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Making Yogurt at Home

I've been getting yogurt at the farmer's market and I'm in love with the fresh taste, so I went out and picked up a used yogurt maker. I'm looking for yogurt recipes (your standard fare - plain, vanilla, fruit, honey, etc) and any tips that you might have. For example, I know there are different kinds of starters, such as "French style," but I don't know the difference and the Goog hasn't been a huge help. Also, is there a different technique used for using different milks, such as cow, goat, sheep, etc?

Any tips, caveats, or recipes you have would be great! Also, cookbook or website recommendations would be awesome as well.

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  1. If you love the taste of the yogurt you've been getting at the farmers market, I suggest you use that as a starter. I think the amount to get it going is half a cup of yogurt (has to be one with live active cultures) per quart of milk. From there, you just save half a cup to start your next batch.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Concurr with ruth on using your market yogurt as a starter. Also be sure stuff is clean and that you don't overheat the milk.

      My husband used to make us yogurt and he's supposed to be making some now with a container of BlueCherry that i managed to get back on the plane from LA. BlueCherry, fyi is supposed to be made with the same cultures as the yogurt that is sold on the street in Beijing. If that stuff goes bad before he makes the yogurt I will KILL HIM.

      That said, you basically heat the milk, cool it a bit, stir in the culture, cover it and let sit undisturbed and warm. If you are like us, you will quickly find the yogurt maker is an annoyance and you will switch to covered bowls on the pilot light.

      good luck.

      1. re: jenn

        I've heard of BlueCherry, but don't know anything about it. What sets Beijing yogurt apart from others?

        How do you find the yogurt maker an annoyance? It seems like such an easy thing to use... you just plug it in and walk away. I don't have a pilot light on my stove. :(

        1. re: morphone

          The problem was more that the yogurt maker makes such a small amount of yogurt --maybe 6 containers at a shot--and with a family of [then] four, my husband felt like he was constantly making yogurt.

          We no longer have a pilot light either : ( and boy do I miss it with bread making. Alternative to the pilot light would be setting oven VERY VERY low and putting yogurt in oven or setting the container on a heating pad. Mostly you want to avoid drafts.

          Yogurt in Beijing is really the drinkable kind. You buy it on the street in these wonderful clay pots with a paper lid, drink it down where you stand and the pots are collected and recycled. You know, its like any yogurt--different ones taste different and people have their preferences.

          1. re: jenn

            I agree those six-little-jar yogurt makers are lame, but that's not the only type out there. I have a one-quart yogurt maker that takes up very little room on the counter and doesn't require me to mess with all the other methods that people tout for making yogurt, including ovens, pilot lights (I don't have one), heating pads, zapping the microwave every so often, etc.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              ah but the abandoned one we found at the goodwill was the 6 cup variety and we are too cheap---now that we know how to make it without--to buy a larger unit though come to think of it, I've never actually seen anything for sale but the little six cup jobs.

              don't have a microwave either.

              1. re: jenn

                I bought mine for $9.99 at one of the Amazon Friday sales. But I agree you have to look hard to find the larger canister units.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  What's the brand?
                  From a youtube video, I was going to try heating the milk and then putting in a cooler with bottles of hot water and towels -- (no pilot light and the crock pot method didn't work that well for me.)

                  In the video, she uses some previous yogurt for one and yogurt starter (size of 1/2 a lentil) for the other --they came out the same. I looked for this starter today at Rainbow but they only have rather expensive big packets. Have you ever tried this starter like in the video? (I haven't tried WF yet.)

            2. re: jenn

              I usually make yogurt with a gallon of milk and then pour it into 4 quart size Ball jars then store them in my oven for a safe warm place to culture. I just don't see the point in a yogurt maker

              1. re: scubadoo97

                You can certainly get by without one, as people have done for centuries and many still do. The point, however, is simple - it provides a stable environment at the ideal temperature.

      2. I used a freeze dried yogurt starter to make mine. It's the only way I've had success. I struggled to find a store-bought yogurt which was low-fat (not non-fat), didn't have added gelatin and wasn't priced exorbitantly. I'm convinced that those yogurts contributed to my early yogurt failures. I pick up the freeze dried starter at Whole Foods or online.

        I ditched my yogurt maker too. I decant it into pint mason jars after adding the culture and leave those in a pre-warmed oven with the light on over night. I don't worry too much about the temperature dropping so long as it starts in the right place, and I leave it for a good 10 hours. Now if only I could make fruit-flavoured yogurt (the pre-stirred kind) I'd be one happy camper.

        5 Replies
        1. re: toastnjam

          I picked up some powdered started, as well as a thing of Nancy's organic plain yogurt. I plan to try them both to see what sort of texture I end up with in the end. Someone told me that you can also use a plain old probiotic supplement that you get at the health food store, but I'm not sure exactly how that works so I'm a little hesitant to try that.

          I like the idea of making yogurt in glass mason jars, but I'm not sure how to keep the oven warm for long enough to ferment the yogurt. My lowest setting is 200F, and it seems like the oven cools off pretty quickly once its turned off, even with the door closed.

          And how exactly does one add fruit to homemade yogurt? Do you add the fruit before or after it's fermented?

          1. re: morphone

            I have always added the fruit when I eat it. There is an awesome type of yogurt in France that comes in jars and that has what is best described as a dollop of fruit preserves on the bottom of the jar. When you eat the yogurt, you mix in the fruit.

            1. re: morphone

              The lowest setting on my oven is 150F. I use a thermometer to get it around 120F & then turn it off. By the time I'm ready to put the mason jars in the oven it's normally around the 110 mark. If I make it early enough in the evening I will keep an eye of the temp and turn the oven back on for a minute if it gets too low but otherwise it will gradually lower to around 75 by the morning. I read a very good thread here on CH where someone commented that back in the "olden days" people to control temps so precisely & yet yoghurt has been made for eons. This appealed a lot to me =)

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/567084

              I confess to disliking fruit on the bottom yoghurt. I find it loses it's thickness once the fruit has been stirred in.

              1. re: toastnjam

                Thanks for the link! It didn't come up when I searched for yogurt.

                Good point about the temperature. :) Have you ever heard of Bulgaros for yogurt making?

            2. You might also enjoy making kefir. It's a little simpler than yogurt since there isn't really any need to maintain heat. After you culture the milk, you leave it at room temperature overnight until it thickens.

              4 Replies
              1. re: WCchopper

                I'm guessing that depends a lot on the time of year and the temperature in your kitchen overnight, though! Mine can be under 50 degrees on a cold winter night!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  That crockpot 365 site includes a recipe for using the crockpot as a yogurt maker. It makes sense, considering the crockpot (TM!) is merely a vessel continuously heated at a low temperature.

                  1. re: jeanmt

                    Wouldn't a crockpot (TM ;) get too hot and kill the cultures, even at the low setting?

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    It gets cool here too, but I've never noticed a difference. Maybe the culture acts differently...

                2. For my deceased survivalist MIL we still have cases of # 10 cans of powdered milk in the cellar. I mix it up wxtra thick, add starter, fill Mason jars, stick in oven w/ pilot light. Haven't bought yogurt in years. We have it w/ fruit, rolled oats and nuts every week day morning for breakfast and lots of middle Eastern cooking.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    What kind of powdered milk are you using??? We have some #10 cans of powdered milk and it would be wonderful to use them. Thanks.

                    1. re: pepperqueen

                      Right Way Foods and SI and others. We have lots of dried food. Too bad I'm fussy and want real food, not dehydrated. Oh well, when the grid goes....I can wait.

                  2. Making yogurt comes up often; and I make enough in the microwave for my daughter and me to consume up to a half liter a day. So I have a CH saved reply:

                    I make 3 1/2 quarts at a time in five 3/4 quart containers. All five fit in the MW at once. I start with two quarts of whole milk, add one pound of whole milk powder and a TBSP of brown sugar, whisk very well, add a cup of yogurt from the last batch, distribute in the five containers, place in the MW and zap on high for about three minutes and then for about a minute every hour and a half to two hours. Nothing exact, just keep it all warmer than body temp for 12 hours. Very thick and tart! No boiling.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      The brown sugar doesn't affect the culturing? Could I then in theory add fruit before culturing?

                      1. re: morphone

                        The small amount of sugar is to further feed the culture, not to sweeten the yogurt. Yogurt is always slightly in doubt as to outcomes, and I wouldn't risk adding fruit from the beginning.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          That's why I would be concerned about adding maple syrup. But if you've had success adding maple syrup beforehand, who am I to argue? :) I may give it a try with agave nectar, if you think that would work as well.

                          1. re: morphone

                            No, I don't add maple syrup when making the yogurt, but do eat it with maple syrup.

                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I make my yogurt on the stove (success w/soy milk--but coconut milk and nut milks failed to set), pour it in a large glass crock jar, wrap it in a blanket, and stow in the cupboard above my fridge overnight; the motor of the fridge lends a steady warmth to this cupboard. Refrigerate. I guess my fridge could be considered a yogurt-making tool.

                      3. i love making yogurt, and it is so so easy.

                        i second someone's recomendation of buying a cheap salton quart yogurt maker. we also gout ours for around $10-15, and it is so much easier and more effective than all the other methods we used to try - warm oven, light bulb in stryofoam cooler, etc. we use a glass mason jar instead of the flimsy plastic container it comes with, but i would guess either works the same. anyhow, it does a great job keeping the yogurt at exactly the temperature it needs to be at with no effort on my part, and when i am done it's easy to put away and does not take up a lot of space or require much cleaning.

                        we use natural store-bought yogurt as starter at first. any brand with live cultures and no additives is fine, stonyfield is nationally distributed and easy to find. once we have a batch, we use our own yogurt as starter for the next batch. some books suggest starter will weaken over time, we tend to fall off with yogurt making (due to being out-of-town, or sick of it) before that happens and can keep a starter going over 10-20 batches without noticing a problem.

                        biggest tip i know is to use less starter. both joy of cooking and sandor katz recommend using only like a TBSP or two per quart, and i have found this really helpful. somehow less starter works better.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: andytee

                          I've been looking and have found Stonyfield in a few places (usually health food stores) but cannot seem to find plain. Do you have to use plain as a starter or will the flavored ones work, too?

                          What kind of milk do you use?

                          1. re: walker

                            i always use plain. never tried the flavored as starter, but sometime simple (vanilla, maple, etc) might work. still, i can't imagine not being able to find a suitable plain yogurt as a starter. where do you live?

                            1. re: andytee

                              I live in San Francisco but many like Stoneyfield and I have not been able to find the plain in that brand. I used Pavel's the last time I tried to make it.

                              1. re: walker

                                I'm amazed you haven't been able to find plain Stonyfield in the Bay Area. However, Pavel's is quite good, IMHO; I use Fage, but I bet some of the house brands at TJ's (the European style, Greek style, etc.) would work well. What really matters is that it doesn't have carageenan, geletin, pectin, etc. Should be just milk, maybe dried milk and live active cultures.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Thanks. I've tried Rainbow and Cal-Mart. Other stores I go to don't carry than brand.

                                  Rainbow was so busy went I went there Thurs -- everyone bumping into me. I finally asked an employee and found out it was coupon day. He told me there were coupons in back of yellow pages to give 20% discount on Wed/Thurs. I could have saved $14!!!

                                  1. re: walker

                                    I'm using the Saint Benoît from the farmer's market, which you can get at Whole Foods also. Apparently it's some special French culture, but I don't know what makes it any different. All I know is that I love their yogurt. :)

                                2. re: walker

                                  you live in the bay area? seriously, you should be able to deal with this no problem. i particularly recommend the straus family creamery's plain yogurt, one of my favorites ever. but anything will do. i remember seeing seven stars out there, lots of others, can't remember names. pavel's is fine as well.

                                  1. re: andytee

                                    Seven Stars? Haven't heard of them, but I do know Strauss. They sell thei yogurt and milk at WF, so I'll check it out. Thanks!

                                    1. re: morphone

                                      yeah, seven stars is a pennsylvania company i think. any brand will do, as long as its plain, with love cultures and not a lot of extra guar gum and whatnot. strauss is absolutely perfect, if i were to recommend a best commercially available starter yogurt, i'd pick them. mostly just because it's delicious yogurt.

                            2. re: andytee

                              Thanks! Using less starter makes better yogurt? What difference do you notice? Is it a consistency thing?

                              1. re: morphone

                                yes - i get terrible batches when i add a half cup, i think 1-2 tbsp is best. and yes, it's both consistency and flavor, i get a thicker and smoother yogurt that i like better.

                                try it and let me know what you think.

                                1. re: andytee

                                  My first yogurt came out a great consistency, but there are a few lumps here and there. Will take your advice to try less started next time!

                            3. Ok, TEMPERATURE: I have a recipe here that calls for heating the milk to 170F, but another recipe calls for 114F. I know you shouldn't boil milk (but why?) but what difference will it make heating the milk to 114 versus 170 (or anywhere in between)?

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: morphone

                                Many recipes call for heating the milk to 170-180 to kill off any bacteria that may already be in the milk before cooling it down and adding the cultures. But for actually culturing the yogurt you need it to be in the optimal temperature range for the culture bacteria to grow, which is usually 110-115 degrees.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  But I thought that bacteria didn't die until the milk boiled, which doesn't happen at 180F. Dangit, we need Harold McGee!

                                  1. re: morphone

                                    Nope. The temperature at which liquids boil and the temperature at which bacteria are killed are unrelated to each other. Most bacteria die at temperatures under 140. Milk can be pasteurized at temperatures as low as 145 degrees, although the most common method heats it to 161 degrees. So 170 is plenty.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I heat to 180, but remember milk is mostly water, and doesn't boil until 212. i have forgotten before and let it go to exactly 212 - hear the steam release, and it worked just fine - no curdling.

                                      But I have best luck when heating to 180, over Medium-low heat with the lid on a big stock pot (I do a gallon of mlk at a time), cooling to 110-115, transferring to glass jars with room temp yogurt in it (abt. 2 big spoonfuls - I probably don't need that much), and keeping the temp up using the microwave because we don't heat our house so room temp is 60 or so.

                                      I use whatever yogurt I have and it works, as long as I keep the temp up when it is setting up and heat it first.

                                      1. re: morphone

                                        Not Harold McGee, but I did research this...

                                        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....

                                    2. re: morphone

                                      I just bring my milk up to culturing temperature. Some have reported stringy yogurt if the milk was not heated. I've never had a problem.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        probably depends on your milk source. i've done it both ways with similar results but always use good milk. mostly i head to just below a boil, because it is easier than watching and checking every few minutes. then let it cool, and add culture at 110 degrees.

                                    3. I make my own yogurt and I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet... I like to let it go at least 14 hours, sometimes longer. Then as a final step, I put it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer and let some of the whey drain off. The resulting yogurt is very thick and yummy. (I sometimes save the whey to use as a liquid in making muffins, etc...).

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: PamelaD

                                        I let mine go for about 12 hours. It is so thick - due to the amount of whole powdered milk - it doesn't need straining.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          So I've now make a few batches without the powdered milk, and it's plenty thick. How thick do you get your yogurt while using powdered milk?

                                          1. re: morphone

                                            A spoonful will not slump. The absent spoonful from the container will not slump or fill in. Thicker than any yogurt without gums and thickeners.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              me, i like my yogurt kinda runny, middle eastern style. if i want to thicken it though, which i do occasionally, i just strain it for a bit with a cheesecloth. nothing against powdered milk, but thick yogurt is really not the goal for me.

                                              for anyone for whom it is, both straining and powdered milk work wonders.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                Huh, thanks. I'm curious about this thicker texture, but I'd rather not use powdered milk. Looks like I'll have to experiment to see if I can come up with another way!

                                                1. re: morphone

                                                  just strain it. you can just put it in a cheesecloth.

                                                  this is how the "greek" yogurts like pace and oikos are made, and also how middle eastern yogurt cheeses called "laban" are made.

                                                  a short strain - try an hour or two - will just thicken up the yogurt. longer, like overnight, will get it to a thick cheese-like consistency, akin to cream cheese.

                                                  1. re: andytee

                                                    You don't have to use cheesecloth -- you can line a colander with anything porous. I use coffee filters, but you can use paper towels, etc. You can use regular dish towels, for that matter, as long as they're clean enough to suit your level of hygiene.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I use Trader Joe's organic non-fat milk and originally started out with a couple of tablespoons of TJ's greek style yogurt. Worked just fine. I also use a fine stainless steel sieve to get rid of most of the whey to thicken it up. The last bit goes to make the next batch.

                                          2. re: PamelaD

                                            Thanks PamelaD! I will try cheesecloth and, like you, I find the whey useful. I use it as a beverage base.

                                          3. I"ve been making my own Yogurt using Oikos as a starter. It is amazing - mild and thick. But it disappeared from my local stores about a month ago. No I hadn't been saving it from batch to batch - I hadn't perfected that part yet.

                                            Anyway, does anyone know of a similar culture? Dannon is not even close. I've been working with a greek culture but it is more tart, just not the same. Anyone?

                                            I use 2% milk and a cup of dried milk per gallon. I only culture for about 4.5 hours. This makes a thick and very mild yogurt.

                                            I miss my Oikos!!

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: mydadsjoy

                                              pace is a substitute, and trader joes sells a "greek style" yogurt that is also similar.

                                              1. re: andytee

                                                I don't think that the yogurt you start with has much to do with your final product. It just needs to be plain yogurt.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  I've made three or four batches now with different kinds of yogurts, and I think that I see a definite difference in the finished product depending on what I use for a culture. The next batch usually turns out similarly to what I used to culture the mix.

                                                  1. re: morphone

                                                    I found SToneyfield plain whole milk yogurt at WF to use as a starter. Didn't read label until at home and found it has pectin. (I do like the taste. Will make the yogurt in a couple of days.) What's your favorite starter?

                                                    1. re: walker

                                                      Right now I go back and forth between St. Benoit and Strauss... so far, they've both treated me well. :)

                                                      1. re: morphone

                                                        I just tried a 3rd method, used St. Benoit. This turned out the best. I heated 1/2 gal. organic whole milk to 180. Let cook to 120. Put into glass jars with yogurt and 1/2 cup whole milk powdered milk.

                                                        Put into picnic cooler with 2 large plastic bottles of hot water, wrapped all in towels and let it sit 12 hrs. Stirred, then refrigerated. (Got most of this from a video on YouTube, (used Sam's suggestion of the dry milk).

                                            2. I used a sheep milk yogurt (Old Chatham) as my starter. Alas, I only have cow's milk in the house - but it will do for now. I didn't use powdered milk, so the texture was a little unconventional. A thicker mass suspended in white water. I strained it and used the watery part to make a delicious savory lassi. If you have a sweet tooth, make a sweet one!

                                              Maybe I'll opt for powdered milk next time, to make it thicker. Prefer not to add powder, though. And seek other suggestions for getting it nice and thick.

                                              About the need for pilot lights, yogurt makers and the like... I just put my jar in a linen cupboard! I wrapped the jar carefully in various cotton napkins, then put a t shirt over the top. I stuffed it in the warm cupboard and left it for a day. Yum. The cupboard has some contact with the heater in my building. Then I moved it to another warm spot in the kitchen near the radiator for an hour. The flavor is excellent. I hope this will become a life long habit.

                                              1. My grandchidlren eat this obnoxious, expensive yogurt in a plastic tube. I wanted to make a healthy alternative. I have a FoodSaver so making the tubes was fairly easy, but how to make strawberry infused yogurt that would be like what they were used to? I purchased a "yolife" yogurt maker and followed their recipe (which was difficult since they mixed various methods of weights and measures). Their recipe contradicts almost everything I have read online about making yogurt. I wanted to share the results since it was terrific!

                                                Cook a quart of strawberries with 1/3 C of water and 1/2 C of sugar (I replaced half with Stevia). Heat qt. of milk to 180 Degrees and cool to 110. Added 1/2 C. Seven Stars yogurt. (I also added 1/2 C. powdered milk after reading this would help thicken) Mix together with strawberries and put in maker. Left for 12 hours. Perfect, wonderful strawberry yogurt in a tube.

                                                I am posting this because during my research everyone said that the fruit must be added after making the yogurt so I was afraid their recipe would not work. Not only did I end up with smooth thick yogurt, but the yogurt has a much stronger berry flavor than if it were just mixed in.

                                                Hope this helps someone looking to replace their kids favorite yogurt with a less expensive, more healthy version.

                                                1. Hi... I would love to make my own yogurt and I was soooo disappointed when I got to the grocery store and found out that they are not selling any yogurt that says it has live culture on it... I tried different stores with no success.... buying starter online takes so much time and more money for me...

                                                  Could someone here please tell me how to make yogurt from scratch...

                                                  Thanks

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Moriah

                                                    Where do you live? Don't you have any health food stores? Whole Foods? People here rec Stonyfield (or is it Stoneyfield?) plain yogurt for starter.

                                                    1. re: Moriah

                                                      I have used yogurt from grocery stores and (please don't tell anyone) from Wallyworld I've gotten small cups of Greek yogurt just to use as starter. Just get the best brand you can and it will work.

                                                    2. Take 1 cup of yogurt and stir in 1 or 2 Tbsp of your favorite jam or jelly. My favorite is Strawberry Preserves.