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Success! Homemade “Fage” Yogurt! Easy! Cheap!

Thick! Tangy! Luscious! No Silly Appliances!

Like a number of Chowhounds, I was a Fage Yogurt addict. I loved its lusciousness, its sour-cream thickness, its tang. I ate it every morning with fruit. I was happy.

Then, something happened. Fage began manufacturing their yogurt in New York instead of Greece, and the quality dropped. A lot. My old Fage was gone. The NY Fage looked and tasted chalky — it had lost its lustrousness; it didn’t have its “sour cream” texture any more; it had air pockets.

And dang, it was as expensive as before — $7 at Costco for a 32-ounce tub — and that was the cheapest I ever saw it, even though the quality had dropped. I was sad and felt a little ripped off.

Inspired by Sam Fujisaka and others at how easy it was to make Yogurt,
I decided to break free of my Fage addiction and make Fage yogurt at home.

Nothing less than full Fage flavor and texture would be good enough.

I posted a thread asking for tips here…
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555847

and began by using Sam’s ingredient proportions and microwave method described here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2920...

Like Sam, I wasn’t going to use any silly yogurt appliance — just clean glass bowls, milk, yogurt culture, a touch of sugar, and a gentle heat source. Sam makes the yogurt on a day he’s going to be home, and after the initial heating of the milk in the microwave, he gives the milk another brief microwave zap of heat every few hours for a total of 12 hours.

But I couldn't be around to nudge the heat every few hours — I had to be out and about in the world, so I fashioned another gentle — and continuous — heat source.

I emptied one of my deep kitchen cabinet drawers that slides easily in and out, and with a simple clamp-on utility light converted the drawer into my — ta dah! — brand new yogurt-making, bread-proofing chamber! I was so proud of myself even though I knew an 8-year-old could’ve rigged it.

I came close to Fage yogurt on the second try. Yes, it’s that easy.

On my first try ever to make yogurt, it was slimy and stringy. It had phenomenal flavor, like the yogurt from Europe, but a weird texture. (I found out what I did wrong — more info about my error below.)*

On the third try, I did what I had set out to do— success! Homemade Fage yogurt! Easy and cheap! Yay! Thick as sour cream, tangy, flavorful — everything I had set out to accomplish. I ended up using more dry milk than what Sam uses and I incubated the yogurt for a few hours longer. It’s amazingly good.

And get this — $1.60 total cost in ingredients for 32 ounces of "Fage" yogurt!

You can make as much or as little yogurt as you like at a time, though I think using
2 quarts of milk to start is good-sized batch. Just double or triple the recipe below accordingly. You can make the yogurt from whole milk, 2% or skim milk — whatever you prefer, though I add slightly more dry milk when I use skim milk. I now make 3 quarts as a time, but I’m an obnoxiously enthusiastic convert to homemade Fage yogurt, and have been giving away containers of the stuff to celebrate my joy and proselytize the flock.

Yes, you! Really, you should try it. It’s so easy.

Equipment:
Glass or pottery bowl
Microwave
Instant-read thermometer — you must have this, great tool anyway, costs $8
Clamp-on or hang-anywhere utility light, like that from a hardware store, with a 100-watt bulb
Deep drawer or cooler or Styrofoam box

This makes about 5 cups homemade Fage-style yogurt, a little more than a quart:

Ingredients:
1 quart milk — whole, 2% or skim
1½ cups dry milk or powdered milk. I checked the dry milk ratings and read that the Lucky grocery brand, Sunny Select Nonfat, tasted the best. Works great.
½ cup of plain Stonyfield yogurt, as fresh as possible, or other yogurt with active cultures. I also checked into which yogurt had the most active cultures, and Stonyfield was it.
1 Tablespoon sugar, perhaps a bit more, as food for the culture

Procedure:
In a clean glass or pottery bowl, thoroughly mix together the quart of milk, the 1½ cups powdered milk and sugar. This will be a very rich milk mixture.

Heat the milk mixture in the microwave for three minutes, and then continue heating in one-minute intervals until the milk mixture reaches 180 degrees F. Keep checking the temp with your instant-read thermometer after each minute blast to see if the milk has reached 180 degrees. You cannot eliminate this step.* Try not to over-nuke it so that the milk scalds and spills over, but if you do all is not lost. Using a stove-top and saucepan is messier and tends to unevenly heat the milk, in my opinion.

Rig your incubation chamber ahead of time. Get your clamp-on or hang-anywhere utility light, and check the wattage of the bulb (must be 100 watts, 75 watts is *not* hot enough to keep the milk mixture at 105 degrees F.). Clamp the light onto the side of the drawer so that you can shut the drawer completely (or very nearly except for the cord). You can even clamp the light onto a block of wood or other object that can fit into the drawer along with the bowls of yogurt.

I use an old utility light with a thin wire sleeve that actually fits over the side of the drawer and still allows the drawer to close completely. You can use a cooler or styro box instead of a drawer.

After heating the milk mixture to 180 degrees F, let it cool to 105-110 degrees. It will take a while — about 30 - 60 minutes depending on the quantity of milk — but keep checking it regularly with your instant-read thermometer.

When the milk mixture reads 105-110 degrees, stir in ½ cup of the yogurt you’re using as your culture. Before adding the yogurt culture, it’s best to stir it up to make sure the active cultures are evenly distributed. Make sure the milk mixture and yogurt culture are well blended, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, and place it inside the drawer with the light on. Leave it for 14-15 hours. Unbelievable flavor after 14 hours. 12 is good but 15 is best.

Then, chill the yogurt for 2-3 days. This sort of sets the yogurt — the yogurt gets very thick then, thicker than from just chilling, it seems to me. That's it!

Tips: I actually make yogurt now about 6 PM in the evening, then let it do its thing till 9 AM the next morning. But you can use whatever schedule works for you. Reserve some of the yogurt from each batch to make the next batch of yogurt (1/2 cup of yogurt as your culture for each quart of liquid milk). Safety tip: Make sure the lightbulb is not touching the plastic on the top of the bowl or any other object, and that no one will trip over the electric cord — basic safety stuff.

*Error on my first batch of yogurt that resulted in slimy, stringy, ropey yogurt:
Many other Chowhounds in other threads said this happened to them.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/399469
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/390131
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4662...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2920...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/487158

And it happened to me. Why? So off I went in search of the reason. You need to heat the milk to 180 degrees to denature the milk proteins, and to allow one protein in particular — lactoglobulin, the one that’s responsible for a smooth, consistent yogurt — to unwind. If you don’t heat the milk adequately, slimy and stringy yogurt is the result.
Read more here, under “Heating the Milk”:
http://joepastry.web.aplus.net/index....

Thanks, Sam. Thanks other Chowhounders for all the tips. I'm saving so much money now by not buying Fage that I can take you all to the movies.

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  1. Wonderful. Looking forward to the movie. (My lactoglobulin must be relaxed because I don't get slimy - stringy and don't heat to 180. Wonder why?). My fave breakfast is now blackberries (mora), sliced banana, yogurt, and a touch of honey on the berries.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      I bet that when you first microwave the milk mixture on high for 4 minutes you get the heat up up to 180 F. Now, that berry season is over, I'm using a frozen raspberry/blackberry/blueberry blend from Costco that rocks. But any fruit in season is good. I even like crystallized ginger and canned apricots.

    2. Very inspiring story. Congratulations on the success!

      1. Excellent! I also use a 100 watt lightbulb to make yogurt, but I put the bulb in my oven (replace the oven light with the regular 100 watt bulb) and ferment the yogurt in the closed, turned-off oven with the light on.

        2 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            I tried to make homemade yogurt twice by following Jaime Olivers recipe I once saw him make on his show and it never worked. I am so excited to try this now. It looks simple and delish. Thanks for the recipe! =) My 2 year old will be eternally grateful as yogurt is her all time favorite food. =)

        1. Brava! Good work. Now you can have a never-ending supply of tzatziki!!! '-)

          1. Wow! I'll have to try this, if I can hide it from my boyfriend who is terrified of milk. Thanks for sharing all your work!