Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to take another step on the path of yogurt consumption. The first yogurt mission was published in mid-April last year, so I’ve let you get way too comfortable with wherever you were if you’re not making homemade already. Time to level up! Here are your options:
Find your yogurt profile below, and take one (maybe two?) step forward.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I use plain yogurt and add fresh fruit…You’re ready to make your own, baby! Here are my step-by-step directions for how to make homemade yogurt.
- I already make homemade yogurt. Try a new recipe (some coming tomorrow) or tackle making yogurt cheese this week.
Yogurt is a foundational Kitchen Stewardship recipe because it saves SO much money, improves your nutrition SO much and really is quite easy. (Homemade chicken stock is the first.) I think everyone should make homemade yogurt!
Updates on Making Homemade Yogurt
I have been keeping a list of new tips and changes I’ve made in my own yogurt routine since that April posting, and I’ve just been dying to share with you all! I thought I was a yogurt diva back then and that there was nothing more I could learn. A little shot of humility does a Katie good. 😉 You’ll only want to read on if you are or want to make homemade yogurt, or these tips won’t make much sense to you.
New and Improved Cooling Method
It’s not fair to my poor refrigerator to put steaming hot jars of milk into it like I used to. This time of year, I just use my “garage fridge”, but in the fall I started putting all four jars into a sink of cold water (just halfway up the jars or less) and a few ice packs:
The milk is generally cooled to temp in 20 minutes! The only thing I don’t like about this method is that it’s less consistent timewise because of the possible differences in room temperature and water temperature.
UPDATE: Really, you could keep it simple and just allow the jars of milk to come down to temp on the counter. Be sure to set a timer to remind yourself to come back and check, and remember that things will move more slowly in the summer than winter, for example.
Temperature Changes and Glass Jars
Just as I was composing this post in my head and thinking about how I haven’t cracked a jar in a long time, but it is probably a possibility with hot jars and ice water, *pop*. Figures. If you want to be really smart and safe with your jars, don’t use super cold water right on the hot jars. If you put the jars into the freezer for the first hour after incubating, don’t put them directly into the ice for the same reason. Then again, sometimes some jars just aren’t made to last as long as you want them to. 🙂
I Don’t Use Store Whole Milk Anymore
Just over a year ago, we were a skim milk household, for drinking and yogurt. Last winter after reading Nourishing Traditions, I switched to whole milk because (a) saturated fats are good for you, (b) food should be eaten in its whole form, and (c) Sally Fallon said that cultured (yogurt-ized) whole milk is the only store milk folks should drink.
A few months ago, skim milk started showing up in our house again.
It started with my research for the post on full fat dairy where I discussed the hazards of oxidized cholesterol and homogenized milk. A well-versed reader pointed out that the amount of cholesterol in the powdered dry milk is very little, so the damaged fats one would consume in skim milk would be far fewer than those damaged by the homogenization process in whole milk. Point taken. I could purchase unhomogenized milk, but it’s double what I pay for regular old store milk, and it takes an extra stop.
I didn’t have to squirm with my new knowledge for long. I was thrilled to come across Keeper of the Home’s post on Raw Milk Substitute for Cultured Dairy Products. It was exactly what I was looking for, and she even got confirmation from Sally Fallon that skim milk + heavy cream is a good stand-in for yogurt making. I could only find one brand of cream at my regular grocery store that wasn’t ultra-high-temperature pasteurized (see the bottom of the yogurt post for that explanation). Using skim milk + store cream still adds a buck or so to my cheap yogurt, so my newest solution is to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Our raw milk comes from Jersey cows, and they make a LOT of cream. I steal some from the raw milk and use it in my yogurt. That way I know the fats are not only undamaged by homogenization, but also organic and grass-fed. The yogurt is yummy, too.
My personal Monday Mission for this week is to call the brand that makes the milk and actually ask them if they use powdered dry milk or not. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if they didn’t? (They don’t.)
So…What Milk Should I Use?
Pam asked for clarification on this question after reading the original post, so I want to make it really clear (at least based on my current knowledge, as incomplete as it may be!) the order in which I’d make yogurt milk choices:
- Raw, organic, grass-fed milk is best, in my opinion. Not everyone has access to it or can afford it though, and sometimes it makes yucky yogurt. (I did have a successful batch a few weeks ago! I think just pasteurizing it by keeping it at 180 for a while may have been the trick, or I just got lucky.)
- Skim milk + organic, not UHT-pasteurized cream is next. Finding non-UHT-pasteurized organic cream may be as difficult as finding raw milk though. You’ll notice the words “UHT” or “ultra-high temp” on the carton. Most milk/cream in cardboard cartons is UHT pasteurized. (It could sit on the shelf and not go bad! That’s just not real food…)
- Unhomogenized whole milk (organic would be great if it’s not UHT-pasteurized, but so many of them are)
- Skim milk + non-UHT cream
- If you can’t find or can’t afford the above options, I would still go with regular old whole milk and be glad you’re getting probiotics and saving money by making yogurt yourself.
I’m More Relaxed with my Bacteria
You should use clean jars for your yogurt. You should use clean utensils. But I’m much more relaxed now about them being open to a little bit of air, and I don’t boil my spoon. I’m too lazy. (Now would be a good time to read the health disclaimer in the sidebar!) If you don’t have a dishwasher to “sterilize” your jars, you can just wash them well in hot, hot soapy water. The moisture is going to be the biggest problem, so I actually leave all my jars open for a while after unloading the dishwasher to make sure they’re absolutely, completely dry. THEN I cap them for the next yogurt-making adventure!
Theories on Temperature vs. Thickness
Every so often, I get a batch of runny yogurt. I’ve been trying to help others troubleshoot the runny batches over the past few months, and here’s my theory: ~100 degrees is a better temperature for your yogurt than ~110. I’ve allowed my milk to cool just a little bit longer and usually end up with thicker yogurt. Anyone else have similar experiences? Also, definitely only use 2 Tbs. of yogurt starter per quart of milk, no more. Too much yogurt crowds the multiplying bacteria and results in runny yogurt.
- New photo tutorial for making homemade yogurt
- How to Make Creamy Raw Milk Yogurt
- The Definitive Homemade Yogurt Troubleshooting Guide
Greek Yogurt Rocks!
A few people have recommended Greek yogurt to me, especially when I struggle with raw milk yogurt’s consistency so much. Just last week I needed a new Dannon starter, and when they were out of the little cups, I decided it was time to try Greek. After the initial sticker shock of almost $2 for a rather small portion, I have to admit I’m impressed. Greek yogurt is incredibly thick and creamy, and it set up just perfectly for me with my normal method. I froze the rest of the little cup in ice cube trays for future batches in case the strength of my yogurt to yogurt starter diminishes. I think the Greek is also much milder/less tart than Dannon. The live cultures are different, so I think I will still make it the old way as well (maybe 2 jars of each) to make sure I’m getting L. acidophilus.
What are Probiotics?
Just a quick review: “probiotics” just means “healthy bacteria”. They are the millions of bacteria that are good for you. Usually this terms is used for “in the gut” bacteria that you would consume with foods. Yogurt has healthy bacteria. If your homemade yogurt thickens up and is no longer milk, you have cultured your milk, and the bacteria or “probiotics” in your jar are the same ones as in the storebought cup, just without the starburst emblazoning the marketing terms on it. 😉 You can’t make yogurt without probiotics. There are different strains of bacteria, however, and I often hear L. acidophilus touted, so that’s why I’m making sure our yogurt continues to have it. (You can find at least a partial list of your yogurt’s bacteria in the ingredients on the side of the container.)
- Can the Cans: Get rid of canned veggies in your house.
- Handwashing and Antibacterial Soap : The first and still my favorite!
- Legume Recommend Beans: Load up on this healthy food. This time of year is great for soups with beans!
Check out Life as MOM for more frugal tips.