Thursday, September 2, 2010

Make your own Yogurt at home!

Very special thanks and love to mamaji Gurpreet for sharing her yummy yogurt secrets with me!

Making yogurt at home is ridiculously easy, or so I thought after I had successfully made my first batch. Then I made the mistake of reading the ‘proper’ instructions on the internet….

There are many, many sites and postings online to tell you how to make your own yogurt. This site is probably the best and least complicated one, but they still made it more complicated than Gurpreet did when she told me how to do it, and it worked out beautifully! In fact, many of the sites warn you not to use skim milk or flavoured yogurt starter but that didn’t seem to matter when I did it the ‘wrong way’.

I don’t own a thermometer. I did probably scald the milk. It definitely boiled – in fact, it boiled over onto the stovetop while I was stirring it. I also didn’t use a yogurt-maker or proper incubator.

This is what I used:

About 500mL of skim milk
½ tbsp of yogurt from an existing (commercial) tub in my fridge (apparently it’s supposed to be a ‘plain’ yogurt, but mine was vanilla. It worked fine.)
A pot to heat the milk (better yet, use a double boiler!)
A stovetop to heat the milk
A plastic Ziploc container (or glass jar – I didn’t think of it at the time but glass is a nicer option)
A slightly bigger pot
A thick tea towel
A preheated oven
Warm tap water

All things I had on hand.  And the plastic Ziploc container probably could have been substituted for a Mason jar, but I was too excited about making my own yogurt to think plastic-free. Ah well. I’ll try it next time in the glass containers. The other upshot of glass is that it can be made sterile prior to use.

As always, I’m not an expert on yogurt-making, and you should always consult and follow the advice of experts. Start here at for the ‘proper’ instructions, and always remember that when you are growing bacterial cultures, expect contamination. It is very possible to contaminate your culture, so it is always good to be wary and err on the side of microbiological safety. I would feel better starting a culture from a commercial one every so often, rather than risking amplification of some unknown and unwanted beastie passed down yogurt generation to yogurt generation. Sterilizing your pots and pans is also a good move (though I didn’t bother this time around). That’s my disclaimer, anyway – be smart and be careful!  

Quick and dirty, here is the ‘wrong way’ to make yogurt. It works though, beautifully, and it honestly is some of the freshest, best tasting yogurt I’ve ever had:

Heat the milk slowly in a small pot on the stove (or in a double boiler, which I didn’t try but is probably the best option). You don’t want to burn the milk, so stir it and don’t crank up the heat too high at the beginning.

Stir and heat until it froths and boils* (over). Mine boiled over even though I was watching it and stirring at the time – it happens in an instant! Messy! 
 *Note that everyone else apart from Gurpreet says not to let it boil! 

Remove milk from heat (put on the cool element) and go and do something else for awhile (about an hour, depending on how much milk you cooked up and the shape of the pot). I had a shower and played on the computer. Alternatively, you could cool it in a cold water bath (stir frequently). I was happy just leaving it alone to cool.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C (i.e. the coolest setting). Let it warm for 10 or 15 minutes. Turn off the oven again. 

When the milk is still warm but cool enough to stick your finger in (although technically this is not sterile technique!), or as close to 37 degrees Celsius as you can estimate (warm to hot bath temperature), it’s ready to accept some culture (i.e. your starter yogurt sample). It’s kind of like making bread – you want the yeast to be warm and happy, but not to burn to death or hibernate due to cold. The bacteria in the yogurt also likes ‘nice and cozy’ temperatures.

Stir in a small scoop of yogurt (I didn’t measure – half of a teaspoon (the non-measuring type!), which is probably closer to ½ tbsp if you properly measure it).

Pour the mixture into your clean container (in my case, the plastic Ziploc container). Run warm water (not ‘hot’, but toasty – hot enough that you could still comfortably touch it) and add a little to the bottom of the ‘slightly bigger pot’. Place your yogurt-to-be in its container into the warm water bath within the pot. 

Cover the pot with a tea towel (the thicker, the better). Put the covered pot in the oven (which should be considerably less than 250 degrees C, but still fairly warm – think “bread-rising temperature”), and go to bed. It needs at least 7 hours to grow. (Another thought I had was using the “keep warm” function on my slow cooker to hold a water bath at 37 degrees or so overnight. It might be more energy efficient as well. I’ll let you know if it works).

In the morning, take it all out. Refrigerate your yogurt (it tastes better cold!) and have it later in the day or the next morning. You can use it right away if you like it runny, but refrigeration will stop the growth cycle of the bacteria and will thicken up your yogurt.

Then spend the next 20 minutes scrubbing off the brown, burnt layer of milk from the bottom of the pot if you didn’t use a double boiler!

P.S. Thanks to everyone visiting my blog from Ravelry! My pattern now has 41 "favourites" and has been queued 13 times! I'm so glad people are enjoying it.

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