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Jan 21, 2009 12:44 PM

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 =)


              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.