You know that trick that adults play on babies? The one where they cover their faces and then suddenly appear again? The babies must think, how did something amazingly appear out of nothing. Well, that was me after making yogurt. I know the yogurt making process isn't really that complicated, it is actually really simple, but it will surprise you if you are use to buying yogurt in 6 oz containers week after week after week. I am here to tell you today, that making yogurt is so darn easy you should try it yourself.
I think yogurt has gone array in recent times. What happened to a pure and delicious product? I've seen yogurt in many shapes and forms including go-gurt (not technically a food), high-sugar yogurts (including those made with corn syrup), and now yogurt that is so sophisticated I'd call it fancy (organic, added priobiotics and fiber, and rich greek styles) that they (although delicious) are a pretty penny to buy! Yogurt doesn't need to be complicated, loaded with sugar, or expensive. By making it yourself, you are placing one less item in your grocery cart, keeping another Abe Lincoln in your pocket, and giving your body a super nutritious boost.
Here's what you need to make yogurt. Do you have an old cooler stored in your garage somewhere from all those summer picnics or beach parties? Grab that. Do you have a meat or candy thermometer in a drawer that you hopefully use on more occasions than Christmas and Thanksgiving? Grab that. Buy milk (preferably whole and if you can from a local milk producer). I bought mine from a dairy in Lynden, WA (Twin Brook Creamery). It was $2.69 for 2 quarts at Metropolitan Market. Lastly, take one last trip to the store and buy (for hopefully the last time) your favorite plain yogurt (to use as a starter for your homemade batch). You will also need a quart sized mason jar.
The first step to making yogurt is to make sure your working space stays clean. This includes the jar you are using. Heat up boiling water on the stove and pour it into the empty mason jar. Keep the hot water in the mason jar until you are ready to pour the milk into it. Also put hot water (just from the tap) into the cooler and close the lid to heat the inside. Now heat up 1 quart of whole milk slowly on the stove until it reaches 180 degrees F. Make sure to stir! You don't want the milk to burn. Once it reaches temp, turn the burner off and let the milk cool back down to 110 degrees. At this point, mix in 1 tablespoon yogurt into the milk then transfer the milk to the warm and empty mason jar. Put the lid on the jar. Empty the cooler of any water and place the mason jar in the cooler. If there is extra space add towels or extra mason jars filled with hot tap water. Close the lid and do not disturb or jostle for 10-12 hours. When you open the lid after this amount of time, (wahla!) look at your yogurt. Taste it. Do not stir it. I stirred it at this point before I tasted it and wished I hadn't. It still turned out great but I would of left mine in for another couple of hours to thicken even more. Once it is agitated it is more difficult for the yogurt cultures to do their thing. The longer the yogurt stays in the warm cooler the more tangy it will get. When you are satisfied with the taste, remove and place in the fridge. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks. Just before you eat your entire batch make another so you can continue making yogurt again and again from your own homemade batch! At this point, you can add vanilla extract, honey, or fruit if you are use to eating sweet yogurt or you can leave it plain. Either way it's delicious!
After making my first batch of yogurt, I realized just how simple it is. And it was fun! I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who've told me that back in the day when they were growing up making homemade yogurt was par for course. It was just something that happened at home. I want to eat more foods that are healthy for me and that I can make on my own. It is easy to have the attitude that making things from scratch is burdensome or time consuming, but yogurt is not one of those things. No more store bought yogurt for me! Plus, I'm excited to take my yogurt a step or two further by making yogurt cheese or yogurt based sauces like Tzatsiki (if you are interested in learning more about how to make yogurt or other fermented foods, take a look at this website). I'd love to hear from you, do you think you'll give it a try!?