I have a confession. When I saw “making your own yogurt” on that list of baby steps, I thought Katie had lost her marbles. Never in a million years did I think that I’d EVER make yogurt. Nor did I want to. It was daunting and downright scary.
See that picture? That’s what could happen when you make yogurt and it doesn’t turn out. She wanted me to – INTENTIONALLY – make something that could turn out chunky, cottage-cheesy, runny, lumpy and/or thick cheesy weird stuff?!
AND THIS WAS A BABY STEP?!
No way, nuh uh, not happening.
So I skipped over yogurt and moved on to a different step. Or maybe I just quit looking at the list altogether and ate a piece of cake. I can’t remember anymore.
Tiffany came clean later in the week: she actually chose to make milk kefir first.
Eventually I gave the idea of making yogurt a second chance. Maybe it was more of a mental hurdle than anything else, because once it was done, I realized how simple it everyone was claiming it to be. Leading up to the actual making, however, I employed every excuse imaginable.
- Katie’s recipe uses a big cooler. Nope, don’t have a cooler. Guess I can’t make yogurt.
- She calls for quart jars. Don’t have those either.
- Her pot is big enough to hold four quart-sized jars. Besides not having the jars, my pot is too small.
- Oh, she offers the crockpot method too… Oh but that yogurt turns out runny, and I don’t want runny yogurt.
- Some people add powdered milk to make it thicker? Nope, not taking the chance on that one. Something about oxidized cholesterol when the milk goes through all the tiny holes. Not sure what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.
- Wait, you can make it in the oven? Nuh-uh, with my luck I’ll forget it’s in there and preheat the oven for pizza night (550 degrees) and then have cooked yogurt. And that’s just gross.
- Some have had success using a heating pad? Wait, I have a heating pad…
- Whole milk can make it thicker without using powdered milk? Um…
- Any size jar will work. Well shoot.
Officially out of excuses, I (reluctantly) put on my big girl panties and psyched myself up to make yogurt. But there was one issue that was still difficult to wrap my head around.
Why Should I Make Yogurt?
At the time, the only reason we bought yogurt was for a recipe. Not even a family favorite recipe though. More like a once-in-a-blue-moon type of gig. It’s fair to say that maybe a total of two quarts made it into my grocery cart in any given year. Why in the world would I attempt to make something like yogurt from scratch if I rarely even bought it?!
The only person in the family who actually ate it – outside of a baked good or recipe – was my daughter. She only ate it twice a year (to finish off the containers used for the recipe) and it was considered a treat. That was just fine by me.
In my eyes, yogurt wasn’t a vibrant and rich source of nutrition. It just felt like another form of dairy… and with dairy comes the big organic vs. non-organic milk debate with the hormones and antibiotics and such and frankly, all that thinking was really unnecessary for something we weren’t even going to eat.
It was merely just a source of protein and calcium in my mind, both of which can be obtained through other types of food (like meat and cheese, neither of which were listed as baby steps to make). If yogurt didn’t offer anything “special” per se, then what was the point?
Then I read about the benefits of yogurt. Besides the protein and calcium, yogurt also has three B vitamins, a few important minerals and probiotics. It may not sound like much, but those things really pack a big nutritional punch! New to the concept of healing your body with food, it was how all these nutrients could improve my health that got truly my attention.
Aids with constipation and diarrhea, fights yeast infections, fortifies the immune system, reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, decreases allergies and improve dental health?! Holy cow! This list of benefits is nothing to scoff at, and certainly worth fighting my measly mental block for.
Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to make yogurt.
If you are even remotely like me, you will have read this entire post – including the excuses and the benefits – and still not be sold on the idea.
That’s ok. I’m not here to pitch a sale or tell you it’s life changing (although it is). I’m simply challenging you to take one more step in the journey of good health. I’ll even hold your hand.
Making Yogurt – Heating Pad Method
Since the cooler, crock-pot and oven methods were ruled out, there was only the heating pad method left. This is a good thing for beginners like me though, because it’s practically fool proof!
- scant two quarts whole milk (equivalent to a half gallon, an easy measurement to halve or double to suit your own family’s needs. I use organic, but again, decide what’s best for your family.)
- 4oz plain Greek yogurt, room temperature (full fat, remember, to be used as the starter culture)
- 2 quart-size jars, or 4 pint-sized jars, or a combination of these (but no more than four jars total), clean and sterilized
- small glass bowl
- candy thermometer (instant read meat thermometer should work too, Katie says)
- large pot (the biggest pot that comes in a typical set is the ideal size)
- bath towel
- heating pad
- Pour starter yogurt into the small glass bowl. Set aside.
- Measure the milk by pouring it into your glass jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. This may sound silly, but your total volume will increase at the end with the addition of the starter culture. Measuring this way prevents the waste of ready-to-be-cultured milk!
- Pour the milk into the large pot.
- Warm the milk to 180 degrees F, stirring occasionally. It’s ok if it gets a degree or two warmer, but you don’t want to walk away and let the milk boil. Take my word on this one.
- Turn off the stove and let the milk cool to no warmer than 115 degrees F. If left on the burner (with the burner turned off), milk cools at a rate of approximately 1 degree per minute (or roughly 65 minutes). Cool it quicker by setting the pot on top of a cooling rack, like you would for cookies. The temperature drops to the desired range in about half an hour.
- While the milk is cooling, set up your incubation station. Fold your bath towel in half, long ways, and lay it on top of the kitchen counter near an outlet. Set your heating pad on top of the towel, folding in half if necessary.
7. Pour 1-2 cups of the cooled milk into the small glass bowl. Whisk heartily for about 30 seconds to thoroughly combine the yogurt and the milk.
8. Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into the big pot of warm milk. Whisk heartily for one minute to thoroughly combine the mixture.
9. Carefully pour the milk into the glass jars, leaving about 1/2″ of headroom in each jar. Use a measuring cup, ladle or funnel if you’re pouring-challenged. If there is milk left after all the jars have been filled, slowly add the remaining milk to the jars. Take care to not overfill. (This is when you’ll be thankful you measured into the jars in the first place.)
10. Cover with the lids and set on top of the heating pad. Quickly rinse and wipe out the pot (you can wash it later.)
11. Wrap the towel over the jars.
12. Turn the pot over and place it over the towel.
13. Turn the heating pad on low.
14. Come back in 8-24 hours to homemade yogurt! Store in the refrigerator and enjoy!
You can add a note to your Plan to Eat dashboard each week that reminds you to “make homemade yogurt” and link to the instructions you choose to use.
What Do I Do Now?
With the hard part over (but was it really that hard?), what do we do with all this yogurt? Eat it!
- Stop buying salad dressings with trans fat and MSG and make your own instead (who knew bacteria tasted good on salad!)
- Add 1/2 cup to muffin and cake batter to increase moisture (for DAYS!)
- Bypass the anti-yogurt eaters and add a scoop to prepared oatmeal – my son doesn’t know the difference!
- Use 1/2 cup in your daily smoothie
Turn Plain Yogurt Into Greek Yogurt
Some folks don’t like runny yogurt, including me. The recipe above has always yielded me thicker yogurt, but sometimes I need it really thick, like Greek yogurt. This is easy to do too!
- fine mesh strainer (or a regular strainer and a coffee filter)
- small glass bowl
- storage container (old yogurt tub, perhaps? )
- glass jar
- Fit the strainer (or substitute) over the glass bowl.
- Once the yogurt has cooled in the refrigerator, scoop roughly one cup into the strainer. Let it sit for an hour.
- Scoop the yogurt from the strainer into the storage container.
- Repeat with remaining yogurt.
- Pour whey (the liquid in the bowl) into the glass jar.
- Check out some photos of the method, which is the same as you’d use for yogurt cheese, only less time, HERE.
What To Do With Greek Yogurt?
- Use in place of sour cream in most recipes (on top of tortilla soup is AMAZING!)
- Make yogurt parfaits
- Eat it plain!
The Impact of Homemade Yogurt
Remember how I mentioned that we used to eat two quarts of yogurt each year? Maximum? Now that we make our own, we eat two quarts a week. Seriously!
Nothing “magically” happened that we suddenly eat more yogurt, but knowing the incredible health benefits it offers certainly helped (and realizing we bought 98 ounces of yogurt in two weeks was the firm kick in the pants I needed make our own). Now that we have ample in the fridge nearly all the time, it’s easy to eat even more!
Every single one of the “how to use” suggestions above has been tested and approved in our kitchen. Yes, the we-don’t-eat-yogurt family now eats (and loves!) yogurt!
What’s holding you back from making your own yogurt?
Quick note: Congrats to Debs McKenzie and Jesilee Smith, who both won a year membership to Plan to Eat! Remember you can get 30% off with the code “KitchenSteward” through 3/31, and here’s the KS group for anyone who wants to see over 37,000 recipes uploaded by KS readers!
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Tiffany is a newbie real food eater who is trying to master and incorporate nourishing foods into her kitchen without breaking the bank. She documents her baby-sized strides at DontWastetheCrumbs.
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