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Oct 16, 2006 05:59 AM

more homemade yogurt issues

I was doing fine making whole and lowfat yogurt using regular yogurt as a starter. But then I tried using nonfat milk, and Fage 0% yogurt as a starter. And it didn't thicken. Tried again with Trader Joe's nonfat Greek style yogurt as a starter. Didn't thicken.

Anybody else have these issues? Do you think I should go back to regular yogurt as starter, or go back to milk with some fat in it? TIA.

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  1. I make a lot of yogurt (in the microwave...takes all day using whole milk and starter from the previous batch. You might want to try regular starter plus nonfat milk, but add a bit more powdered nonfat and a touch of brown sugar.

    1. I've successfully been using nonfat organic milk (any brand) and Stoneyfield organic nonfat plain yogurt (1/4-1/2 cup yogurt, it doesn't seem to matter, as long as you use at least 2-3 Tablespoons of the yogurt)ever since I began making yogurt again the past year.

      I am now using non-organic "The Farmer's Cow" because it's produced locally in Connecticut where I live, and is free of growth hormones, and a good deal less expensive than organic. My main reason to switch is because The Farmer's Cow nonfat milk is substantially fresher and sweeter tasting than the organic brands.

      All to say - in my experience I've been able to stay with nonfat and non-growth hormone treated or organic milk, and nonfat yogurt starter from the supermarket - with great success. I switched from the Donvier individual cup yogurt maker, because the individual cups were a nuisance to use and to clean,to the Salton single container one-quart yogurt maker (available on Amazon), which I love. But both electric yogurt makers made good yogurt with the ingredients mentioned above.

      I bought organic nonfat dry milk powder to add, because I read this helped with thickening, but thought it gave the yogurt an off taste and dull texture. And once I got the temperature of the milk right, it wasn't necessary to add milk powder for a creamy sweet nonfat yogurt.

      I think the most important thing to do is to use an instant read thermometer to be sure your milk isn't too hot when you add the yogurt,or else it kills the culture. You have to heat it to just below the boil, to 180 degrees, then let it cool down to between 100-110 degrees. This cool down takes approximately 25 minutes,so you can set a timer and leave the milk to cool. It is also important to stir it very gently. With the Salton I find the yogurt is usually ready in 5-6 hours.

      The maker comes with great clear instructions, and one other thing they recommended that also helped, was to plug in the yogurt maker and let it warm up. So I do this at the start, even before I put the milk on to heat. Take the yogurt starter out of the fridge, too, at this point, so it will be room temperature by the time the milk has cooled down from near boiling.

      It's also important to check the date on the yogurt container you buy to use as a starter. The fresher the better, as live yogurt cultures weaken over time, and compromise your success. This is also true if you are using some of your own home-made yogurt to start the next batch - it is best to do so within a week to 10 days.

      Another thing I learned is that the yogurt needs some time in the fridge to set, and the texture improves overnight. Though not enough to stop one from enjoying it as soon as it's done.

      As suggested by Salton, I can use some yogurt from this home-made batch for the next few batches of yogurt. I take some out as soon as it's made and put it in a small jar, to keep it (relatively) sterile and airtight until needed. I also put the rest of the yogurt in a wide-mouthed glass Mason jar, because the Salton container is plastic and even if it doesn't affect the taste of the yogurt in reality, it's not as appealing.

      Fage Yogurt is one of the best things in the world. The nonfat could be heavy cream or ice cream it's so rich. But if you look at the label, it does not have as many live cultures as Stoneyfield. I'm no fan of Stoneyfield's rather gelatinous texture on its own, and anyone who makes or eats home made yogurt ends up spoiled for good, when it comes to store bought.
      But Stoneyfield is organic, nonfat, and it works. And it doesn't compromise the sweet fresh taste or texture of the home-made yogurt made with it, the way the nonfat organic milk powder did.

      Hope this helps! You don't have to give up nonfat milk or starter...might be more a case of the milk temp when you mix the yogurt starter in. And the Salton yogurt maker really works a charm - and is inexpensive, around $15. - Donna

      1. Simple answer: the Fage and Total yogurts don't have the live active cultures necessary for making your own yogurt. As suggested above, try Stonyfield Farm's nonfat, or Brown Cow.

        1. Fage/Total yogurt does have live active cultures, the two most common. Just saw it printed on the Fage/Total container in the market.

          And Fage/Total works, for my friend, who successfully uses the regular full-fat kind for a starter, and whole organic milk.

          My guess is that the problem may be that either the yogurt culture is too old and weak to work (check the carton date), or that the temperature of the milk or the yogurt starter is de-actifying the live cultures by being too hot or too cold. Have read that too vigorously stirring the mixture can kill the live cultures, too.

          Apologies for the length, but only wish to pass along some of the very helpful advice given to me, and some eventual discoveries of my own.

          Hope it works out.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rgallica

            Also: some of the organic & non-gmo/no-hormone yogurts aren't just milk & cultures...several (incl Stonyfield) have pectin or other thickeners added. So try to find a "starter" yogurt that only contains cultures, as it will ergo be a more culture-rich yogurt than one with added thickeners. I dislike the pectin-added yogurts, and it can be difficult to find a mass-market one that is both organic & cultures-only (not a single yogurt on the shelf at my Whole Foods fits the bill except the locally made ones).

            1. re: Hungry Celeste

              Thanks for the suggestion to search out locally produced organic yogurts made without thickeners or pectin. I didn't realise these additives affected the beneficial health qualities of the yogurt, besides giving it a disagreeable gummy fake texture. Don't recall this being the case with Stoneyfield when it first came on the market. Am not sure how much choice there is in this part of the world. Do you think that a few tablespoons of these pectin-treated yogurts end up compromising the quality of the entire batch? Thanks again.

              1. re: rgallica

                I didn't say (nor did I intend to imply) that thickeners have any impact on the health or nutrition value of the yogurt, I just don't like the resulting texture.

                I don't think that the pectin yogurt compromises the batch in any way, it's just never going to produce a very thick result. Here's the logic: if the pectin-added yogurt's own strain of culture produced a sufficiently thick yogurt, there would be no need to add pectin! So you're not going to get an extra-thick result from a pectin-added starter.

          2. I just made my first batch of yogurt. it's been 24 hours and still just a slight bit of thickening. I used Fage 0 and my temperatures were checked and right on.
            Is it impossible to retry the process wih the same milk, and a different starter?
            I used skim milk