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Homemade yogurt makers - what do you use as a starter?

I have recently started making my own yogurt thanks to some of the fine posters here and I'm loving the results! I've been using Stonyfield yogurt as my starter, but I was wondering if anyone had other favorite starters. I prefer a thick, Greek-style yogurt with plenty of tang, and I find that my homemade yogurt, while tasty (and plenty thick once strained) isn't as tangy as Fage or other Greek yogurts. I plan to use Fage as my culture for my next batch, but I was wondering if any one had any other favorite starters? Thanks!

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  1. I purchase a small container of Greek yogurt as starter, when the old is getting peaked. It makes a thicker yogurt.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Passadumkeg

      For years I have been using powdered milk to make yogurt. My MIL was a survivalist and has left us w/ cases & cases of #10 cans of powdered milk. The yogurt turns out very well w/ no powdered milk flavor.

    2. I use Stoneyfield organic, nonfat plain yogurt and mine is incredibly thick--no straining necessary. I could turn the jar upside down for an hour & nothing would fall out--stand a spoon up in it. It is not super tangy but maybe that's because I steep a vanilla bean in the milk while heating. Are you sure you are incubating long enough? I do 12 hours minimum.

      7 Replies
      1. re: sparkareno

        I did 12 hours my first batch, 18 my second - 1/3c. Stonyfield to 1 gal skim milk. If I didn't strain it, it would probably be drinkable - I strain off about a half gallon-3 qts of whey to get to Greek yogurt consistency. How do you get it thick without straining?

        I overdid the straining this last time and made yogurt cheese, LOL. It's still delicious, though not quite as tangy as I would prefer. I will definitely try some different Greek yogurts to see which produces the texture and tang I prefer.

        1. re: biondanonima

          try maria lorraine's recipe. I use 1 qt of milk, 1/2 c of yogurt, some sugar & I can't remember how much powdered milk. I don't think you are using the powdered milk--I like that it adds calcium & protein but I think it also makes it thicker. I end up with the same amount I started with--no whey. Try hers--what do you have to lose? It never fails me. It is at the beginning of the Sucess! thread a little further down.

          1. re: sparkareno

            Oh yes, I remember seeing her recipe. I actually don't mind the straining, as it lets me decide the thickness I want (and have whey for breadmaking), but I may try it with powdered milk at some point, if I can find a convenient source.

        2. re: sparkareno

          I use Stoneyfield - 2 tbls per scant quart of (raw) milk. I let it go about 12 hours. It's really tangy, but not super thick unless I strain it. I use a small cooler filled with mason jars of hot water to incubate. Works like a charm, winter and summer.

          1. re: sparkareno

            I remember reading somewhere that Stoneyfield had the highest amount of active live culture of the commonly found store yogurts.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              Yes, I think I read that too - what I'm wondering is whether the starter plays a significant role in what the finished product tastes like (or its texture, etc.). I went and read the labels on several different types of yogurt the other day and they all list different active cultures, which I assume influences the final product - so it would make sense that if you want your homemade yogurt to taste like Fage, use Fage to start it, etc. I also checked cheesemaking.com to see what types of yogurt starter they carry and there are several, including Bulgarian, tangy and sweet - again, that leads me to believe that the type of cultures influences the flavor of the finished product greatly. I'm going to start experimenting with the various Greek products I can find and see what I like the best - I'll post my results for sure!

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Try Cascade Active 8.....8 cultures, more than Stoneyfield or Nancy's. I use 1/3 cup starter to a gallon of milk.

            2. I had good luck using a spoonful retained from the prior batch -- over the course of a couple of months, it got better and better.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sunshine842

                Sunshine raises an issue that puzzles me. I also use a bit of the old batch to start the next one (I put about 6 ounces in a separate jar and keep it sealed until ready to use). I read somewhere that one should go no more than 3 batches before using fresh starter or the yogurt would be too sour (of course there was no explanation of why this would happen). Naturally, I had to test this, and sure enough, batch 4 (or maybe it was 5) was sour to the point I tossed it out. Anyone else had this experience? What gives? Maybe local bacteria getting into the mix and outperforming the species of bugs in the original starter?

                1. re: Zeldog

                  I can't seem to get beyond one or two serial batches. the yogurt tastes ok but it comes out very runny. I was thinking that it might be a competition thing amongst the bacterial strains in the original starter. Don't most commercial yogurts have more than one strain? maybe the conditions in my homemade yogurt are favoring one particulat strain or another, and the winner makes for a runny product.

                  1. re: gimlis1mum

                    I've had this effect as well. I start fresh every other batch if I'm making yogurt on a regular basis.

              2. I actually use a purchased starter - the yogourmet. I have used it consistently and buy it on amazon. I know it's not as cheap as saving some yogurt, but my yogurt is always consistently good. I cook for 24 hours to consume all of the lactose, and the yogurt is TANGY!

                3 Replies
                1. re: DMW

                  DMW -- could you tell me more about what you wrote above -- "I cook for 24 hours to consume all of the lactose"? I was making my own yogurt for a while, but lately have been having problems. I'm lactose-intolerant and can usually eat yogurt -- but not my own! Should I just let it sit longer? Do you know if I can use powdered milk and still end up OK?

                  1. re: jessinEC

                    Sorry it took me so long to take a look back at the thread. There are many sites for those who have Crohn's (we don't, but I've read the sites in regards to yogurt) and those sites all recommend that people eat a lot of homemade yogurt. Many sitessay that by culturing the yogurt for a full 24 hours the bacteria will consume all of the lactose. This is what I do and neither my husband or I have any issues. These sites also say to use just milk and culture, no powdered milk, so that's what I do.

                    How long do you cook your yogurt for? I am surprised that you would have issues with your own yogurt only because store-bought yogurt tends (depends on brand I guess) to be cooked for less time, thereby potentially leaving lactose in the mix.

                    1. re: DMW

                      Thanks for the response. I have some stonyfield for my starter and will make some tomorrow and try a 24 hour culture time. Will report back on results.

                2. The newest Cuisine at Home has a great article on making your own yogurt. It has persuaded me to try it again. I bought a dry starter this time from Amazon. It was only about $3.00 with shipping for two packs. The article also talked about using a heating pad or slow cooker instead of a yogurt maker. Great article!