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Who knew yogurt was this easy to make

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Ciao Hounds,

I was given a present of a Williams Sonoma yogurt maker over the weekend and, to be perfectly frank, I gazed on it with a certain amount of suspicion when I got it into my kitchen.

But there's nothing quite like the egging on of a 10yo girl to galvanize one's spirits so, together, we attacked it with milk, yogurt and a certain skepticism.

The maker came with no instructions, so a quick scan of CH told us that we needed a yogurt 'starter'.

Winging it completely, we mixed a couple of TBS of Fage yogurt with about a pint of milk. We added a TB of vanilla sugar at the 10yo's insistence, just to see what it would taste like.

Into the glass jars the mixture went, and into the yogurt maker they went. The controls are laughingly basic (ie, the knob doesn't seem to do anything) so we just hit the red switch and let it stand overnight.

The result is fantastic. We have thick creamy yogurt with a delicious hint of vanilla and a slightly less heavy consistency than the Fage. We could probably strain it to get it as thick as Fage, but I don't really see the need.

We've made two more batches since, with equally good results.

Next up, a yummy yogurt from Fairway here in NY that we like, one with a purply tub, which name I've quite forgotten.

Pour l'encouragement des autres..as they used to say down our way.

- Sean

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  1. I agree. I just got a Salton yogurt maker off of Amazon, slapped some 1% milk (heated and cooled) and some greek yogurt into it, left it for 8 hours, into the fridge overnight and poof...yogurt. Very tasty stuff. The texture is a bit grainier than commercially produced yogurt but the flavor is there.

    1. Ok, I certainly didn't know it was that easy. All of the yogurt makers I've looked at talk about heating the milk and adding their specific yogurt starter that you have to buy, so I've dismissed the idea as not worth the trouble. So is that all nonsense? you can just add some pre-made yogurt to milk and stick it in there? What does the actual yogurt maker do anyway? I eat a LOT of yogurt (every morning for breakfast), so this is a fascinating idea to me.

      1. Yogurt is so easy to make, you don't even need a yogurt maker to make it, although a yogurt maker would make it pretty foolproof for incubating.

        1. I make yogurt in the microwave when I'm home all day. Four minutes on high and then 45 seconds every one-and-a-half hours. Make 6 liters at a time (in 6 one liter tubs) and use powdered milk (using more powwder to water than for normal milk), starter, a touch of sugar to get a really thick, sturdy, sharp yogurt. No need for another contraption and I can make a lot at a time.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            45 seconds every one-and-half hours for how long?

            1. re: wawajb

              The longer it goes, the thicker it gets. I leave it in for 12 hours. You don't have to be exact about the one-and-a-half hours and 45 seconds--just keep the stuff a bit warm to the touch all day.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I love it! Slow-cooking using the microwave!!!

          2. The yogurt maker, from what I can tell, just holds the mixture at the right temperature for the live cultures to grow. From what I've read, you have to heat the milk to about 180 and then let it cool to between 100 and 110. I've read (but haven't tried yet) that ultra-pasturized milk needn't be heated up first (though it would need to be warmed to between 100 and 110 to give the cultures the right starting temperature).

            1. Not sure about all this heating and cooling. I just take milk out of the fridge, whisk in the yogurt starter (which is now just some of the yogurt that I have already made), and we're off to the races.

              We eat it for breakfast, warm and just out of the glass jar we make it in.

              - Sean

              1. You don't need any special equipment at all. Just heat the milk to 180 (ok, you need a thermometer at least), let it cool to 110, then whisk in some plain yogurt. You can place it in your (turned off) oven if it has a pilot light, or on top of your stove. Anyplace warm is good. After about 5 hours, Yogurt!! Alton Brown also does a great show on yogurt where he wraps it in a heating pad. Don't forget to save some to use as the starter for your next batch!

                1 Reply
                1. re: chefsmartypants

                  I've gotta say, after several months, I've made a lot of homemade yogurt with this method and I love it. Fortunately my old gas oven and its pilot light are just warm enough to make yogurt-growing possible. Lora's cooler method, posted below, also works well. Thanks so much to everyone who posted here with all this fantastic info.

                  The only glitch: I was stupid enough to try sticking my last batch (about two-thirds of a gallon) into the oven while still in a pot right off the stove, without transferring it to a new container. Transferring it into another type of container is necessary: My most recent batch contains lots of miniscule orange-colored strands which taste metallic. Rust, I think. Sheesh. I'm dumb. Metal = bad. I need some bigger glass jars if I want to make that much yogurt all at once.

                2. I've tried this twice using my gas stove for it's pilot light-heat. The first time, nothing-no yogurt. Next time, I wrapped the pan in towels to really reatain the temp, then into the oven. Still no yogurt.

                  What am I doing wrong?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                    I've heard of people making yogurt in their ovens but in my experience it doesn't work. The temp needs to be about 110 degrees. A thermometer will answer your question. My gas oven just isn't warm enough.

                  2. I wonder if my crockpot set on "keep warm" would work, or if that's too hot. Guess I need a thermometer.

                    And does lactose-free milk work for yogurt-making? Or do the complex sugars of lactose help keep the good bacteria happy?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Ike

                      I'm guessing "keep warm" would be too hot -- it probably keeps food at the "safe" food temp of above 140. With yogurt, you *want* bacteria to grow! I think the heating pad it probably better. Modern gas ovens don't have pilot lights, so that's not always an option.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        My gas oven has a pilot light. I guess my apartment's oven is an old one. Still, I doubt it's warm enough in this particular oven. It's only about 80-90 degrees in there, I'd wager.

                        What sort of thermometer should I buy? A meat thermometer? None of the thermometers in my local Stop & Shop say "yogurt thermometer"... heh heh.

                        1. re: Ike

                          To answer my own question, for anybody who's curious, the necessary type of thermometer is actually called a "candy thermometer." Someone here said so, but I thought that poster was using a peculiar technical/restaurateur term or something. But lo and behold, at the local grocery stores, they sell thermometers labelled "candy thermometer" a.k.a. "candy, jelly and deep-fry thermometer".

                          And the thermometer confirmed that my gas oven, turned off, is only about 90 degrees. I think I'll try Lora's method, as posted below. I don't have a microwave so I can't try Sam Fujisaka's method.

                          Still waiting for the milk to cool down to 110 from 180. Takes longer than I thought.

                    2. heheh, this making yogurt reminds me of the time my friends' coworkers made ice cream with liquid Nitrogen. it was reallly good! and fast too! :)

                      1. So, now you have all peaked by curiousity. We are eat copious amounts of plain yogurt here and spend plenty of money buying it (not the mention the hundreds of yogurt containers we have in our cabinet). So, a couple of questions. Is making yogurt economical? And can you make fat-free or just low fat.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: jsaimd

                          Again, as I described above, I make large quantities in thte microwave for very little $. I don't make low or no fat because the texture and flavor suffer. I use plastic containers--one liter tubs over and over again.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Hi Sam,

                            I can't wait to try this in the microwave. What is your favorite starter to use? I have tried Country Fresh, Dannon, and Meijer brand plain. I currently have a plain soy yogurt from Whole Soy & Company in the oven, so we will see how this turns out. I am curious about FAGE and I would LOVE to hear people's favorite starters!!

                            1. re: jeromesu

                              jeromesu, you made me laugh. Since I live in Colombia, I use the local plain non-flavored yogurts and don't know about the US brands. If you continue to make batches, just use starter from your previous batch.

                          2. re: jsaimd

                            I buy one gallon of organic milk (skim or 1% work great) and get 4 mason jars (quart sized) out of it. If I remember correctly, I was spending about $4 per quart of organic yogurt, and a gallon of organic milk costs me $5.50 or so, so I think its pretty economical.

                            I heat the milk to boiling (this is important as it makes a thicker end product), cool it to 110 in a sink full of cold water, add my starter (I used to use a powdered culture, but now I use the last couple of tablespoons from my last yogurt batch), strain into jars, then put the jars into a cooler with a heating pad in the bottom, set to low. I also throw towels in the cooler to take up extra space and add insulation. 6-8 hours later I'm done.

                            Once you have a method down its very quick and easy to do. Main benefits: it tastes great, it's much cheaper, there's no build-up of packaging, and no wierd thickeners added.

                          3. i am really intrigued, too. see, i make my own kefir at home everyday. no problems. but, with kefir, there is no heat involved whatsoever, so its really just a matter of straining. easy as pie. with yogurt, tho, i always thought that is was what is called a thermophilic culture, meaning that it requires a bit of heat to start growing (hence the 140 or 110 or whatever numbers above). the thought of regulating some flame on my stovetop never seemed really feasible to me. my friend tho told me that he just adds the yogurt to milk and, with no heating at all, has yogurt. someone clear this up!!! do we need to heat it or not???!!! thanks.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ben61820

                              thermophilic, yes. the yogurt makers (machines) keep it at a slow heat
                              Sam Fujisaka, your method is fascinating...if I had a microwave, I'd finally have something I'd want to do in it!

                              1. re: pitu

                                Pitu, I think it is 51% of the reason I have a microwave.

                            2. To jsaimd, I would say that it is incredibly economical to make yogurt.

                              The Williams Sonoma maker costs $30 or so, although I'm sure you can get them cheaper. Using ordinary milk (I use low fat), and some yogurt starter, you're off and runnning. That's all we use now, and we eat a lot of yogurt in our house.

                              And the yogurt tastes much much better than the store-bought stuff.

                              - Sean

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Sean Dell

                                In terms of economics, how much milk do you need to produce 1 cup of yogurt? Is it a 1:1 ratio?

                                1. re: Produce Addict

                                  It is a 1:1 ratio, with caveats. If your milk is too low fat (skim or 1%), you will end up with some water floating on top. Some recipes have you add milk powder, which soaks that up.

                              2. I keep my yogurt warm by filling a mason jar with boiling water, then putting that and my yogurt side by side in a small cooler. The water can be re-boiled if the temperature drops too far.

                                1. To keep my yogurt warm while it thickens, I first heat the oven to 200 degrees (while the milk is cooling off), turn the oven off, put the yogurt in (in a big bowl), and turn on the oven light. Go to bed and arise to wonderfully thick and rich yogurt.

                                  1. Ciao Hounds,

                                    One month later, and I think the yogurt maker may be the best kitchen thingy I've ever owned. We go through a quart of yoghurt a week. The taste is good enough even for fussy kids. And the sugar content is WAY reduced over store-bought yoghurt (Yoplait and/or the usual fruity yoghurts that kids normally like.

                                    I'm impressed with the other Hounds' oven methods, but I'm glad I don't have have the need.

                                    - Sean

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sean Dell

                                      Well, you've convinced me! A question though -- if you were buying it for yourself, (and knowing what you now know), would you choose a yogurt-maker with many little jars, or one very large jar? I can see advantages to both. And, no, I don't want two yogurt-makers, lol.

                                      1. re: bakergal

                                        I have the one with many small jars. But, conversely, I dump all of them into a big jar for the fridge.

                                        - Sean

                                    2. I have a Eurocuisine that I love. However, the instructions say that if you set aside the homemade yogurt as starter, then to do this only once. I wonder why? It seems like most people on this board simply keep using bits of the homemade batch as the starter.

                                      1. This gave me the idea that a yogurt maker might be a good gift for my husband and son, who eat a lot of yogurt. What I'm looking for is something with individual serving size containers, and that I *don't* have to anything more than pour in some ingredients and plug it in (since my goal is for my 11 year old to start taking care of doing this). So no thermometers and heating things on the stove for me. I looked at the Salton YM7 on Amazon, but there wasn't much info on exactly what you have to do-- anybody out there know? And how does the Williams-Sonoma one work?

                                        Thanks for any info!

                                        1. My method is to heat up the milk to scalding and then cool it down to about lukewarm (every time I tried omitting this step it didn't work); pour it in a jar and mix in the yogurt culture (just some plain yogurt; I use a local brand, White Mountain); put the jar in a cooler and fill the cooler with hot water from the tap, to the level of the milk in the jar. Let it sit overnight, and you have yogurt in the morning.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Bat Guano

                                            lisa 13, Mr Guano, and others, I have never scalded or boiled my milk first and have never had a problem. I wonder what's going on. Anyone know? The milk I use comes in one-liter UHT boxes.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              My understanding is that scalding makes for a thicker result. I don't think its a must. My yogurt is always solid enough to get a clean, lasting edge left behind when I scoop it out of the jar, but I have never tested the theory by just heating to the culturing temperature.

                                              I think the absolute musts are having a healthy culture, relatively clean equipment, and proper culturing temperature (100 - 110 - I can vouch that going under 100 doesn't cut it, but that is going to depend on the culture too, so there may be exceptions even here). Remember that people have been making yogurt forever, often in filthy conditions without electricity - if you have a method that works for you, don't sweat it!

                                              1. re: lisa13

                                                Well, when I didn't scald the milk it never set up for me at all; but I wasn't using a thermometer, so maybe I never actually got the milk warm enough to culture properly.

                                          2. Am fascinated by the discussion about various methods of making yogurt; so here's another question; as I'm trying to please my 11 year old, who likes the fruit-on-the-bottom Dannon yogurts, what do people use to make a fruit-flavored yogurt to please a palate used to that? Plain fruit? Fruit with some sugar? Does it go in at the beginning or end? Thanks!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: DGresh

                                              Jam. I would add it just when serving. The nice thing is you can get higher quality jam than what you'd get in a dannon container.