How to make homemade yogurt (and why I'm not making it!)

Yogurt with fruit

About 5 years ago, I tried plain yogurt for the first time in my life, and I did not like it at all! When my friend Megan gave me some kefir grains 4 years ago, I started culturing my own kefir (which tastes similar to plain yogurt) and disguising it in smoothies and pancakes and stuff like that. ;)

I've acquired a taste for my homemade kefir AND plain yogurt over the years, and I'm actually drinking a glass of plain milk kefir right now -- without any maple syrup added, even! Although maple syrup is a great addition to kefir, it is also too expensive for me to consume as often as I'd like! ;)

Then, Joshua got an ice cream maker. He's been doing lots of experimentation, including making homemade frozen yogurts. (Look for his recipes in the next few months! If you're not already a subscriber, subscribe for free and you won't miss a thing!)

So with all my culturing experience (haha), I decided it was time to start making homemade yogurt as well. After all, so many people extoll the ease and yumminess -- not to mention the frugality! -- of making homemade yogurt, it's ridiculous that I waited so long to try!

Yogurt with fruit

Homemade yogurt seems to follow these simple rules:

1. Heat milk to ~180 degrees.

2. Allow milk to cool to ~110 degrees (but never above 120).

3. To the warm milk, whisk in some plain yogurt (this functions as a starter) from the store (2-4 tablespoons per quart).

4. Keep the milk/yogurt mixture warm (in jars) for 4-24 hours (in a warm crock pot, in a cooler with warm water, in a yogurt maker, in a dehydrator, etc.)

And voila! Homemade yogurt!

Except I still haven't been able to make a homemade yogurt we actually like very well.

I've gotten thin yogurt (runnier than my kefir has ever been!). I've gotten thick lumpy yogurt. I've gotten yogurt that had an aftertaste like vomit. (I know, nasty! We didn't eat that batch.) Even the best yogurt I made failed the blind taste test I gave to the children: yogurt on one spoon, kefir on the other spoon, and they all 3 said they liked the kefir a lot better!

And all that, ummm, yogurt? It took a lot of babysitting with the thermometer. I seriously invested hours and hours into trying to make yogurt!

Well, except for the batch that I made in the crock pot using a timer instead of a thermometer. The timer went but my milk was still 140 degrees when I added my yogurt starter! FYI, 140 degree milk doesn't turn into yogurt. I tried the recipe again, used a thermometer when the timer went off, and discovered what went wrong the last time!

Yogurt with fruit

If you love making yogurt, know that I am very happy for you. :) I will probably even want to eat some when I come over to your house! ;)

If you've been thinking about making homemade yogurt, here are some tutorials to get you started:

The Frugal Girl's homemade yogurt (Kristen has a photo tutorial, recipe, and lots of comments!)

Alicia from Alicia's Homemaking regularly makes yogurt in her crock pot! Alicia's post is the one that convinced me to finally try making homemade yogurt! :)

Frugal Granola's Homemade Yogurt (Michele makes it seem so easy!)

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a lot of information about how she makes her homemade yogurt. She has also experimented with culturing times and amounts of starter, so be sure to check out her site if you need to troubleshoot! :)

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures shares her secret for making homemade yogurt that her family will enjoy! Lynn uses a yogurt maker for her yogurt.

Finding Joy in My Kitchen also prefers to use a yogurt maker for her homemade yogurt.

Have you written a tutorial or recipe for homemade yogurt? Leave a link in the comments so I can consider adding it to this list! :)

Some people just love, love, LOVE their homemade yogurt, but I think I'm sticking to making kefir. 

Kefir grains, ready for fresh milk
Kefir grains, ready for fresh milk

Why I LOVE making kefir (and not yogurt!):

1. Kefir suits my clutter-free attempt at life. Kefir doesn't require a thermometer. It doesn't require a cooler, a crock pot, or any other appliance. A jar, lid, and some milk is all you need and ALL that you will have sitting on your counter! And who doesn't love more counter space in the kitchen?!

2. Kefir doesn't require babysitting. At all. You only have to think about it once a day or every other day. "Making" kefir takes about 5 minutes or less. If you want to take a break from kefir, you can take 2 weeks off by simply putting the milk and kefir grains in the fridge. Or just make as little as 1/2 cup of kefir per day.

3. Kefir is packed with probiotics! From what I've read, it beats out yogurt by 4-5 times the amount of beneficial bacterias. Maybe that's why a quart of kefir is over $4 in the store?!

4. Anyone can make kefir. It is THAT easy. And in fact, once you start making kefir and your grains are growing, you can give them to others to try and enjoy! 

A few weeks ago, I took a video of some of my thick, creamy homemade kefir. My kefir seems to go through varying stages. Sometimes it is more "stringy" or "ropey", like in this video. Other times, it is just a thick, yogurt-like consistency.

The grains themselves don't always look the same. It's fascinating! Some day I will take close up photos of my kefir grains, and maybe pop a few open and show you what's inside!

Sorry for the abrupt ending of the video... my camera battery died! I should get a second battery because it is constantly flashing red while I'm trying to get food pics before the sun hides again or the food gets cold!! :)

When it comes to my homemade kefir, I can't stop raving! It's just that good, that nutritious, and that simple! What else takes just 2 minutes of prep and is a quick HEALTHY on-the-go snack or hold-me-over?!

All about kefir

How to make homemade kefir

My kefir video tutorial (it's quick and painless!)

How to make smooth and creamy maple-sweetened kefir

Info, recipes, and Q&A about kefir from Cultures For Health

I recently discovered that Cultures For Health has a You Tube channel with some great videos about their cultures and starters. They have yogurt that cultures at room temperature (like kefir, only yogurt) and I think that might be more my style. ;)

Here is Cultures For Health's video about making homemade kefir (much more thorough and professional than my videos!):

And you can check out more of their videos on You Tube! :)

By the way, I'm super excited that Cultures For Health will be offering a giveaway to readers here next week! Stay tuned for your chance to win and start culturing something... like kefir, sourdough, or yogurt! :)

Full Disclosure: I get many requests for kefir grains, and had been directing you to a friend who sold live milk kefir grains. Unfortunately, she is no longer selling kefir grains. I decided to try to find another reputable source for kefir grains (NOT "starter").

While I think the ideal source of kefir grains is live, fresh grains (preferably given as a gift from a friend!), I am an affiliate with Cultures For Health and I feel confident directing you to them.

I wish kefir grains weren't so expensive to get started -- but remember, once you have them they will grow, and you can bless your friends and family by giving away your extras. :)

Comments

I make yogurt regularly and you're so right! It is a lot like babysitting a thermometer, but I'm used to it so it doesn't bother me. I used to use powdered milk to thicken it, a choice that I always was uncomfortable with, but I recently learned that if you suspend the temperature at 180 for 20 minutes (more babysitting), the end product is nice and thick.

My family loves my yogurt, they call it the "best in the world" :) I posted about it here:

http://onjustacoupleacres.blogspot.com/2010/11/homemade-vanilla-yogurt.html

(It does have sugar in it, but only 1/3 c. in 8 c. of milk- that's nothing compared to the junk in the store! I also add a couple tablespoons of your homemade vanilla recipe for flavoring.

Quinn, thanks for sharing! I will add your recipe and insights to the links above! :D

I have the yogurt maker you link to and really enjoy using it. Like you, I think making kefir is way easier and I love that the grains don't wear out, so that's what I make now. :-) I have found that using a tablespoon or so of dry milk helps thicken yogurt nicely.

I tried the yogurt making directions at crockpot365.blogspot.com. I loved the results when I used a Greek-style yogurt as the starter.
Where I live, though, milk is around $3.50/gallon. It's much less expensive to buy yogurt already made.

Where I live, though, milk is around $3.50/gallon. It's much less expensive to buy yogurt already made.
How much does yogurt cost, then? I have never seen yogurt for less than $3.50/gallon ($4.00 if you include the starter)! Our milk is only about $2.20/gallon right now, thankfully. :)

Also, I wanted to add: the cheapest plain yogurt I have found is at Business Costco and was (last month) priced at $3.99 for 5 pounds. It's easily double that in a "regular" grocery store without a sale! :)

If anyone knows a better place to get plain yogurt, I'd love to hear! :)

With a coupon and a sale, I can find 4-packs of yogurt for around .50. A 32-oz package, the largest I found in my grocery stores, is about $2.50, but a sale and a coupon brings that price down, too.
Milk prices are state-regulated here, so milk is never on sale. "Fancy" brands go on sale, but the state sets the minimum price for plain, store brand milk. Anything else costs more.
I'd love to have Costco here, but the closest one is over an hour away.

I used to make homemade yogurt when we had an abundance of fresh goat's milk. Sadly, that is not the case now. And with coupons, I can buy quality yogurt for less than if I bought milk and made it myself (since milk is rarely on sale). But when I did make yogurt it was awesome. My process involved a yogurt maker and was very much like yours. There were only two differences:
1) I added 1/2 cup of powdered milk during the initial heating. This needs to be wisked in slowly so that it stays smooth. Since I was using goat milk, I first tried the Meyenburg powdered goat milk. I did not work. I do not understand why, but powdered cow's milk was best. I preferred the Organic Valley brand. It wisked in so smoothly, no lumps. I have tried conventional (Carnation, store brands, etc.) with success, but they tend to lump and the yogurt will need to be strained through a sieve before going into the yogurt maker. Most of the lumps can be mashed through the sieve so there is no waste. It is just more work.
2) I used 1/2 cup of plain yogurt for my starter.
These two additions were what made my yogurt nice and thick. I also liked the yogurt best when it was "cooked" for 8 hours. The longer it "cooks" the tangier it becomes as well as thicker.
On a side note, I would often strain the yogurt in cheesecloth in the fridge to make my own Greek style yogurt. If it is strained even further you then have what is considered "yogurt cheese". This is alot like cream cheese but sooooo much better! There is a wonderful cookbook titled "Recipes for Yogurt Cheese" by Joanna White. She goes through the process of making the cheese (from homemade or store bought yogurt) plus so many great recipes. Everything from cheesecakes, dips, breads, pancakes, soups, salads, etc. It is worth checking out. ISBN # is 1-55867-158-7 is anyone is interested.
If you want to flavor your yogurt, add sugar or other sweetener and vanilla to the mix before adding to the yogurt maker. It incorporates better this way than if you add it after the cooking process.
Ahhh, just thinking about all of this makes me miss living on a farm!

Thank you for the abundance of information!! :)

I do like your reasoning behind making kefir vs yogurt. I just got some kefir grains but mine have separated into curds and whey both times before 24 hours and I've ended up with some tart kefir. I'll have to keep a closer eye on it (and they are in a location that isn't more than 70 degrees).

I understand your comments about runny yogurt, though I've never had any that tasted bad. I found that if I drain my yogurt in a towel, then I get the thick yogurt that my family enjoys. It is another step though. I drain it for about 2 hours like they show on this video for making whey: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/2010/05/video-liquid-whey-and-cream-cheese/

I end up with quite a bit of whey then to soak grains with or use in baking, along with a nice thick smooth Greek yogurt. I do make my yogurt with raw milk, and don't heat it up past 117 so as not to kill any good enzymes.

Thanks for the post! It takes the pressure off of keeping up with yogurt AND kefir.

Thanks for the post! It takes the pressure off of keeping up with yogurt AND kefir.
Absolutely! Just do what works for you and enjoy. :)

I felt like you were writing this post just for me! I have not had too much success with making yogurt, so I am glad to hear I am not the only one :) I used to make it in the crockpot and it was ok, so I decided to try making yogurt again yesterday. I was using my crockpot for something else, so I heated it on the stovetop, but I don't have a thermometer, so I just scalded the milk and let it cool until it was cool enough to comfortably touch, then I incubated it in a cooler with some jugs of hot water. I don't know what exactly went wrong, but it wasn't smooth like most yogurt, it was really lumpy and smelled funny, it kind of reminded me of cottage cheese.

I might make yogurt again in the crockpot, but I am definitely going to try making kefir, it sounds much easier and more foolproof than homemade yogurt. Thanks for letting me know how simple it really is!

I am a little amused about people attempting to make a product that is temperature sensitive without a thermometer....it's like baking a cake without knowing how hot the oven is. No wonder you don't have success with it. Making yogurt is really so simple...but, you do need to follow the two specific temperature directions and "winging it" just won't do it.

I think crock pots probably vary so especially at first, I think it's smart to at least CHECK and see what temp the milk/yogurt is at at the suggested times on the recipe you're using! :) That helps with troubleshooting if there's a problem, too.

Using a thermometer can be annoying but for some things it's nearly essential! :) (Probably not absolutely essential for yogurt once you've mastered making it, though.) :)

And yes, kefir is really easy. It's "scary" when you've never made it or known anyone who makes it (I spent hours reading about it when I first got my grains!) but in the end it's just so easy! :)

That's funny- I've tried making yogurt a few times in the crock pot and I only got it right once. You do have to strain it afterwards or it is really runny.

try adding more yogurt starter, I use the slow cooker and a thermometer (plus timer to remind myself to check it, every so often) I like to use Mountain High Yoghurt! sign up on their website to get a coupon each month. I never add powdered milk or gelatin. I'm including a copy of what I've typed up. I included notes where I found the info.

Here are the tips (I've gathered) for making yogurt in the slow cooker/crock pot.

--8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk--pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized. (Debbie recommends starting with whole milk until you get the hang of yogurt-making)

--1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt (you need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter)

--frozen/fresh fruit for flavoring (optional)

--thick bath towel(s)

The Directions.
This takes a while. Make your yogurt on a day when you are home to monitor.

I used a 4 quart crockpot.
Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours or less time, if it has reached (minimum) 180 degrees. (Or High for 1 & ½ hours)

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit to cool, for 3 hours.

Check temperature, the temperature of the milk should be between 180 degrees F and 200 degrees F. The milk must reach a temperature of 180F to kill off any non-beneficial bacteria. * Do not allow milk to boil.

* Once the milk has been sterilized, you must bring the temperature of the milk down so that the heat doesn't kill off the beneficial bacteria in the warmed starter culture.

You don't want to add the starter until the milk has dropped to below 120 degrees F, but do not let the milk fall below 100 degrees F.

* The ideal temperature at which to add the starter is approximately 110 to 112 degrees F.

When the milk reaches 115 degrees F, Remove about a cup of the milk.

Bring your starter out of the refrigerator so it can reach room temperature

You will want to temper your starter by ladling some of the warm milk into the already made yogurt and mixing until smooth, then pour the starter/milk mixture into the crock with the rest of the milk and combine well. Replace the cover.
Or
When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation. * For the best results, your developing yogurt should be kept as still and undisturbed as possible.

Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours, undisturbed. (for at least five and up to twelve hours. No peeking! The longer the yogurt spends culturing, the tangier it will get.)

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened---it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt.

Optional: after having let it rest, don’t stir...keep yogurt in crock, place it in fridge to let it cool.

You can blend in batches with your favorite fruit. I did mango, strawberry, and blueberry. When you blend in the fruit, bubbles will form & might bother you. They aren't a big deal, and will settle eventually.

Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch. (I, Priscilla, store mine in glass quart jars with plastic lids)

Additional notes: You can use lower-fat content milk with this method. To thicken the best, add one packet of unflavored gelatin to the mix after stirring in the yogurt with active cultures.

From
http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html\

Additional Notes:
The gelatin is optional, but it will give your yogurt more of a store-bought consistency. 2 percent worked fine for us. Just don't use ultra-pasteurized "long-life" milk.

If you have a thermometer, you may use it to speed up the process: the milk must reach a temperature of 180F to kill off any non-beneficial bacteria.

Temper your starter by ladling some of the warm milk into the already made yogurt and mixing until smooth, then pour the starter/milk mixture into the crock with the rest of the milk and combine well. Replace the cover.

Addition information taken from
http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-make-yogurt

Texture
* The texture of homemade yogurt can be quite different from the store-bought variety. Often, it is thinner and more liquid. If you prefer a thicker, denser yogurt, you can thicken it with a bit of unflavored gelatin.

1. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of gelatin over the milk before heating it.
2. Let stand for 5 minutes, stir, then heat.
3. Heat for 30 minutes, stirring, to dissolve gelatin completely.

Milk Varieties
* You can use cow's milk, goat's milk, or sheep's milk to make yogurt.

1. All fat contents are acceptable, from cream to skim.
2. For safety's sake, use only pasteurized milk.

Food Safety

* Although the beneficial bacteria in yogurt is most welcome, it's also possible, through contamination via utensils or cooking implements, to introduce harmful bacteria into your milk.

1. If you detect any kind of off odor, color, or taste in your yogurt, do not eat it.
2. To avoid contamination, don't forget to sterilize your containers and your cooking equipment.

http://planetoftheapels.blogspot.com/2010/03/crockpot-yogurt.html & also the idea of making yogurt pops =)
she used the crockpot lady’s recipe and then later added this note.

Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter-But only every other time! Every other batch needs a new "starter" from the store. When I first make a batch, I use the 1/2 cup of store bought yogurt to add the live cultures to the warm milk. The second time I make it, I use a starter from the "crockpot yogurt" batch. But I've learned that the next batch (the third), needs a new starter from "store bought yogurt" otherwise it is very runny or MUCH less like yogurt tasting. So...every other batch. I've been buying a large (32 oz) container of yogurt (organic lasts longer than non-organic) for every other batch.)

Sweeten frozen yogurt pops with bananas or fruit juice or make a smoothie and then freeze

I have a yogurt maker that I bought at a thrift store for $5 and I use the recipe found on the hillbillyhousewife site. We like to add fresh fruit to ours, or even homemade jams. Works well for us!

Hey:)
My friend Jodi makes hers in the crock pot. She LOVES it
http://jdy2.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-homemade-yogurt.html

Also, I have kefir grains that I haven't used in over a year. They've been in the fridge all this time but I haven't kept up with making them. Do you think they are still usable? If so what should I do to start using them again?

Thank you for that link!

Kefir grains that haven't been used in over a year? My guess is that they are probably dead. You could try giving them some fresh milk (just follow the directions for making kefir -- give them fresh milk and let it set in a jar on the counter) and see what happens, but I'm doubtful they would still be alive. :(

I have been making my kefir for about 2 weeks now. It did take about 3 batches for my grains to regulate themselves ( also I bought them from someone who used organic milk and I do not)
My kefir hasn't been very close to the consistency I expected. Could it be that I am using fat free milk? I have like the flavor of a 30-36 hour culture.
Any thoughts?
As an aside, I am going to try making salad dressing with my kefir this week- adding some garlic and seasoning to shoot for a meditarrean flavor! Can't wait!
- Heather

I make salad dressing all the time with kefir and it works out great. As a matter of fact I replace buttermilk with kefir in almost all my recipes with great results.

How thick is your kefir? (Compared to milk, or yogurt...) I haven't tried making kefir with fat free milk, so I don't really know how that affects the thickness.

Let me know how your dressing turns out!! :D

I've made kefir with 1%, 2%, and 3.25%, and it does affect the thickness. It all works, but it seems better with a higher fat content. Too bad I let my kefir grains die... didn't mean to. :P

Strangely enough (or not so strange, since it's been almost 3 weeks since we went to Costco!) I am running low on milk (only have 1 gallon of whole milk left) but had an extra gallon of fat free milk so I just put my kefir grains in some of the fat free milk! I'm interested to see how it compares to the whole milk kefir I've been making! :)

I literally laughed out loud about the blind taste test... wow those kids are brave!! haha!

Bonnie

Thank you so much for this timely post! My middle son has been having some health issues for a while and Friday his doctor decided that he want's to have him tested for Crohns Disease. I have been reading a lot about Crohns and the diet that he would need to be on and I keep "stumbling" across references to Kefir and how much it can benefit someone with digestive issues. A friend of my gave us some store bought Kefir for him to try, but I have been searching the internet to find out how to make it. I am so thankful for this post. God knew exactly what I needed. Thank You!

I do have a question though. Where do you get the live Kefir grains to start with?

Online, you can look for live kefir grains on Etsy or Cultures for Health.
My favorite way is for friends to share with each other, since the grains grow and you'll soon have more than you need! I wish I could share with everyone here! :)

I purchased my grains from Cultures for health, but they haven't grown at all. I started with about 1 T of grains and have just about the same amount (actually less). I've followed their instructions, so don't know what went wrong. BTW their instructions state that not all grains will grow. Maybe the fact that they are dehydrated affects the growth? It was disappointing. I still can make kefir, but it is not thick like yours.

Christy

That is interesting. I was reading recently that if you freeze your kefir grains to preserve them, you should freeze extras because they may have only a 50% survival rate.

I think in Cultures for Health's videos, they say that their kefir grains will grow. If yours never (e.g. after about 6-8 weeks of constant care) increase, I'd call Cultures for Health about it.

It certainly could take a bit for the grains to start growing -- and mine go through "growth spurts"! -- but they should eventually get bigger, for sure.

Tammy, I'm not a yogurt expert by any stretch but I think you aren't allowing enough time for your yogurt (3-4 hours). I use 7-8 hours and it's thick and perfect. After reading all the mishaps (vomit smell??), why wouldn't you want yogurt rather than kefir? It's a matter of personal preference and taste, I guess, but I'll take yogurt.

I have tried a shorter culturing time (4 hours was my shortest) as well as longer culturing times (24 hours was the longest) for the homemade yogurt. :)

The mishaps were with my yogurt, not kefir! That is why I think I'll stick with making kefir and not worry about homemade yogurt. :)

We make yogurt in the crockpot. It always turns out and the most difficult part is washing the crock! Directions are found on http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html. If the yogurt comes out too thin I line a colander with coffee filters, set it over a bowl and drain some whey out and use that in bread.

This is a timely post for me since I JUST started making yogurt last Friday! I bought a 1970's Salton yogurt maker for only $15.00 (my mom had one when I was little, so I knew it made good yogurt). I made the first batch on Friday and have not been able to keep up with the demand ever since. I've had to put a batch on every night. If only the yogurt maker made more than 5- 6 oz. cups at a time!! Not only am I able to make organic yogurt at a cost of only $3.39 per gallon (our local Kroger puts organic milk that is close to it's exp. date on "manager's special" for half price almost every week), but everyone is licking their bowls clean. They love this stuff! The instructions with my maker say to just boil the milk and then remove it from heat. When it cools to 130 degrees, stir in the starter. The incudator base is thermostat controlled and keeps the yougrt at specific temps as it cultures. It takes 12 hours per batch- but makes perfect yogurt everytime.

I have been culturing kefir for a few years, too. But I prefer the milder flavor of yogurt.

Your yogurt maker sounds great! I'll have to remember that brand in case I ever see one at a thrift store! :)
I have been culturing kefir for a few years, too. But I prefer the milder flavor of yogurt.
I do think it is probably just a matter of personal preference on the flavors! :) We're probably accustomed to the taste of our kefir and store-bought yogurt but not homemade yogurt (unless I could make it taste more like store-bought!). :)

When we make our yogurt, we use 1/8 of a teaspoon of yogurt culture, which is a dry powder which you keep in the freezer. It always makes wonderful, mild thick like ice cream yogurt! We heat it like you said, and then cool it like you said, add the teeny bit of culture, whisk it in and then put it in a crockpot/ceramic pot etc...and wrap it in towels and set it in a corner and 12 hours later stick it in the fridge, and there's yogurt! It's always worked for us until recently when my mom bought the same culture by a different producer and it has not been turning out at all, have to use a lot more culture and is really sour. LOL So we promptly shall return to the culture we've been using for years, it makes the best, if you use plain yogurt from the store the result is inconsistent and usually sour.

I was hoping to put a yogurt recipe on my blog within the next week or so. Well, the basics of yogurt making along with yummy add-ins.

Michelle
encouragementformoms.blogspot.com

I just started making kefir and would be happy to share grains from time to time locally. I don't know how on earth to ship them, but any of your readers from Tiffin could find me easily enough.

hey Tammy...

are you using a "live culture" yogurt for your starter? I recommend Dannon's Plain Live Cultured yogurt.

And I use the old Salton yogurt maker too.....mine is old, and it works great!

are you using a "live culture" yogurt for your starter?
Yes! :)

Dear Tammy ,
I am a big fan of your's and my family enjoys every recipe that I have tried from here.We do make yogurt regularly with out any fancy equipments and always comes out perfect,so I thought of sharing it with you.
To make the yogurt say for 2 cups as you may want to try this before making a big batch.Boil the2 cups of whole milk and let it cool to lukewarm temperature,now add a 2 tsp of yogurt and mix well with a spoon and leave it in the oven with the light on for 7 hrs. After 7 hrs the yogurt would have set and if there is any water seeping out drain it off by tilting the container to a side slowly and refrigerate for a few hrs and then do the taste test.I promise you it would taste as good or even better than store bought one.
Vidhya.

Thank you, Vidhya! :)

My oven light doesn't come on unless the oven door is open. I'm guessing that leaving the door open would defeat the purpose of having the light on! :)

I've used the Matsoni culture from Cultures for Health. You use room temperature milk and culture it on the counter, just like kefir. No heating and such. It has a rather mild taste as well. I need to get back into kefir making. I did it for a number of years, but let my grains die. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/matsoni-yogurt-starter.html

I saw that on their website! How does the thickness/consistency compare to commercial yogurt? I may look into trying a something like viili or matsoni yogurt in the future! :)

I personally use a yogurt maker to make my yogurt and boy does is disappear fast around here! Anyway, I came across a yogurt recipe using a heating pad on another blog I follow...I should really give it a try, because it makes much bigger quantities! You can check it out at this link... http://sweetmissdaisy.typepad.com/sassy_sweet_notes/2011/02/homemade-yogurt-a-success.html
I haven't been successful with Kefir yet, probably because I'm using starter instead of grains. I wanted to to try the starter to see if I like it...but it's just SO sour...flavoring it really didn't help either. I just can't find grains from a reputable source...any suggestions?
On another note, I just have to tell you that everyone in my house loves every recipe of yours that I've tried! Made the black bean brownies yesterday and they were a HUGE hit...who would have thunk adding a little cocoa and sugar to black beans would be SO YUM!

The heating pad method sounds like a good idea! :) (I don't own a heating pad though...)
Would you consider ordering from a seller on Etsy? That is probably the cheapest way to get live kefir grains (aside from getting some from a friend!). Another option is Cultures for Health. Their milk kefir grains are dried, but from everything I've heard, they work well (and rehydrate quickly) and since they're an actual company, you can call them for customer support if you have any issues! :)
So glad you all are enjoying the recipes! :)

I've been making homemade Greek yogurt weekly for the past year -- I started by using the instructions at Salad in a Jar here:

http://www.salad-in-a-jar.com/family-recipes/answers-to-your-questions-about-making-homemade-yogurt

She offers lots and lots of troubleshooting -- my first couple batches didn't turn out well, but I stuck with it and my family kicked our $40/month Costco Chobani addiction.

Romaine's recipe is awesome because you incubate your yogurt overnight with your oven light as the only heat source. Super easy and absolutely no special equipment required.

I love homemade yogurt and make it once a week.

I heat milk to 185 degrees , then pour into jars and allow it to sit until it reaches 110 degrees.

I add 2 tablespoons of my yogurt that I made previously or I use the plain Greek yogurt from the store. I add 2 tablespoons of milk to the 2 tablespoons of yogurt and mix together. I allow this to come to room temperature.

Now, this is how you get success with the yogurt. You are NOT suppose to whisk the yogurt into the 110 degree milk. You have to allow the yogurt to slide into the jar slowly. Then carefully carry the jars to the cooler. I use jars of boiling water in the cooler next to the milk jars. All jars are covered with lids. I use canning jars.

I use 3 jars of milk and 3 jars of boiling water. I cover all jars with a towel. I cover the cooler with the lid and wrap the whole cooler in a comforter. I leave this alone for 12 hours or so. I check to see how thick it is after 12 hours. If thick, then I place jars in refrigerator for 3 hours. Then I take a colander, line it with a clean pillow case (I use the pillow case only for yogurt) and dump all the yogurt into colander which sits in a pot to collect the whey. I leave the yogurt draining overnight. The yogurt comes out think like Greek and heavenly.

I won't eat yogurt from the store anymore. The homemade version is the best.

For me this whole process is very easy.

Barb

So is the difference between whisking the starter in vs. slipping it in gently -- texture or thickness? Or both? :)

Tammy, I don't know if it affects texture or thickness. I suppose I could make just one cup of milk and try whisking in the starter and see what happens as an experiment. Maybe I will try it this weekend.

I have always slipped in the starter since this was the direction on the internet. I have made yogurt almost every week for the last year so I probably made it at least 48 times (each time slipping in the starter) and I have had success every time. The temperature of my heated milk was always at 185 degrees and the milk cooled down to anywhere from 110 degrees to 115.

I suppose I could make just one cup of milk and try whisking in the starter and see what happens as an experiment. Maybe I will try it this weekend.

The yogurt is thick after 12 hours. Thick enough to eat. I have not checked it sooner than 12 hours. I drain it over night because I like it thick - almost like soft cream cheese.

And once the starter is in the jars, they are not to be disturbed in any way. No movement and no shaking.

I just follow these directions and it works every time.

Where I live in Michigan the Greek yogurt plain (1 cup) is $1.99 and the hormone free milk I buy is $3.99 per gallon so it is cheaper for me to make the yogurt myself. I get 2 quart jars full and 1 half gallon jar full of yogurt. Since I drain it, I get much less of course. But for $4 I get more homemade yogurt than I can get at the store for that price.

Barb

Tammy,
I make both kefir and yogurt because they have different probotics. Probotics is a must for our family. We have food allergies and eczema .issues. I use a yogurt maker so I don't have to babysit anything. With eight children I can not be babysitting. I let my yogurt processes for 5 hours and I do use organic dry milk in it. I found that the dry milk does make for thicker yogurt. To avoid lumps I stir small amounts of the warm milk into my starter yogurt until it is quite thinned out.

I have been making kefir for about 5 years and always tried never to use metal products of any kind on my kefir. Because I had read that metal is not good for kefir. Since I saw you use a metal fork in your kefir and your kefir was thick I decided to start using a fork to take out my kefir grains. Guess what!!! My kefir gets much thicker now and using a fork is so much easier
(Life and yet learn.)

What?! That is very interesting. Had your kefir never been that thick before? I mean, could it possibly just be a phase your kefir is going through? :)

Thank you for the post!
I am so interested in making my own Kefir! (we buy it from the store sometimes) I have read your posts and I have watched the videos. I was just wondering, and maybe I missed it... How do I store the Kefir grains? Do you have to constantly be using them or can you set them aside for a week or two if you don't want to use them? Will they go bad or something? In the video the lady said to put them right back into some more milk.... hmmm? I don't think I would be making it everyday...

There are a couple options for someone who doesn't want to make a large volume of kefir:

#1 -- you can make 1/2 cup per day. Kefir will keep for weeks in the fridge, so you can just keep adding to a quart (or pint) jar in there, and then use once or twice a week for drinking or smoothies (or whatever you like). It takes about 2 minutes and 1-2 extra dishes to make kefir each day, so it's really not a huge time commitment even for such a small amount! :)

#2 -- you can take a vacation from making kefir for up to two weeks by just putting a jar with milk + kefir grains in the fridge (leave alone for up to 2 weeks). This is great for going on vacation, or taking a long break for whatever reason. However, if you do this too much (and I'm not sure what exactly constitutes "too much") your grains won't be as healthy/thriving because they'll be in a dormant or semi-dormant state for so much of the time.

#3 -- you could do a combination of both of these approaches! Make a small amount daily for a while, take a couple weeks "off", then go back to making a small amount again. :) I've made as little as 1/4-1/3 cup of kefir at a time with success! :)

Thanks so much that is VERY helpful! I am going get some (milk kefir) grains for sure, if I can't find any I am ordering them next week.
And I just found out a friend's sister has some water keifer grains to share. :o) So I'll be trying that too.

I am so grateful you took the time to write that out! Thanks Tammy!

I just got back from 2 week vacation and I went to strain out the milk and it seems good. Can I drink this or is it meant to be tossed out?

Thanks!

Drink it!!!

I have made yogurt without a thermometer, but it is much easier with a good thermometer.
We used to make it like 3 gallons at a time when we had a cow.
Mom had a neat dehydrator that kept it the right temp though!!!

Ok, I made my usual batch of yogurt yesterday.

I slipped in the starter as I have been doing for the last year. I took 1 cup of milk and to this one I whisked in the starter.

I incubated the milk as usual with the hot water bottles in the cooler and left it alone for 12 hours.

Success!!!

The jars that had starter slipped in tasted the same as always and as thick as always with whey floating close to the top. This yogurt is a little tart just the way I like it.

The jar that had the starter whisked in looked different. It was thicker than the other yogurt and had very little whey. And it was not tart at all!!! I did not like this yogurt.

So, it seems that whisking in the starter affects the taste only and not the texture.

I will be slipping in my starter just as I have for the past year.

Barb

Barb, thanks for sharing! Fascinating info!! :)

Just wanted to add that yogurt success or failure probably has to do with the way the yogurt is incubated. Or at least that is what I think.

I always incube my yogurt in a cooler with jars filled with boiling water and I leave it alone for 12 hours. I always have success.

Wondering if anyone else incubates the yogurt in a cooler and do you have success or failure?

One other observation - when I use the 2% Face Greek style yogurt as starter (instead of my own homemade yogurt) then the finished yogurt is more tart. I make my yogurt from whole milk only and my finished yogurt is tart.

But I wonder why when I use my yogurt as starter the finished product is less tart?

Barb

I make yogurt in 1 quart canning jars and place them in the small half-gallon drink coolers (the kind with a pour spout on top). While I'm making the yogurt I fill the coolers with boiling water and put the lids on them, then set them aside. When I'm ready to incubate the yogurt, I pour 1/2 to 2/3 of the boiling water out of the coolers and carefully set the jars of yogurt down into the water. I don't cap the jars of yogurt at this point, but I do put the lids back on the coolers and set them somewhere where they won't be disturbed during incubation. After 8 hours or so, I check the yogurt, which so far has always been ready. At this point I cap the jars with plastic lids and refrigerate them.

I make yogurt and never had a problem. I have a post on my blog about my experience & what I use. http://homestyleworldcook.blogspot.com/2011/03/homemade-yogurt.html While our milk prices are expensive and controlled by the state/not on sale and yogurt is often reduced very steeply at discount grocery stores near us, I decided to try making my own since I prefer to have a flavored and slightly sweetened yogurt. However, I do not want so much sugar or artificial sweeteners in my yogurt (although I do buy some when I don't have time to make my own). I had good results with mine but a thermometer is necessary.

I have been interested in Kefir for a while. This is something I definitely plan to try soon. I love it in smoothies and the price in the store is outrageous. Thanks for the great tutorial.

Sarah

I LOVE your site, it's my go-to site for looking up information on making practically anything! I really want to make homemade yogurt because in my house we go through it like crazy about 2-3 5oz store bought containers per person per day!!! Since I prefer yogurts that don't have any added artificial junk in it, we stick to only two brands when I buy in the store and those are Tillamook(Tillamook's factory is less than a 4 drive from my actual house, so I know it's fairly fresh)and Brown Cow Greek Yogurt.

Now, even shopping at Winco(they have THE BEST prices for groceries around, besides Costco, lol), I still spend about 50 cents per 5 oz container of Tillamook and about $3.50 for a 4-pack of 4 oz containers of Brown Cow, they don't seem to sell the fruit flavoured ones in the larger containers, at least not that I've been able to find :( Around here, a gallon of GOOD QUALITY milk is about $3.00, the slightly lower end/store brand is about $2.18 a gallon, so I think it would definitely be worth it to make my own! LOL.

My first attempt at making yogurt earlier this week, well, it failed horribly, but I didn't do a lot of research. Now, I did more research and read the comments on here and am going to make a second attempt today! For me, I make almost everything at home now(toothpaste, deodorant, dishwasher soap, etc.), you name it, I probably make it, lol. Thanks for having such a wonderful site and a way for all of us to connect and exchange tips and information :)

Bright Blessings!
~Elliyahnna

I have a yogurt maker (insulated plastic container, with a smaller container inside) and starter powder. I have never had a problem with it, always made perfect yogurt, even made yogurt using soyamilk a few times. Just filled it with hot water, put the milk in (never cooked the milk first) and let it stand overnight. So very interesting to see your posts about cooking the milk and using a thermometer. Phew! What alot of work. But I like that you can just use other yogurt as a starter, rather than buying starter powder.

Kefir sounds interesting, though I have no idea where I'd find Kefir grains in Taiwan

LJ

What is exactly is the difference between kefir and yogurt? Compared to yogurt, isn't it just a bit runnier, and a bit more sour?

I've read Kefir is healthier because it has yeast, and more probiotics, but is there any reason why I couldn't just add a Kefir starter kit into my existing yogurt maker batch?

Currently, I have a yogurt maker that I use with goat milk/coconut milk and a blend of starter active cultures taken from different yogurts. Can a kefir/yogurt blend be made since they appear to be so similar? Or is the fermentation process totally different that mixing bugs won't work?

... here in my neck of the woods, which is *Sun* Diego, Milk is about $3/gal give or take few cents daily, and the cheapest crap yougurt, i.e., Mountain High brand, is never any cheaper than $2.50 per quart, making $10/gal. $5/gal would be a dream and would keep me from making my own if it were something half decent. In the amounts I consume plain yogurt, paying $10/gal would be cost prohibitive.

My simple instructions (may take a few runs and less than perfect batches to get the routine down) to make yogurt:

I use
4 of 1 qt wire locking glass jars (purchased from IKEA $3.99)
1 flat bottom whisk (again IKEA $3.99 for a set of 3)
1 steel bottom pan ~1.5 gal size. (any thick bottom pan will do just don't use the stockpot)

* Put gallon of milk into pan, set burner to medium low setting. Depending on the heat of your stove, heat it up till you see vapor rising from the pot of milk visible to your naked eye. At this point, your milk should be 180 degrees or above. To make sure, you can use a thermometer for the first few batches.
* Reduce the heat to lowest possible setting, and keep the milk on heat for 15 more minutes. At this point, add 4 tablespoons of powdered milk and using the whisk, mix it in. At the same time, use the flat bottom shape to scrape any residue that might have stuck at the bottom. If too much residue, make sure it gets whisked in well and remember to set the heat to a lower setting next time. It should not have happened at the first place.
* Take the pan of milk off the heat and set it on a stone counter top if you have one. If you don't, fill your sink about an inch of cold water and sink the pan in. Depending on which method you use wait till milk is cool enough but not cold. Best measure is to dip the tip your pinky finger in it and it should be comfortable to keep it in the milk for 30 seconds without feeling the burn. This means the milk is about 120 degrees at this point. Again use a thermometer in the beginning for few batches.
* Use an empty spaghetti sauce jar or anything with tight lid to mix your starter. Starter is 6 heaping table spoons of yogurt with active cultures in it. Put it in sauce jar. Ladle some milk into the same jar, till it is half way full. Close the lid and shake vigorously for 15 seconds to mix it well.
* Fill 4 glass jars half way with milk. Divide up the starter mix roughly into 4 equal parts and mix them in 4 jars. Fill the jar again with more milk and pour it in to take the remaining pieces of yogurt stuck on the jar walls and pour it in equally into 4 jars.
* Fill the jars with the remaining milk
* Put them in your stove's oven and place them close to the oven light.
* Turn on the light. It will provide the necessary heat to keep your milk warm enough to incubate the yogurt cultures in the milk.
* It takes about 6 hours for me for the yogurt to set but you may want to experiment with keeping it warm for longer periods.
* Enjoy...

Hi, you're missing the final step that makes all the difference:
placing the untouched yogurt in the fridge for approx 8 hours (overnight) to 'set' - stop fermenting - then it is amazing yogurt. I like to strain most of mine, making it Greek Yogurt (w/o any cream), and even labna.
(I make a gallon of milk into yogurt at least once a week)

Most people really over complicate the process. People have been making versions of this in diverse cultures around the globe, mostly on open fire stoves.
It really shouldn't be so difficult and require so many gizmos.

Fool Proof Method:

Materials: heavy pot, stove (duh), thick spoon or large spatula or sturdy whisk, oven w/ a light, fridge, 1/2-1 Cup of plain yogurt w/ live active cultures (read the back and try to find the most possible - approx 5), 1gal milk

Method:
1. Boil milk in the pot - or Almost Boil Milk, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn (could start on medium heat and increase to high when it starts getting warm.
2. Cool milk until warm/just warm to the touch. Quickest way is in a sink of cold water.
3. Whisk the prepared 1/2 C-1C yogurt into cooled, but still warm milk.
4. Cover, or don't, it doesn't really make a difference (I've done both).
Place entire pot in the oven with the light on.
5. Leave undisturbed in oven for 6, 8, 12, 14, 24 hours. Experiment and see what you prefer. The longer it ferments, the thicker and more sour.
6. DO NOT STIR!
7. Place the entire undisturbed pot in the fridge for approx 8 hours, or overnight. (or longer, doesn't matter)
8. EAT!
Or strain through a designated handkerchief, coffee filter, etc, to make greek yogurt w/o using cream. Devour.
Or make labna by adding salt and serve with olive oil, zataar and bread. (My kids' favorite)

(there was an Indian or Pakistani lady on youtube who had THE BEST tutorial of this, but i can't find it anymore. Anyway, I gave you the Cliffnotes.)

I too make yogurt at home. I incubate a one quart jar of yogurt in a one gallon cooler (the kind with a pour spout on top) with warm water. I start incubating both the yogurt and the water at 105 degrees. I place the cooler outside in the sun to keep it warm. About 6 hours later I have nice thick yogurt! I don't monitor the temperature once I put it in the cooler. Of course, our 95-100 degree days in my neck of the woods (Central CA) sure helps! I'll have to come up with a new plan come winter!

I used to make yogurt in the crock-pot with pasteurized milk and never really had problems, so long as I set the timer so that I would remember to check the temp after a few hours. Now I make raw milk yogurt about every 10 days, and it is as easy as pouring a half-gallon jar of milk from the fridge into a big bowl, whisking in a spoonful of yogurt, covering the bowl, and sticking it in my Excalibur dehydrator at 115F for about 8 hours (sometimes longer depending on my schedule). I like my yogurt thick, so I always drain off a good portion of the whey through a tea towel, then use the whey for fermented vegetables and baking bread and such. :)

Thank you for posting this! And having such an informatively awesome blog :)

I'm wondering, can Kefir be made from store bought Kefir? Thank you, Donna
donna.s.vaughn (at) gmail.com

Hello,

I was wondering if I can use the Yogurmet when I make a kefir(not yogurt)

What I think is not to cover with a lid the milk and kefir grains in it.

I know that the I can get kefir faster if I have more grains, but what about this idea?

Does anyone tried?

Hello,

I was wondering if I can use the Yogurmet when I make a kefir(not yogurt)

What I think is not to cover with a lid the milk and kefir grains in it.

I know that the I can get kefir faster if I have more grains, but what about this idea?

Does anyone tried?

I ran across a really easy way to make yogurt that I have had total success with every time. My boys say it tastes better than Brown Cow (they love that stuff with the full cream on the top)
Anyway here is the process:
Fill a wide mouthed thermos with warm water
Heat 1qt of milk (or less if your thermos is small) to 115 make sure it isn't hotter than that, it will kill the culture.
Pour water out of thermos, pour milk into thermos.
Add two tablespoons of plain yogurt
put the lid on and wait 4-5 hours, and it will be done!
Take out two tablespoons for your next batch, and add whatever flavors you want to the main batch.

I use whole milk because that is what we drink, but you can use low fat milk, it just won't be as creamy.
Buying the milk and making the yogurt with it is totally cheaper than buying yogurt premade, and I can sweeten it with Stevia instead of sucrolose.

I used to make yogourt in a SEB yogourt maker, but it was tedious mixing the liquid and pouring it into the 8, 1/2-cup jars. When enough of them broke that I couldn't substitute with small glasses, I tried doing it in the oven. I wish I had done it sooner! I take a deeper Corning Ware dish (the rectangular casserole with rounded edges), pour in 1/2 cup of yogourt (based on the ratio of 1/2 a cup per litre of milk that my machine called for) and add my milk. I stick it in the oven with the light on for at least 9 hours. I checked the temperature once with a candy thermometer and found that it stays around 100 degrees. It's quick and easy and, so far, fool-proof.

I've been blogging about my yogurt experience:

http://www.betterdoneathome.com

Heating milk for yogurt on top of the stove can be pretty tedious, so I just heat it in the microwave for about fifteen minutes on high. I use a two quart batter bowl (just a giant glass measuring cup, 8 bucks at target). I check with a thermometer to make sure it reaches at least 180 degrees.

When the milk cools to 120, I put a little bit in a small measuring cup, add the starter, mix well, then add back to the large cup. I cover with a dish cloth and put in a warm oven.

I preheat the oven for a minute or so, then turn it off. I have a thermometer with a probe and a receiver that I sit on the cabinet and I leave the probe in the oven to make sure it stays between 100 and 110 degrees. If you get the oven too hot just leave the door open until the temp drops to about 105. When you close the door again the temp will inch back up a few degrees. After I did this a few times I was able to keep the oven at the right temperature without hovering. The total "active" time I now spend making a batch of yogurt is less than fifteen minutes.

My boyfriend introduced me to making homemade yogurt and I found it really easy. You don't need keep it warm or heated after you mix it, nor do you need to keep it in separate jars. We just put it back into the opaque jug of milk, mix in the yogurt, and then store it in a cabinet for about 24 hours or so. Comes out great :)

Microwave is a good idea, I may have to try that sometime. I got burned from boiling water the last time I made a batch with a double boiler.

If you are interested in making yoghurt at home, try getting your hands on a 'mesophilic' culture such as viili, fiimjolk, matsoni, or piima.

Why? Because a mesophilic culture does not require heating - it cultures best at temperatures between 68 - 80 degrees F(20 to 26 degrees C)

Simply add 1/4 cup of your last batch of yoghurt (once you have gotten your starter culture going) to 1 quart/litre of milk and let it culture on your bench for a day or two. Easy as that!

That being said, I'm on the kefir bandwagon too and I'm using it in place of yoghurt as well :)

my friend gave me some home made Kefir to try, and it has yeasty smell/taste. I have made yogurt every week for over a month now, and I like it. Can I mix some of the Kefir with my yogurt starter to make yogurt? so I can get additional live cultures from the Kefir?

if someone lives in DC area and wants free grains I'm happy to share! my email is mariann dot zaiets at gmail dot com (put "." for "dot" and "@" for "at"). I live near Rockville, MD.
Thanks for a great posting BTW! Love your blog!

I travel a lot, and I am very busy even when I am at home, so I just don't want to bother with trying to keep kefir grains alive and healthy.

This is what I do to make homemade kefir.

I buy kefir at the store and some whole milk at the store.

I get a clean glass jar and fill 1/3 of it with the fresh store-bought kefir. I then fill the rest of the jar with store-bought whole milk. I put on the lid and shake it gently to mix them together. I then take off the lid and cover the jar with a cloth and set it out on my kitchen counter for about a day and a half or two days, however long it takes to fully curdle the milk in the jar. The warmer the room is, the faster it happens.

I can tell when it is done because the curds will completely separate from the clear whey down at the bottom of the jar. It is very bitter at this point, but just full of bacteria and yeast, and very healthy for me. I usually just mix it up with a spoon at this point and drink it down to get the most health benefits from it. Why put it back in the refrigerator to cool back down and put all the bacteria and yeast back to sleep? This way, with it at room temperature, they are all awake and ready to go to work in my digestive system. I also drink a glass of fresh milk to chase them down and give them something to eat while they are going through my innards.

I just got back into making yogurt because I really have gotten hooked on greek yogurt. I discovered that some recipes only call for 4 hours incubation (but has more starter). I tried it and it worked. But I like the kefir suggestion. I haven't tasted milk kefir before, so I will have to give it a try.

Is it ok to use 2% milk when making kefir? I have been using the 2% since I received my grains from a family member.

Can you use 2% milk?

WHy do we scald the milk to 180 degrees? Or any degrees? Cooling it I can see, even heating it a bit, so it isn't cold out of the fridge.

The reason we heat the milk is to assure killing the bad bacteria so that it does not compete with the good. This seems to be redundant since the milk is already pasteurized.
Personally, I don't see the need for it when using UHP or UHT milk which is already ultra high temperature pasteurized. I use UHT and powdered milk for all my delicious yogurt making without heating it at all. Also, in using certain types of yogurt there is a wider variety of bacteria available to us than milk kefir alone.
Also, if you use a mesophilic culture which cultures on the countertop in temperatures of 68 to 78 degrees with a heat source or appliance your problems are solved.

If multi step yogurt making is unappealing, there is mesophilic (Viili or Filmjolk) yogurt which is made on the counter top without and appliance or addition heat source. Just put the starter in the jar and add the milk, stir, wait, period. Mesophilic yogurt cultures at 68 to 78 degrees.
As for thermophilic which is mentioned in this blog and requires a yogurt maker or heat source to culture, I make that too. I do not heat the milk as it has alreadyl been done by the manufacturer when using UHT or UHP ultra high temperature pasteurization milk. My yogurt comes out great in both uses. My mesophilic yogurt which is a thinner more sour yogurt can be made thicker but the addition of powdered milk. My last batch is awesome because I used more than usual. We use a lot of yogurt, both kinds so my fridge is full.
Now as to milk kefir, it is also wonderful but water kefir appears to have a more and varied offering of bacteria. Check here for the breakdown in both:

http://www.growyouthful.com/recipes/kefir.php

You can see that there are far more types of bacteria than milk kefir.

I have used 1%, 2%, whole milk, organic milk, UHT milk and powdered milk and they all make great yogurt or kefir.
WM carries organic milk and Promise Land which are both good and Organic Valley has organic milk powder,
People will tell you not to use UHT milk but never think it though or have a good reason. When you heat the milk you are doing what UHT has already accomplished so there is no good reason not to use it. Misinformation just keeps getting copied from one person to the next and blog to blog. Think about it.

I've been making homemade yogurt for the last two years. I was tired of all the unhealthy ingredients and preservatives in commercial yogurt and decided to make my own. I planned to buy a yogurt machine but all the Amazon reviews said the yogurt makers keep the temperature too high during the yogurt making process. So off to the internet I went to find a website that teaches how to make yogurt in a crockpot. The actual process takes about 8 hours from start to finish. My actual hands on requires less than 10 minutes. So yogurt making isn't technically difficult or labor intensive. The biggest hurdle to overcome is I "cure" my yogurt in the oven so I have to ensure I start the yogurt first thing in the morning to have my oven available to make supper.

I make my yogurt in a 2.5 qt Crockpot brand crockpot that I purchased and keep specifically for just yogurt making. Different crockpots will heat at different temperatures so you need to learn how long it takes your crockpot to reach 180 degrees and then add 30 minutes. An accurate thermometer is also mandatory if you want to make yogurt.

My new crockpot requires a 3.5 hour heating process to get my milk to 180 degree and then hold it there for 30 minutes to kill off the bad bacteria. I then unplug my crockpot. I use a set of nesting stainless steel bowls because they can be sterilized in the dishwasher. To the biggest pan I add icecubes and cold water about 2" deep and set aside for use as an icebath. To the second largest bowl I pour my hot milk. I gradually add in my powdered milk and Zulka cane sugar (cane juice dehydrated but not refined) and I stir that up completely. (My crock I replaced the lid and set inside a cold oven.)

Then I gently lower the hot milk bowl into the ice bath. I cool the hot milk mixture down to 110 degrees exactly. At 110 degrees take your milk bowl out of the ice bath and set it on the counter. In a separate small bowl you want to temper your starter yogurt with the warm milk. To keep your end result yogurt from clumping add just 1-2 ounces of warm milk to the cold yogurt starter and stir it up completely Then gradually add in 12-16 oz warm milk to the yogurt starter and make sure you have no clumps before pouring it into back into your large bowl of milk. This step is critical if you don't want to find clumps of yogurt in your finished product. Take the crock out of the oven and slowly pour the warm milk mixture back into the hot crock. Replace the lid. Set the crock in your oven and start your oven just until the sides start to get warm (1 minute). Turn oven off, turn the oven light on and set your timer for 4-6 hours. 4 hours if you like sweeter yogurt and 6 hours if you like it more tart.

Once the timer goes off set the crock in your refrigerator and allow it to cool and thicken overnight. The next day I ladle the yogurt into individual 8 oz quilted canning jars and screw on a reusable plastic canning lid. This way your yogurt is portable just like grocery store yogurt. My husband takes a jar every day to work.

I have been using Activia as my starter but I wanted to start using a better quality starter that has more and different colonies of "good" bacteria. So I recently placed an order for powdered yogurt starter and when it arrives I'll learn to modify my process a little. Milk is cheap in my area I can usually find a gallon under $2 gallon. A half gallon of organic milk is $3 and I've switched to using the organic milk. Does it make a difference? No but I do use whole milk and add powdered milk which not only makes for a creamier, thicker yogurt but it adds protein to the yogurt. I know we are eating healthier yogurt because I know exactly what went into the process. Unlike some people my yogurt only lasts 7-10 days before it starts to grow mold.

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