249. How to make Yogurt

Mommy has a set of nesting bowls like this one - they have measurements on them so portion control is easy.  I like my yogurt plain Jane with fruit.

Mommy has a set of nesting bowls like this one – they have measurements on them so portion control is easy. I like my yogurt plain Jane with fruit.

Remember how I don’t like yogurt?  Actually, I cant remember if I told you that before.  But let’s just be frank about this:  I would much rather be eating pudding.  Plus you have to remember to scope the sales out at the store or buy a yogurt maker to make it at home.  Well, I thought I’d have to – but then Mrs. K and her daughters educated me on how to make yogurt without special equipment.  You don’t even need a thermometer if you’re confident in your pinky-testing abilities, but I’m squeamish about hot liquid so I use an instant-read thermometer Mommy keeps for cooking meat etc.  Who knew it would be so easy to use?  I tried my best to like yogurt bc it was an easy and convenient protein source – Greek yogurt, in particular – and those bacteria are supposed to be good for you.  I ate what seemed like endless dishes of it as an inpatient when I was cleared to swallow but was still on antibiotics.  That put me off yogurt for a while. Well, I like this yogurt.  And I wouldn’t rather be eating pudding.

The secret is high quality dairy.  That’s right, I said dairy.  When I came home from Boo Boo’s I found that Mommy was not a big fan of my dairy & grain-free lifestyle.  Neither was CMD.  One of their opinions carries serious weight with me, but BOTH?  I was done.  And then there was some anecdotal evidence Mommy shared with me how (Mrs.) T gave up dairy since her baby girl S had it, but when S grew out of it (Mrs.) T was left with a lifetime of lactose intolerance. So I began incorporating a little bit of dairy and grain into my diet.  Dairy was the most important to me bc my goal was to eat ice cream at the Chatterbox with my children a couple of weeks ago (Check!  Goal met).

This has actually been the work of many months.  The K ladies sent me the recipe (xoxo) for homemade laban (homemade Lebanese yogurt) Mrs. K has been making for a lifetime.  Presumably it carries the endorsement of the generations who have made laban in this way in the Mother Country.  I actually like to mix non-dairy with dairy yogurt so I took it upon myself to try a version with some of my homemade milk and using the Vitamix as my sole heating source.

Six trials later I decided to go for the straight up dairy.  I haven’t given up hope yet, though.  My non-dairy yogurt is delicious and I’ve eaten all of it, it’s just thinner like a lassi…but I want to try again soon!  I also might decide that the lassi is worth sharing as is. The first time I tried dairy milk my yogurt set up beautifully.  I figure if I’m going to consume dairy I want it to be high quality stuff.  So I bought some organic, grass-fed, whole milk.  “Grass-fed” meat and dairy products are increasingly popular these days.  The logic is that if you’re avoiding grain, you should go for grass-fed meat and dairy products since you’re the end user, anyway.

The thing is that you have to buy yogurt to make yogurt.  Or, you could buy probiotic capsules, but I just wanted to buy yogurt.  You only need a few tablespoons as your starter, so you can buy a little 6 oz cup.  I got a cup of whole plain grassfed yogurt.  The only ingredients were 1) milk and 2) live active cultures.   When I opened the lid I was like, Wow.  If I had known about yogurt like this when I was a kid, maybe I would have liked it.  Those varieties that go on mega sale at the store so you can stock your fridge with every flavor known to mankind do not compare.  They are generally full of sugar or artificial sweeteners anyway.  I know bc I have spent significant energy capital at the yogurt case examining the backs of those little cups when I was trying to like yogurt.

One last note – many people prefer raw milk for its benefits/taste etc.  In my internet travels I read about people trying to make yogurt with raw milk.  The problem is that you need to boil your dairy milk – so it’s no longer raw.  The takeaway from my research was this: boil the milk to make yogurt; drink it raw straight up. 

Update:  If you are set on using raw milk, I found this site that says if you heat the raw milk only to 110 degrees, it’s still considered “raw” but it’s also safe and good for making yogurt.  I’m unsure of the original source of this “only to 110” = “raw” POV, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Based on the recipe for Laban (Lebanese homemade yogurt) from the K family

  • 2-3 Tbsp yogurt –plain with live active cultures; once you make your first batch, save some starter for next time
  • 1/2 gal milk – Remember to get organic, whole, grass-fed milk if you can! I made small batches to start, e.g. 2 c milk with 1 Tb of starter

1. Bring milk to a slow boil, over a medium – low flame ( maybe 25 mins) the temperature when it boils should be around +/-170 degrees

2. Set boiled milk aside. After about 25 mins, skim the creamy foam off the top.

3. Wait a little longer (this could be about an hour, but keep checking periodically)  until it is hottish to almost lukewarm (you can stick your pinky in it and hold it there for 15 seconds).  The temperature at this point should be between 100 and 118 degrees, in order for the starter cultures to survive. (I aimed for 110 by pouring the boiled milk back into my measuring cup – the fact that I make small batches makes it okay for me to do this – and occasionally testing the milk with an instant-read thermometer.)  PS.  The instant-read thermometer makes this a breeze.

Note:  If you’re using the water and cooler incubation method, fill your cooler with a few inches of your hottest tap water – mine’s around 120 degrees.  I might let it cool a little to 110 or 115.  Cover the cooler so it’s ready for your yogurt.  

4. When it is the temperature that it should reach (step 3’s temperature of between 100 and 118, still a little hot/almost lukewarm), it’s time to add the starter to the boiled milk.

5. Take your about 2-3 tbsp of starter yogurt and put it in a small bowl. Add some of the new boiled milk from steps 2 and 3 and mix it until the starter is liquidy.

6. Add the liquidy starter combo to the rest of the boiled milk. Stir well.

Water & Cooler incubation method:

7.   Pour the milk + starter into a jar and put the lid on without squeezing it tight.  I use a 20 oz pickle jar.

8.  Put the jar in your water-filled cooler for at least 6 hours.  I do this during the day and I like mellow yogurt, so 6 hours is good for me.  I suppose you could leave it longer, or overnight, but I haven’t done it.

9.  Don’t peek!  Please don’t disturb your yogurt while it’s incubating.  Don’t shake or stir it after you take it out of the cooler, either.  Put it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

10.  The next morning (I always cool it overnight), enjoy!  Just save a few tablespoons for your next batch.

Original incubation method:

7. Put the new mixture of the starter and the boiled milk in a Tupperware and cover it.

8.  Wrap the Tupperware in several blankets so that it will stay at the same warm temperature and place in a safe spot overnight to set and become yogurt.  (I opted for the cooler method since it was difficult for me to handle the blankets/towels.)

9. The next day, it should have solidified into yogurt; now start refrigerating it.

6 thoughts on “249. How to make Yogurt

  1. 🙂 🙂 This line cracked me up: “I know bc I have spent significant energy capital at the yogurt case examining the backs of those little cups when I was trying to like yogurt.” So glad you like it now. 🙂

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