Homemade Yogurt in 5 Easy Steps

Original recipe and techniques are courtesy of my pal, Karen Hanson, Registered Dietitian, Manhattan Hy-Vee, a great teacher. Be sure to read Karen’s article in Summer 2014 issue of Kansas Living (a Kansas Farm Bureau member publication) to learn about the benefits of yogurt as part of a healthy eating plan.

 Ingredients

  • ½ gallon milk,  I typically use 2% or skim
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt with live active cultures to use as your “starter” (You’ll see these active cultures listed on your yogurt container.  How you pronounce them is your business.)
  • Your favorite sweeteners and flavor extracts, such as honey, agave nectar, almond or vanilla extract

Equipment

  • Stock pot with a lid (large enough to hold ½ gallon milk with 2-3 inches head space)
  • Spatula
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Whisk
  • Incubator

How-To

1. HEAT the MILK. Place milk into your favorite chubby stock pot, over medium high heat, and bring to 180 degrees F, stirring gently and often so milk does not scorch or boil over.   (You may also heat milk to temperature in a glass bowl in the microwave, transferring to a stock pot with a lid later.)

2. COOL the MILK. Remove hot milk from heat and allow to cool to 105-110 degrees F. To help speed up the process of cooling, stir milk often, speaking to it softly, and smiling. (This may not actually work, but it is calming to your soul.)

3. INOCULATE the MILK.  Though this sounds as though you may be giving your milk an immunization, it’s actually just the step of adding the yogurt cultures (also known as your “starter”) to the cooled milk.  Use your trusty whisk to be sure the yogurt is well incorporated into the milk.

4. INCUBATE the YOGURT. This is my favorite part of the process, probably because I’m a Mom and it gives me the warm fuzzies.  Cover that chubby little stock pot with it’s lid, then wrap it up in a big, fluffy bath towel for insulation, and place it into a warm oven that’s been preheated for just a couple minutes, then turned off. Turn the oven light on and let milk incubate in oven 6-8 hours, taking care to be sure the light remains on throughout this entire period.

5. COOL the YOGURT. I have found that yogurt cooled in the same container it was incubated in has a smoother, creamier texture.  Here is where you add your sweeteners and extracts, if desired.  I prefer to keep my yogurt plain, adding the sweeteners to individual servings. Homemade yogurt keeps about two weeks in the refrigerator, but I’m willing to wager it won’t last for more than a couple days once the Hubster and kids get a taste.  My family loves homemade yogurt so much I now make it by the gallon nearly every week.

Yield:  approx. five 6 oz. servings (final cost = approx. $0.50/serving)

**But, Chef Alli, What if I Want to Make GREEK Yogurt? 

If that’s the case, there’s just one more step you need to add:  DRAIN the YOGURT.

At Step 5, when you prepare to cool the yogurt, place a colander over a large bowl; line colander with overlapping coffee filters or 3-4 layers of cheesecloth. Pour yogurt into the prepared colander and cover well, then place the whole contraption into refrigeration. Allow yogurt to drain to desired consistency; the whey will gather into the bowl as it drains from the yogurt.   If you enjoy nice, super-thick Greek-style yogurt, that’s chock full of protein, allow it to drain for about 6-8 hours. To transfer the drained yogurt, it works best to just pick up the whole mess with your hands, filters and all, and then gingerly “flop” the yogurt out into a bowl.  Don’t panic if you decide the yogurt is too thick; you haven’t ruined it! Simply add back in a portion of the whey liquid that has drained off the yogurt. Stir it in a little at a time, to the desired consistency you prefer. See?  All is good……I would never lead you astray.

 Incubating Yogurt Without Using Your Oven

Not everyone is going to want to use their oven to incubate yogurt since some ovens may not have a light.  Here are some other options that I’ve tried and found to work great:

  1. Slow Cooker:  Use a slow cooker to bring milk to 115 degrees F.  Unplug slow cooker and wrap it in thick towels.
  2. Microwave:  Use foil to over the top of your bowl that holds milk heated to 115 degrees.  Double wrap bowl with dish towels and incubate in microwave.  Heat up a microwaveable hot pad and place in microwave to help keep this small area toasty warm.
  3. Cooler or Ice Chest:  Place warm yogurt into warmed quart glass jars and wrap in towels.  Place into a cooler or ice chest and cover with lid.

**For all three of the alternate incubating methods listed above, incubate yogurt for 6-8 hours, then proceed with cooling and straining steps listed above.

And What Should I do with the Whey That’s Drained off my Yogurt?

Please don’t throw it out. And I must warn you that it’s a good idea to place it into a container that can be labeled WHEY.  If your family is as nosy as mine when it comes to the refrigerator, they’ll look at that pretty jar of whey (if it’s unmarked) and naturally assume it’s LEMONADE.  Trust me, it tastes nothing like lemonade and they’ll want to pour it right down the drain!  Here are a few uses that I’ve discovered to work well:

  1.  Substitute whey for buttermilk when making biscuits – talk about flakey and tender.
  2. Use whey as the liquid when making pizza dough – adds nice flavor to the crust.
  3. Help keep your feta cheese fresh by submerging it in whey.
  4. Marinate chicken breasts in whey for delicious fried chicken – super moist and juicy.

 Now You’re Cookin’,
Chef Alli

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