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Making my own yogurt - advice?

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Yesterday I decided to try to make my own yogurt, just for kicks. I heated a quart of 2% milk to not-quite-simmering, stirred in a touch of half-and-half for richness, sat it by the window to cool, watched the Daily Show online, realized it was now too cool and put it back on the heat until it was just over 100 degrees, mixed in ~4 tbsp plain live-culture yogurt, and let it sit in a warm oven for about 10 hours. (My oven's lowest temp is 170, so I turned it on to that but turned it off before it had reached 170. I then turned it on again once or twice during the 10 hours just for a minute or so to keep things warm.) The resulting yogurt has an incredible delicate flavor, but it's thinner than I'd like, as though it got 80% of the way from plain milk to the consistency of Dannon and then gave up. Next time, should I let it sit longer? (Most recipes I saw said either 4-6 hours or 8-12, so 10 seems like it should be enough?) Add more starter? Keep it somewhere warmer? Did the cooling and reheating screw something up? Also, to make flavored yogurt - can things like sugar and vanilla be added to the milk at the beginning, or do I wait and stir them into the yogurt later?

I'm in the midst of making yogurt cheese out of half of it; after sitting overnight it's almost to the consitancy of Fage yogurt. In the future, can I stir in add-ins for that (I'm thinking garlic & basil) when I start draining it, or will that mess up some chemical reaction?

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  1. There are a couple great threads on here about making your own yogurt that might give you some ideas/information.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589656
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/567084

    But I'll also throw in my two cents. I've been making 1/2 gallon of yogurt a week for a couple years now. I am in the camp of posters like Sam Fujisaka (I've used his microwave method a few times with much success) in feeling that things don't need to be that exact. Just last week, I forgot I had my yogurt in my oven and preheated it to 500 for bread. By the time I pulled it out, it was 140, which supposedly will kill your culture, but instead of tossing it, I waited it out. It seperated in a weird way (Almost like curds when making cheese), but I strained it in buttercloth (finer than cheesecloth), and it turned out absolutely delicious, thick and rich with a perfect tang.

    I don't use powdered milk. I don't have any reason, just don't think it's that necessary. When I want thicker yogurt, I strain it for a bit. I read on one of those previous threads that using less starter works just fine, if not better, so lately I've been using about 1/2c to 1/2 gallon of milk, and found the results to be the same. As for adding flavors, I don't add anything until my yogurt has been chilled. Others will have to tell you whether it would screw it up if you added earlier, but if you don't need to, why not wait til it's finished?

    My best advice would be to experiment a lot, and when you find the yogurt you love, replicate what you've done to make that batch, and you should be happy!

    2 Replies
    1. re: RosemaryHoney

      "things don't need to be that exact" - sounds like my kind of recipe. Thanks for the input; I'll definitely be doing this again. Next up: homemade granola to go with it.

      1. re: Emmmily

        Ha! That's exactly what I do. I know everyone has their own favorite granola recipe, but I've made lots of them and I personally love Alton Brown's.

        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

        It's super easy and not too sweet, and I add all sorts of things to it, like flax seeds, apricots, pecans...whatever. It doesn't clump together in big chunks, though, if that's what you're looking for. Happy eating!!

    2. I do use whole milk and added powdered milk and keep it going for about 12 hours. I like my yogurt to be tangy and really thick: I use it to make sauces and dips - and have it every morning with banana and blackberries. Don't add flavorings until after it is chilled and really set. In fact, yogurt stores in the ref better if not disturbed. I add anything else only upon serving.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I also like really thick and tangy/yogurty flavor. I use whole milk but no powder, although I always drain for a day in the fridge.
        I also agree not to add flavorings until you're going to serve. The yogurt keeps better, no doubt. Supposedly you end up eating more of the healthy cultures too.

      2. I make a quart every 5-6 days. I think I've made every "mistake" there is.

        I'm wondering if your oven was too warm, and the bacteria had an orgy, then collapsed in exhaustion when the temperature/milk sugar ran out. Incubating longer will make a more acidic result, in my experience. Many people insulate their yogurt containers (sometimes crazy complicated contraptions, sometimes just a blanket) to maintain the temp longer.

        Since you didn't boil the milk either time during heating, I don't think that was a factor.

        Dannon adds thickeners & stabilizers, so if Dannon is your "gold standard" you'll have a hard time making a natural home incubated product of the same texture. Up to a point, more fat & protein = thicker the final product, so you were on the right track adding h&h. Also, for extra protein, the dry milk others suggest is a common remedy. I use "Milkman's" brand, which is 1/2% fat milk when reconstituted. But the non-fat &/or instant is usable (careful about quantities, it can add a cooked taste).

        Hope this helps. Fresh 'gurt is about 5 million times better than anything from a tub in a store. GL.

        1. I'll again post my microwave no need to boil very thick yogurt that I make every other week:

          I mix and whisk two liters of whole milk, 400 grams of full powdered milk, a tablespoon of sugar, starter from my last batch, and water to total 3.75 liters. The mix goes into 5 plastic tubs; and the tubs in the microwave. MW on high for three minutes (no need to superheat); and then for 45 seconds to a minute every one-and-a-half hours or so. Punch in the time off and on, on a day you’re home for a total of up to 12 hours. Great, very thick, smooth, tangy yogurt every time. Although I do have to buy and use new starter (two little containers of run of the mill natural, unsweetened yogurt) every fourth time.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            sam,
            i dont have a microwave, what do u suggest i do?

            1. re: cassoulady

              Gently heat the mixture on the stovetop to warm to the touch, pour into containers, and place in the oven that you've just previously given a blast to get everything just a bit warm. Give a blast of heat a couple - three times over the next 12 hours. An oven is made to keep in the heat and to keep out the cold - so the key is getting the whole batch to be warm in the beginning and maintainng that warmth.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                thanks!