Do you have any DIY projects that intimidate you? Mine was chicken noodle soup. Yes, I’m serious. I was also afraid to make soap (understandable, right?).
And then there was yogurt. I was told that it was easy to make your own yogurt, but I still didn’t believe it. Weren’t there a lot of steps to follow? And hadn’t I heard something about sterilizing everything first?
Ok, really, I’m not the greatest at following instructions.
Thankfully, a friend of mine encouraged me to give it a shot. She made yogurt nearly every day and she had four kids, too, so clearly it was something I could do. I reluctantly gave it a try. And you know what? It was easy.
Note: If you don’t eat dairy, check out how to make coconut milk yogurt.
How to Make Yogurt
Before you get started, clear the area where you’ll be making yogurt. I learned this lesson after I accidentally got coffee grounds in my yogurt…after I had done all the mixing.
Once you’ve saved yourself from potential frustration, grab everything you’ll need to make your yogurt.
Ingredients & Supplies
- Stainless steel pot – use a big one because you’ll also be sterilizing things in it (find one here)
- Thermometer (like this one)
- Measuring cup (I prefer a glass one like this so you only have to dirty one thing)
- Metal cooking spoon (like this one)
- 2 quart-size canning jars with lids (find them here)
- ½ gallon of milk (we drink whole milk, so that’s what I use and sometimes, I’ll even replace some of the milk with cream)
- Yogurt starter or ½ cup plain yogurt with live cultures and no other additives (find a great yogurt starter here)
Fill your pot with enough water to cover all of your tools, including the two jars on their sides. Once it’s boiling, carefully put in the spoon, jars (on their sides) and clip the thermometer to the side of the pot so the probe side is in the water.
Leave everything in the boiling water for 5 minutes, carefully drain the water (you may want some oven mitts) and set the sterilized equipment on a clean dish towel to dry.
Put your pot back on the stove, add the milk and turn the temperature on to medium heat. The milk needs to reach 180°, so make sure you use your thermometer to keep track.
Once the milk hits 180°, remove the pan from heat and turn off your stove.
Let the milk cool to 110° (this takes about 20-30 minutes for me, so don’t feel like you have to sit and stare at the thermometer until it cools down). Alternately, you could carefully place the pot in a sink full of cold water to speed the cooling process.
Once it’s cooled, measure out the ½ cup of plain yogurt and pour it into one of your jars. Add ¼ cup of the cooled milk to the starter and stir until they’re well-mixed. Adding the milk before it’s cooled enough may kill the cultures, which you don’t want to do.
Note: If you’re using a yogurt starter, it will come with instructions that will tell you when and how to add it to the milk.
Next, pour the milk/starter mixture into the pot and stir it all together. Pour the milk into the two quart jars and screw on your lids.
Now you need to incubate your yogurt in a warm place for at least 8 hours (some go as long as 24 hours to get a thicker yogurt). Choose a place that’s out of the way so your yogurt won’t get moved during this process.
There are a few ways to incubate yogurt, however, a lot of them make it difficult to keep the yogurt at a steady warm temperature (a little over 100° is the consensus for making perfect yogurt). That’s why I prefer one of two methods:
I have a very small cooler – the kind with the handle on top of the lid that snaps into place. It’s holds 2 quart-size canning jars perfectly.
After I put the jars in, I fill the cooler with hot tap water, just to the bottoms of the lids. I lock the lid in place and, for good measure, wrap the cooler in a large bath towel before I put it somewhere warm to incubate.
If you live somewhere that’s unreliable for keeping a steady temperature (like a school bus), try a yogurt incubator. They’re easy to use and are designed specifically for keeping your yogurt at the perfect temperature. (Find yogurt makers here.)
After your yogurt has incubated (8-24 hours, depending on preference), move the yogurt to the fridge and eat it once it’s cooled.
This is a great project to start early in the morning because you can put it in the fridge before you go to bed and enjoy fresh yogurt for breakfast the next day.
*You can also make yogurt in certain models of food dehydrators with adjustable thermostats. This one is perfect for making yogurt.
Some of you might not like the tartness of plain yogurt. Or your kids don’t. That’s the case in my house and my kids always ask me to sweeten their yogurt. Thankfully, there are lots of tasty, natural ways to do so:
While I would opt for something else if my kids were under one year old, this is what I use the most since they’re older. If my honey is liquid, I’ll just stir a little bit in the yogurt with a whisk.
If my honey has crystallized, as raw honey is apt to do, I’ll mix it with a tiny bit of hot water (just enough to dissolve the honey) in a bowl, then stir it into the yogurt.
Grade B Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup is popular in our house as a natural sweetener. It’s easy to mix in and provides the maple-y flavor that my family loves.
I can’t tell you how many bowls of yogurt I had with fresh fruit mixed in this summer. I just know it was a lot. Fresh peaches, strawberries, raspberries and nectarines are our favorites.
I picked up a flat of organic strawberries at the farmer’s market this summer determined to make and can my first jam. I chose this strawberry vanilla jam and loved how the vanilla, strawberries and lemon zest all mixed together. It was especially good when mixed in with yogurt.
Try mixing in some of your own homemade jam.
My kids often ask for granola to be added to their yogurt (and this is why my mom calls me her hippie daughter). If it’s a pretty sweet granola, I usually add less sweetener to the yogurt. (Learn how to make your own granola here.)
Have you made your own yogurt before? What are your favorite variations?