put the curds in a salad like I would use goat cheese. I’d probably mix some salt or something into the curds if I did it again, but overall it was successful.

  • Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Just wanted to let you know I linked to this in my weekly roundup post (last week already – yikes!) One of these days I’m going to get brave enough . . .

  • The Homemaking Helper

    WOW! I guess I never realized you could make your own yogurt. It looks easy too. I’m definitely going to try this. Even though yogurt is such a great thing for kids to eat it I’ve found that store bought yogurt can also be a huge source of artificial colors, flavors and sugar. This way I can control what goes into my children’s mouths. Thanks!

  • Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free

    I just made yogurt for the first time this week in my crockpot. I added a little bit of honey to my serving and it is delish! Can’t wait to make smoothies with it for the kids after school snack.

    Hmmm…and I may just have to try using it in place of sour cream.. Ooohhh..and baking?!

    Lots of great info! Thanks for linking up to Finding Freedom Friday!

  • Lisa

    Great post! I have been making yogurt for some time now on the stove, but I have a lot of trouble with the milk burning on the bottom of the pan. I love your idea of putting the milk in jars first!

    For incubating my yogurt I put it in our microwave (above the stove) and turn on the light that shines over the stove. It makes the inside of the microwave the perfect temp for yogurt and bread.

    I also make double batches so that one can be yogurt cheese (like cream cheese but a bit tart). I just strain it through cheesecloth until it’s the right consistency. Then I use the whey for soaking grains.

  • Kelly

    Thank you for the amazing info and all the hand-holding! I’ve been a little intimidated about making yogurt without going out and buying a yogurt maker (read: unitasker!), but I finally tackled it today. I went with the Crock Pot method and can’t wait to see how it turns out in the morning!

  • Shawn

    Katie, I made your yogurt today. I’m still waiting for it to incubate and can’t wait to try it. I’ve been wanting to make yogurt again, but my oven doesn’t have a light in it and I didn’t know any other way, so I was really glad to run across your method. Thanks for including pictures. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words! I may try the crockpot method too. We’re going to have smoothies tomorrow!
    .-= Shawn´s last blog ..10 Ways To Save Money =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Shawn,
    Nice! Hope you enjoy it! :) Katie

    Shawn Reply:

    Katie, my yogurt was perfect this morning! Nice and smooth and creamy. My dd said it looked like whipped cream. I left it in the cooler for 6 hours and put it in the freezer for about 45 minutes. Thanks again for directions. We had great smoothies for breakfast.

  • Marc

    Thanks for the information.

    You shouldn’t do this though :

    (From the website)
    “Cool the jars of milk in the refrigerator. ”

    By doing that you will raise the temperature of your whole refrigerator. This can affect all the food you have in there … also it’ll make your fridge warmer for a long time and it’ll take a while for the compressor to get the temperature down again … My way of cooling down is to put the big PYREX bowl I use on top of a frozen bag of peas I leave on the kitchen counter- – Takes 75 minutes for the temp. to cool down to the correct temperature that way.

    Funny, I just FINISHED making yogurt 30 minutes ago before finding your site..
    (I make 3 containers once a week, 650g. each.) I always use DANONE ACTIVIA as the starter. 1 frozen cube’s worth. Incubation time, 5 hours 45 minutes.

    All went well, but since I’ve made it 25-30 times already there’s no
    big surprise and I have my technique down and everything. It’s 90% similar to the method described here and I never had any problems.

    Cheers !

    Marc ;-)

    Katie Reply:

    Marc,
    You are absolutely right! I have recently changed to a sink half full of cold water w/ ice pks and it only takes 20 minutes to cool. I am planning to post an update quite soon! Thank you for the good info! Welcome– Katie

  • Anne

    Yeaa!! With your excellent instructions, I made my first batch of yogurt a couple of weeks ago, and a second batch a couple of days ago. I’m so proud of myself. It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. Both batches turned out as well as the original yogurt, if not better. Great taste, lovely white color, and nice creamy consistency.
    I used three 16 oz. wide mouth Newman’s Own salsa jars that I sterilized in boiling water on stove top (first batch only). With second batch, I decided that washing in hot soapy water was good enough. Because I made the yogurt late at night, I put the heated jars of milk on my back patio to cool (about 40-50 mins.) Into my 15 qt. ice chest, instead of the pan with water, I stood on its end at one end of the chest, a “Snuggle Safe” microwaved heatpad (solid, 8 in. diameter disk that I use for my dog, Katie) wrapped in a beach towel, the jars of prepared yogurt wrapped in the rest of the beach towel, and didn’t check it until 13 hrs. later. I left one of the three jars in the freezer for about a week, but when I thawed it out, it had separated into curds and whey. Did not do the freezer bit with the second batch. Still have the whey from the first batch in the fridge — what to do with it? With my second batch, I added a fourth jar (about 6 oz.) that I will save as my starter in case I decide to increase the amount of yogurt I make.
    Besides eating the yogurt myself, I also feed it to my dog — a precautionary measure since she’s on a raw food diet.
    A wonderful bonus of making my own yogurt is preventing new 32 oz. containers of yogurt from coming into my home, as I can’t bear to throw into the landfill all the empty ones I’ve already accumulated. So, thank you, Katie, for sharing this great recipe and giving me the courage to attempt it.

    Katie Reply:

    Anne,
    Fabulous! So glad to hear of your success! I am actually posting on Monday one thing you can do with the whey. I also use it to make homemade tortillas http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/10/21/recipe-connection-100-whole-grain-homemade-tortillas/ and you can use it for some of the water called for in bread making.

    Thanks for the comment!
    Katie

  • Megan

    Just made yogurt this weekend using your recipe and it came out great!
    Some questions though:
    1. What bacteria do you look for in yogurt?
    2. Do you have to use plain yogurt? I’d like to use Activia, but I’d have to drive 50 miles to get the plain version. What effect does a flavored yogurt have if you’re just using 2 T per quart?

    Again, thanks for the recipe. I’m going to attempt making yogurt cheese this week w/ one of the quarts.

    Katie Reply:

    Megan,
    I have never tried flavored, to be honest. Recipes always call for plain, but girl, if you try it – you must let us know how it works!

    Remember that the biggie for fighting bad bacteria is always L. acidophilus, which is in any self-respecting yogurt. I’ve seen a list of the “top 3″ for good gut bacteria, but I can’t put my hands on it right now.

    Activia is under fire right now for making claims it couldn’t support, is it not? Something to think about! I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to use their bacteria though, if the flavored stuff works.

    Good questions – now I’m curious about the flavored stuff, too! :) Katie

    Anne Reply:

    I’m looking at a container (empty) of Horizon Organic yogurt which has 5 live and active cultures: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, & L. casel. Maybe the first 3 listed are the ones you’re thinking of. A Dannon container just says “contains active yogurt cultures including L. acidophilus.

    Lori Reply:

    I use vanilla flavored yogurt for my starter most of the time, because it is so hard to find the plain in the single serving cups. It turns out just as well as the plain.
    Katie, Thanks so much for posting this method. I had never tried making my own before, but I have become a pro at it the last 2 months. The kids love it, and they eat it almost as fast as I make it. I have also strained it and made cream cheese.

  • Megan

    My stomach was just in knots for about a week after eating the yogurt 3 days in a row. The yogurt smells fine, tastes fine, but is it possible it still was bad?

    Could it just be that with replenishing the good bacteria to my system that my body was working on getting rid of bad bacteria? The flu has also been going around, but I felt fine other than my gut and being tired. I guess it’s possible it was just a coincidence.

    Has this happened to anyone else? I’ve never had a problem with dairy products before.

    Katie Reply:

    Megan,
    Yikes! I’m definitely not qualified to troubleshoot with you here…we’ve never had a problem like that. Have you been a yogurt eater in the past? The bacteria in the homemade *should* match that in the storebought starter. Anyone else in your house eating the same stuff? I hope it works itself out and doesn’t turn out to be bad yogurt. :( Katie

  • Ryel

    I have had the best of luck using a heating pad set to medium for the incubation stage. Maintains a nice even temperature and yields perfect creamy yogurt. Set it on a cutting board, put your containers right on the heating pad, and wrap them with a couple dish towels. I let mine sit for 7 hours.
    .-= Ryel´s last blog ..1000 Gardens Project =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Ryel,
    It’s great to have lots of alternatives – makes taking the plunge that much easier! Thanks for sharing – Katie

  • CcsMomma

    I just finished my first batch! *squee* I couldn’t help but taste a bit of it before it cooled. Delicious! Yum! If it hadn’t been for my reading (and reading, and reading…LOL!) your many posts about yogurt I probably would have been content with simply buying a quart every few weeks. Thanks for singing the praises of homemade yogurt!

  • Gaby Swanson

    My family doesn’t do too well with milk. Can I use almond milk instead? Thanks for posting this!

    Katie Reply:

    Gaby,
    I have had others ask about coconut milk, and I’m really not sure. The only way to try would be to do one quart or so and see what happens. I’m curious too! Depending on “doesn’t do too well” means, some people can digest cultured milk, especially if you incubate it for 24 hours, much better than straight milk. That one would be up to you to determine if an experiment is worth the risk of feeling awful. Good luck! :) Katie

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  • Laura

    I made my first batch today. Looks great. I will try it tomorrow. Thanks for your easy to follow directions. I let mine sit in the oven with the light on after warming it to 150 and then shutting it off. Worked great.

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  • Chandra Jonkman

    Our milk is already up to $2.70 if not higher. I’m amazed at your $1.99 price. Is it economical then for me?

    Katie Reply:

    Chandra,
    $1.99 is on sale here…Just price it vs. your 32 oz. tub of plain yogurt. One gallon of milk will make 4 32 oz. tubs – I’m guessing you’ll still save tons of money! :) Katie

    Sky Mahoney Reply:

    one gallon turns into two gallons? I was thinking it would be economical for me (1 gallon tub of yogurt is $6, but one gallon of milk is sometimes more than 6!). How does it double?

    Sky Mahoney Reply:

    never mind–I can’t add! We buy the half gallon containers for $6. I think I might try this then!!

  • Sara Cart

    I didn’t read through the comments so I’m not sure someone already asked, but can you freeze this for a longer lifespan?

    My husband does not eat yoguart and my son doesn’t eat much in one sitting so I would have to freeze whatever I make.
    .-= Sara Cart´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Sara,
    You can freeze yogurt, and it will culture a future batch just fine, but the consistency doesn’t stay very nice. Good for smoothies, but not really for eating. You could always make one jar at a time with this method (or find lots of yogurt recipes!). :) Hope it works out for you – Katie

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  • Kim

    I just found your site. I can’t wait to read more! I have a question about homemade yogurt…how long does it keep in the refrigerator?

    Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Kim,
    Welcome! At least two weeks, sometimes longer. :) Katie

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  • Michelle

    Thanks for introducing me to homemade yogurt! I tried the crockpot method and the results weren’t quite as good as I wanted (a little too runny), but I was too lazy to go out to the shed to get down the cooler so I came up with a hybrid method:
    1. Put milk in mason jars that fit in your crockpot, line the crock with a towel and fill with water.
    2. Put it on low until it comes up to 185 F (you can turn it on high for an hour or so to jumpstart if you’ll be around to keep an eye on it). You can measure the temp of the water instead of the milk.
    3. Turn off your crockpot and let the temp come down to 100 F. You can throw a couple of ice cubes in the water to help it come down faster.
    4. Add the appropriate amount of yogurt to each mason jar. I used pints, so 1 TB each. Stir and then put on the lids.
    5. Check the temp of your water every couple hours. If it gets low, turn the crock back on low for 10 minutes or so to get it back to temp. Let incubate for however long you like it.
    6. Just like Katie’s method, put the jars in the freezer for an hour and then transfer to the fridge.

    Worked wonderfully for me, it was really easy, and there was just about no clean up! Woo-hoo!

    gayle Reply:

    My crockpot isn’t really big. Why do you put the towel in it? Doesn’t seem like there would be room for my jars..? I like the concept of this method though..thanks!

  • Laura

    I remember seeing a post about how to make greek yogurt and I thought it might have been here. Does anyone know how?

    Sarah W Reply:

    Yes. You just need to partially strain some of the whey out until it is the thickness you desire. A few hours will probably do it.

    Katie Reply:

    Laura,
    As far as I know, Greek yogurt is usually yogurt with some of the whey strained out like this: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/12/02/what-is-whey-where-can-i-get-it-how-to-make-yogurt-cheese/ but stopping before the “cheese” consistency. I bought a Greek yogurt (plain) and used it to make absolutely delicious yogurt using exactly this method from the post! I didn’t strain it to make it thicker, but I could.
    Hope that helps! :) Katie

    Laura Reply:

    Thanks Katie. I will try it.

  • Johanna

    I know this post is almost a year old, but I’m slowly working my way through your Challenges and had to share this tip with you… I make my own baby-meal yogurt with homemade frozen food cubes that my son is too old to eat on their own. I thaw 1 cube overnight in the fridge, mix in with a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of yogurt and he LOVES it! His favs are pear/beans and squash/peach. Sometimes I’ll use a straight cantalope or grape food cube, and it’s more like a snack. He loves his “yo-gschg” [the easter european heritage really comes out in his gutteral Gs!]. I’ve made fresh yog before [even tried with breastmilk to mixed reviews--was more like kefir] but working 10hrs a day I don’t have time to tend to a pot. However, you’ve motivated me again, and I’m ordering the room-temp culture now from CFH [maybe some water kefir too!]. Thanks for the inspiration!

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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