Part of the reason I wanted to make my own yogurt is because it's cheaper. Organic yogurt is pricey and never seems to go on sale (ironically, the week I wrote this, it went on sale...but only by 50 cents), so instead I now buy the big 4 litre thing of organic milk and use one of the bags for yogurt making. I think James worked it out to be about half the price.
I have been making my own yogurt for a couple weeks now, but I didn't want to post about it until I gained a firm grasp on the process...because my first batch was...not a big success. Anyways, I am now confident in my success rate, so here's my process.
How to Make Yogurt (using a dehydrator and yogurt starter)
(adapted from the little instructional booklet from the second-hand store)
- 1 litre, or so, of milk (I know each bag is more than a litre, but not much more; apparently any fat percentage will do, but I used skim)
- 7 oz. yogurt with active bacteria enzymes (I have read people who use less, but my booklet recommended this amount so I am sticking to it–I used Organic Meadow No Fat Plain Yogurt)
- Large saucepan (enough to hold the milk)
- Stirring device
- Medium mixing bowl
- Container(s) for the yogurt
- Ladle, or something with a spout to make pouring into the little containers easier
- Dehydrator, yogurt maker or something that can maintain a temperature of 115F for 7-12 hours
Before you start, you can sanitize your containers, but this isn't mandatory–just make sure everything you are using is clean and dry.
1. Pour your milk into the large saucepan and, over medium heat, bring to a boil (I have tried stirring occasionally and stirring constantly, and I really didn't notice a difference...so I would say stir occasionally)
2. Let the milk stay at a boil for about a minute while stirring, then turn off the heat and continue to stir until it begins to cool. Let it sit until it has cooled to 110F (use your thermometer).
3. In a medium bowl, combine starter yogurt with a few ladles of the cooled milk and vigorously whisk them together, making sure they are well combined and smooth. Pour the mixture in with the rest of the milk and mix well (you want to make sure the starter is well distributed amongst the milk).
4. At this point, you can either pour your milk, through a strainer, directly into your container(s) using a ladle, or you can pour it, through a strainer, into something like a big measuring container with a spout, to make it easier. I failed miserably trying to ladle it, but the measuring device works well for me.
5. Once your bottles are filled, gather them up and place them uncovered in whatever heating device you are using, set to 115F. Leaving them uncovered means a quicker process, but results in a little dried layer on top—just peel it off before you eat.
6. Leave your soon-to-be yogurt in the heating device, and make sure it remains undisturbed for the entire time it is in there (no peeking, kicking the machine, etc...) because this effects the thickening process. Depending on what fat % you use, the time it needs varies. Using skim, it has been consistently ready at the 8-9 hour mark, but my little booklet says it can take up to 12...I'd be careful though. I read that if you leave it in past 10 hours, it has the tendency to take on a sour taste.
7. When your time is up, remove your yogurt from the machine and refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours before you try it. The container will probably have some off-coloured water in it, but don't worry. You can strain it out, if you want a thicker yogurt, or just mix it in before you eat it (which is what I do).
Notes, Tips & Tricks:
- When using pasteurized milk, you don't need to boil it, but, according to my little booklet, it really helps make the yogurt thicker.
- Make sure the yogurt you're using as a starter is decently fresh. The quality of the starter and milk will effect the quality of your yogurt.
- A thermometer makes life a lot easier...and a lot more certain–it's worth it.
- I am not sure if there is a certain kind of container that is best for yogurt making. I just used the ones that came with the machine, but I have seen people do it in a shallow casserole dish–I am thinking that it needs to be small/shallow so the thickening process doesn't take too long.
- My most important note: straining is necessary. Stupid little booklet didn't tell me this, so the first time I made it, I had a very weird textured yogurt...full of milk curdle things, bleck. Strain it to make sure you don't suffer through a weeks worth of chunky yogurt.
- The yogurt isn't sweet on its own, so add your own sweetener or fruit once it's finished.