How I Make Yogurt

Promised to tell y'all how I make my yogurt, but some of the posts about how other people make theirs make me a trifle sheepish. Why?

Because I make mine with powdered milk. Yup, cheap powdered skim milk, cheapest I can find. Why? Well, first of all, see the part about it's cheap. You may think having written a couple of best-sellers makes me rich for life, but you'd be wrong. We're on a tight budget like everyone else these days. I'd love to get a cow share and buy raw milk, but quite frankly, we can't afford it right now. So if I'm going to use standard grocery store milk, I may as well use the cheapest possible standard grocery store milk.

Too, powdered milk is super-convenient. I can keep enough for a few month's worth of yogurt in my kitchen cabinet, and not worry about it going bad. When I want to make yogurt, it's there.

Thirdly, it doesn't need scalding. I know that some of the folks making their yogurt from raw milk don't scald theirs, because why buy raw milk and then heat it and destroy the enzymes and stuff? And if I had raw milk, I might well not scald it, either. But most recipes for making yogurt from standard grocery store milk do call for scalding, which dirties up a saucepan, and means I'd have to wait for the milk to cool down before continuing. As it is, I can put together a batch of yogurt and have it incubating in less than five minutes time. Here's how:

I usually use a 1 quart snap-top container, but recently have been using cottage cheese tubs, which are a little smaller, because they're low enough to fit on the bottom shelf of my fridge. Either way, I fill the container half-way with water -- just tap water, though I might add my tap water is filtered. I add a dollop of starter yogurt -- either Stonyfield Farms, or my own homemade yogurt -- and whisk. Then I add powdered milk -- 2 cups in a quart container, or 1 1/2 cups in a cottage cheese tub. Whisk till the lumps are gone, fill with more water, whisk one more time to make sure everything's distributed evenly.

My "yogurt maker" is an ancient electric heating pad, the kind you use for aching backs. I tuck it down into a deep, narrow bowl, and nestle the yogurt container down in it. Plug it in, set it on low, and -- if I remember -- drape a clean dishcloth across the top to hold in heat. Doesn't matter much if I don't.

I used to just leave this overnight -- 8-10 hours -- but have recently been leaving it longer, sometimes as long as 24 hours, since the longer it incubates, the less residual lactose is left. Makes tarter yogurt, because less lactose means more lactic acid, but that's fine by me.

I "serial yogurt" -- make one batch from the last -- till I get a batch that's a little funny (or I let the end of a batch get pushed to the back of the fridge and grow fur.) Then I buy a new container of Stonyfield Farms, and start over.

Since this is fat-free, I add something fatty to it -- sour cream, chopped nuts, whatever -- so that I'll absorb the calcium.

This yogurt is as good as commercial plain yogurt, to my taste. Not as good as grass-fed, cream-top yogurt, but again, money is tight. I can't afford all grass-fed meat, either.

Someday.

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Making yogurt

I'm a big yogurt maker...I generally make a batch every weekend, and drain it. I really hate the scalding and cooling down steps....I'm usually trying to rush thru it...so seeing that you make it with instant milk, to skip that step really appealed to me. But I am finding the consistency of the yogurt to be very different than yogurt I make with regular milk. It looks like it has gelatin in it. It tastes ok...although I also find when I drain it so much whey comes out that I end up with less than 1 1/2 cups of "greek" style yogurt. Am I doing something wrong??

Doh! Sorry!

If I would have read the comments, I would have seen that the answer to my question about using a yogurt maker was Yes.
Sorry!

I am going to make some this weekend, and will try adding SF DaVinci vanilla after it is done so I can have vanilla yogurt with my hubby.

Thanks for the encouragement, Dana!

Homemade Yogurt

Hi Dana,

I have my Mom's Donvier Yogurt Maker here.....Do you think your recipe would work in it, as opposed to using another method to keep the yogurt warm for fermentation?

Thanks,
Jackie

Donvier Yogurt Maker

I don't see why not. Yogurt makers are generally just some sort of device for keeping the milk with the starter added warm until the bacteria can grow. I assume that's what your Donvier yogurt maker is. Should work fine.

I have a Donvier ice cream maker. Well, actually, two. (I lost one, bought another at thrift shop, and found the first one again. Yes, I am disorganized. Why do you ask?) I should do an ice cream recipe or two this summer.

Protein?

How many grams of protein per serving? Is it the same as store bought?

Protein

It should actually have a little more protein, and a little more calcium, than store bought, because I use a little more milk powder than the label recommends for a quart. Carb count will depend on how long you let it incubate.

gonna give it a try this weekend!

finally... I get to use my 6-jar yogurt maker that someone gave to me without any instructions... at least 20 years ago! I'm going to use the Greek yogurt (Fage) as a starter. I'll report back next week. thanks for the post!

yogurt

Could you explain how to make yogurt? For those of us who have never made it, we dont know what you mean by incubation (you incubate it? In what? Where?) Really I dont know how to do it and I'd like to try, but need a tad more direction.

Incubation

Sorry! Here's what I mean:

Making yogurt means taking milk, adding certain sorts of bacteria, then keeping it warm long enough for those bacteria to grow, and convert the natural sugars in the milk (lactose) into lactic acid, thickening the milk to that familiar consistency, and creating the tangy flavor characteristic of yogurt. I suspect that this process was discovered by accident, back when raw milk was all there was, in warm, Middle Eastern countries, where the bacteria naturally in the milk would have grown rapidly in a time before refrigeration. Having made that discovery -- that some sorts of "spoiled" milk were actually delicious and nutritious -- I suspect people started deliberately adding the right kinds of bacteria to milk, rather than letting it happen by chance, as a way of preservation -- if the good bacteria get a good head start, the bad bacteria are less likely to invade.

So the point of making yogurt is to add the right kind of bacteria to milk, and then keep it warm long enough for those bacteria to grow. That's the point of the process I explain above: Add a spoonful of already-made plain yogurt to a container of milk (that's adding the right kind of bacteria), then keep it warm (incubate it) to let the bacteria grow. As I explain, I use powdered milk to make my yogurt, and an old heating pad to keep it warm. I've heard of people setting their container of milk-and-bacteria over a floor heating duct in the winter, or outside in the sun in the summer, or in a cooler with a bunch of containers of hot water tucked around it -- you just need to keep the yogurt warm, but not hot enough to kill the bacteria. (You can, of course, use a commercial yogurt maker, but it's nowhere near essential.)

Do the instructions I posted make more sense with this explanation?

Homemade yogurt

Okay, a few questions about this yogurt making process!

I attempted to make some over the weekend. I mixed my starter with the milk in an empty yogurt container, put the lid on and set it in my laundry room where it stays very warm. I left it there for 24 hours, but when I checked on it, it was still the same consistency...it didn't get thick like it should have. So my first question is, should I not put the lid on it? I see some posts saying they cover it with a paper towel and a rubberband. Will that make a difference? Also, do you think hot New Mexico sun (95-100 degrees) is too hot to set it outside? I don't want to kill my bacteria like you mentioned. Also, what is the longest I should let the yogurt incubate? I was afraid to leave mine longer than 24 hours.... So I gave it to my dogs and now I'm ready to try again. Hopefully I can succeed this time!

Thanks for your help!

Yogurt Questions

I always put the lid on; can't think of a reason not to. No, I don't think the sun is too hot, unless your container is dark-colored and will store heat, but I haven't tried it, so I can't know for sure. You're looking for warm-bath temperature, a little warmer than body heat. 24 hours should be plenty, if the starter is okay, and the temperature is warm enough.

Which leads to the other possibility -- any chance your starter was old? That can do it, too.

yogurt

I also make the yogurt Dana's way and having made it the ...scald.. reg way... I will never go back .. So far I have made.. my yogurt maker with 5 little glasses using the only thing in the house... a strawberry carb smart from Krogers.. did not know if it would work but by golly it did.. I also added in some strawberry jello..hehehe.. don't do that ok.. worked but..it come to the top.. stirred up it tasted good. But not really the way to go
OK... I have a nice 8 qt Rival Roaster Oven.. lined with a hand towel it will hold..
5 pint jars... I made a double batch..I added liquid splenda, and home made Vanilla when making and it tasted good.. hehe.. you could barley taste it when finished..but helped with the tart I really don't like in yogurt..so worked for me..... and it filled 4 pints and almost another one..I put the canning lids on and set them in the Roaster Oven set to 100*.. I have checked this temp several times as I have several sizes of R.Ovens and they do not all hold to the number on the dial.. this one does thank god.. soo in they went and on went the lid and then I placed 2 hand towels on top.. this is in my very warm laundry room too.. over night I have perfect textured wonderful YOGURT Thank you DANA it was sooo easy..compared to the..old way.. Also I bought a big plain yogurt and divided it out in little yogurt cartons and froze it.. It works perfect for the next batch.. I do take it out the night b/4 and set in the fridge.. then in the am I set it out on the counter..to thaw
Have a super day

?

Ok thanks Dana. I have a feeling my laundry room just wasn't warm enough....it was probably 80 degrees. The starter was not old at all; it was Stonyfield Farm's organic greek yogurt that I had just purchased 2 days prior. I will try it again, this time I'll stick it out in the sunshine. =O)

Follow-up on my experiment

Oh, it is beautiful, and tastes great! I was a little discouraged yesterday evening....after a couple hours of incubation, I checked the yogurt and it was still obviously just milk with a little yogurt stirred in. So, I figured my starter was old....got up this morning and checked, and it was fantastic! Creamy, and thick....and tasted great, too. Actually thicker than the expensive stuff I have been making. I have it draining in the fridge now, so when I get home from work I'll have lovely Greek yogurt made from powdered whole milk (I haven't shared any of this activity with DH - he tends to eat whatever is put before him and is just glad he doesn't have to make it himself....so we'll see if he notices any differences between this and the $8.00/gallon stuff :-)

Happy day!

yogurt

When we had a few dairy goats, I used to make yogurt, too. I had a small cooler, so I filled 1 or 2 quart jars with the inoculated milk and kept it warm by filling the rest of the space with jars of hot water. Goat milk has a fairly high fat content and is naturally homogenized. I don't recall scalding the milk, but I might have. I think I just warmed it in the microwave.

Recently I tried to make creme fresch, since I kept finding recipes that called for it. It cost about $5 for a pint at the only store where I found it. Way too pricey for me! The directions I found called for using buttermilk to culture heavy cream, leaving it at room temperature until it set. To me, it tastes about the same as sour cream. They say not to use ultra-pasteurised cream, but that's the only kind I can get in quantity at a reasonable price: $2.93/qt., so that's what I used. I can usually buy sour cream for $.89 or $.99/ pt.

By the way, you can get dry whole milk at Mexican groceries around here - Wisconsin. I can buy liquid milk with various amounts of fat for $2/gal. How much does non-fat dry milk cost? I never liked the taste of it so wrote it off without ever trying it for yogurt.

"how other people make theirs

"how other people make theirs make me a trifle sheepish. "

Well, now, that's just silly, Dana! There is value in hearing - and learning about - everyone's methods of preparing good foods. Truth be told, I once tried the powdered milk version and it ended up down the drain. However, some things I have learned since then have led me to the conclusion that I didn't disperse the yogurt starter well in the milk, so it only grew in clumps. Now I know better (I now disperse my starter into the milk with a blender on low speed) - and your blog post here reminds me that the powdered milk method is something I need to try again!

There's also no inherent superiority in having - or not having - the disposable income to pay $8.00 a gallon for raw milk. Some might say that spending that kind of money on yogurt would indicate a lack of intelligence on my part anyway :-) and they could be right. The only reason I have done it (and I don't do it every time) is that I spend so much less on other things now that yogurt (and a few other foods that aren't spoiled with antibiotics or pesticides or whatever other bad thing is in the news this week) is easily a mainstay of my diet, and I find it worthwhile to get or make the best I can.

You can be sure, though, that as soon as I'm finished with my current batch (and with the very rich stuff like I make it - cream cheese consistency - a little goes a long way) I'll be hauling out my dried milk powder and give yogurt making a go with that. And oh, that reminds me of one other thing. In a frenzy of honestly I am not sure what - I bought several containers of whole milk powder without a clear idea of what I was going to do with it. Now I happen to know that whole milk powder doesn't last as long as the nonfat milk powder does....and even the nonfat will spoil eventually, so I'll be taking a chance because the whole milk powder is nearing the end of its shelf life, but I wonder whether you've ever tried making yogurt with powdered whole milk?

Powdered Whole Milk

No, I've never seen powdered whole milk hereabouts, but then, I've never looked very hard, either. I would worry about the fats in it, you know? Even the skim stuff has a less-than-eternal shelf life; I imagine the whole milk stuff goes over pretty quickly. And as was mentioned, just as the cholesterol gets oxidized in the drying process, I'm sure the fats would, too.

As for funky yogurt, I have two dogs and 26 chickens. Not-quite-right food gets quickly disposed of around here. And the chickens, bless their teeny little hearts, turn it into eggs for me!

Well, I have never been in

Well, I have never been in danger of winning any awards for patience, so when I got home from work today, out came the powdered (whole) milk and I have a small (couple of cups) batch incubating now. I'll have to admit, it certainly was easier than all the hoopla I've gone through with "real" milk. I tasted the mixture after I had it all blended up, and I can tell: this is gonna be good. (Even though the milk was at or close to the expiration date, it was well sealed, smelled good, and tasted like milk.) I hereby declare my ears sealed against any comments about oxidized fats :-) for now, at least.

I will for sure let it incubate undisturbed all night and refrigerate it tomorrow around 6 am. That'll be 12 hours, which should give me a great idea of whether I'm on the right track. The only thing I'm not 100% sure of is the strength of my starter. It's been through a couple of batches, and it may be "tired." Even if it doesn't work out, I am pretty sure it'll be because of the old starter, 'cause the milk is surprisingly nice.

I have been trying not to look at cheesemaking sites, but I'm losing the battle. If the yogurt works out, I may invest in some cheesemaking supplies to see if I can make a very simple cheese with the whole powdered milk. By the way, it's found in the Hispanic section of most supermarkets, under the brand name "Nido," but it's really made by Nestle. You can see it in the small print. Nido makes a powdered baby formula as well and puts it in a container that looks very similar - if you should ever look for the milk, make sure you get the milk, not the baby formula :-)

I do hope you are glad you worked up your courage and posted your method. There's certainly more than one way to, um, de-fur a cat, so to speak :-) and at least for me, hearing about other methods than the one I already know is both entertaining and educational.

Making cheese

You can strain your yogurt and make a pot cheese. They make cheese strainers or you can use cheese cloth. It has to be up out of the liquid to work. We had goats so I made cheese for awhile. You have to have a starter for cheese too and the cheese won't work because it's heated when you make regular cheese. Goats milk makes a wonderful cheese. Here's one way to start. Get a renet at the store and desolve it in water. Stir it into warm, like you'd feed to a baby, milk. Cover the milk and let it sit until it's about yogurt consistancy. Slice the curds into cubes and heat and stir. Turn it our to drain about like the yogurt cheese is drained. I added a little salt too, I think. It's been a long time so I don't remember any more.

Sorry, I still don't know how

Sorry, I still don't know how to make it. There are some helpful hints about when you make it, but HOW do you make it?

I Don't Understand

I explained my procedure, I said almost nothing about when I make it. Don't understand your question.

yogurt

oh i see the problem. Only part of your post is showing, not sure why, but when i went to it on my other computer, the whole thing showed up, whereas on my laptop only 3 paragraphs showed up. Weird.

Ah!

Ah, okay, I'm glad!

Yet another way to incubate

I follow a method & recipe pretty much the same as Dana's. But to keep it warm, I preheat the oven to 250 degrees while mixing it up. Turn oven OFF! Put mix in oven in a covered bowl. Leave overnight or 8 - 10 hours. My directions say to leave the oven light off, as light destroys the bacteria. That's what I've always done, but my containers are not transparent, so I may try it with the oven light for added warmth. We rebels gotta live up to the reputation.