After yesterday's post about why I make yogurt, I got multiple requests to tell how I make yogurt.
I'm going to start with a little disclaimer: mine is not the only, or best way to make yogurt. It's just the system that works the best for me. I read multiple recipes online before settling on my technique. So please feel free to poke around online and try a few different recipes. You might like the others better. Ok, that said, here's my recipe.
I start with a gallon of milk. I pour it into a big pot. I place the pot on the stove over a medium flame. I walk away for a while. I come back occasionally to take its temperature. I want it to get to 180 to kill off any bad stuff. When I get there, I turn off the heat.
[Some people let it boil to improve thickening. I haven't experimented with this. You can also use a smaller amount of milk than a whole gallon. I just like to cook in bulk. Why dirty up the kitchen if you don't have a lot to show for it?]
If I'm in a hurry, I stick the pot in a sink full of ice water. I'm usually in a hurry. The goal is to get the milk down to somewhere between 100 and 120 degrees. Yogurt cultures like their milk to be warm. Too hot kills them. Too cool doesn't promote culturing. The cooling seems to happen quickly, so I check the temp often. Once it's in the temperature range, I whisk together a ladlefull of warm milk with a 6 oz container of yogurt. I pour in the mixture to the giant pot of milk, whisk it again, then put the lid on. Somewhere in there I heated my oven to 250 and turned off the heat once it got there. I wrap my pot of cultured milk in a giant bath towel and place it in the cozy warm oven to sit for 6ish hours. [Note: the oven is off when the yogurt sits in there. If the house is cold and I'm concerned the temp has dropped, I'll turn on the oven for a few minutes to bump up the ambient temperature. Just a few. I have no proof that this is necessary. I think it's just superstition for me at this point.]
I open the pot 6 - 10 hours later, and I have a gallon of yogurt.
Ok, so my food scientist cousin-by-marriage Denise would have a coherent and detailed description other than "magic". But I prefer my version.
There are endless variations on the theme. You can add vanilla to the milk before culturing it. You can use whole milk for creamier texture. You can use lowfat milk and add powdered milk to boost the thickness. You can add sugar after it sets. You can stir in frozen fruit. You can even make it in a crockpot. [But I didn't have great luck with that technique, as I had to pay more attention to it. And failed to do so.]
You can strain the yogurt in cheesecloth and get greek-style yogurt. Strain it overnight and get something with the consistency of cream cheese. It's heavenly. Blend yogurt into a smoothie. Make frozen yogurt. Mix it with frozen OJ concentrate for homemade creamsicle pops. It's easier for me to go yo-crazy when the yogurt is $1/quart instead of $4.
It really isn't difficult to do. It just seems a bit daunting the first time. Give it a try and tell me how it went!