Thursday, February 10, 2011

Make it Better Yourself- Fresh Yogurt

Several months ago I was in a thrift store I commonly haunt, when I spotted a Salton yogurt maker. It consisted of an oblong main unit with 5 cups in which lidded containers rested. It plugged in and presumably, as I had never seen or used one before, kept milk at the proper temperature to produce yogurt. It looked simple enough, but it was $8 dollars and I am wary of plastic, especially old plastic, so I passed it by.

Well I had wanted to make yogurt for a long time, but it seemed like such a tedious process as you have to incubate the bacteria in your milk at a constant 110 degrees for something like 10 hours. The idea of having a gizmo that could do that for me still sounded good after a few days, and the next time I visited that shop, the yogurt maker was still there. I peeled off the tape that held the lid down to get a better look at the plastic containers inside, and they weren’t plastic at all, but a pretty milk glass! The price sticker on the gizmo said that it had been tested and worked, so I paid for it and headed to the health food store for some culture.  I made the first batch with organic milk, and I am now positively hooked.

Why would I bother to make yogurt at home when it is so easy to buy? I have a few reasons. Homemade yogurt is light years beyond store bought in flavor, consistency, and healthiness. I make it plain, and I flavor each cup as I eat it with homemade or high end jam of simple ingredients, like Bonne Maman. 

Sometimes I use honey. Homemade yogurt is not as thick as store bought, because there are no thickeners added to the mix, although if you prefer it thick I have read that you can add powdered milk or arrowroot on the stove. I love it exactly as it is. Also, because my yogurt has not been hanging around plants, trucks, and stores for weeks, it is much higher in the gut friendly bacteria that are so good for your system. Another plus is that it is versatile- we use our plain yogurt anywhere one might use sour cream—on Mexican food and baked potatoes. We sometimes make delicious dips and sauces with it. Finally, it is cost effective. I can make a cup of organic yogurt for about 35 cents.

So, how do you make yogurt at home? Believe it or not, it is really, really freaking easy. In fact, it is so easy that you might forget you are doing it and scald the milk on the bottom of the pan a time or two. Your sweet husband might clean it out for you, which is really nice because it is a major pain in the caboose. You might scald it again on accident, and your husband might make threats that he is not going to wash your pan if you do it again. After that, you will be careful and set a timer to check the milk regularly during the prep process. Or, you could skip all of that hoopla and just start out with the kitchen timer. Yeah. So this is how you do it with a yogurt maker.

1. Get a large pot, a liquid/candy thermometer (optional, but handy), milk, your culture, and a whisk out.

2. I do a quart at a time- pour a quart milk in the pot, stick the thermo on the side, and set the burner at medium.  Watch the pot and stir it frequently. If you are easily distracted by an adorable and small tyrant, set a kitchen timer for 3 minutes as a reminder to check the milk. It needs to get to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If it forms a skin, skim it off and toss it. Reset the timer and check again in a couple min. Stir regularly

3. When the milk reaches 180, shut it off and move it off of the hot burner to cool to about 108 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. When it does, stir in your culture well with the whisk, ladle it into the yogurt maker cups, put the lids on, and plug the yogurt maker in. Set the little reminder on the top for ten hours. Then stare at it and will it to turn to yogurt faster. Just kidding.

If you make it shortly before bed, it will be ready in the morning. When the ten hours are up you just refrigerate the cups. Voila. And Yum.
Yogurt and honey = breakfast of champions :)

Just for the record, my yogurt has been better since I broke my thermometer. I just heat the milk until it almost starts to boil (without scalding!) and then cool it until it feels just over 100 degrees to me. I can test this by hand because I have now filled a lot of baths for little Miss Mouskewitz. It is the same process, but a little more lax, and the yogurt is still great.

ALSO, you do not have to use new culture for each batch. I use Yogourmet

It is four something for a box, but a box makes many batches. I save a heaping tablespoon of yogurt from each batch, and I use that as my starter culture for the next batch, stirring it in with the whisk in place of the powder. You can use yogurt for five batches or so before you need a fresh culture again. 

ALSO ALSO you do not need a Salton yogurt maker. Yogurt has been around a long time, whereas Salton yogurt thing-a-ma-jigs have only been around for a few decades. I'm guessing you can find other methods via the all knowing Google search. That said, I love my yogurt maker, and I know they are available on eBay. If you are going to make it a lot, as I do, you may want to go ahead and buy one. And then you might want to buy one of these
It's a pint sized hand ice cream churn!

Because then you will be able to make this.

Blueberry Frogurt!
 So there you have it! As my parents used to say, “Delicious and nutritious!”   


  1. OMG! You lucked out by finding that yogurt machine. And I've never seen a pint size ice cream churn either(because I've never looked), but now I want one.

  2. Ooooh, yum! Are you going to be posting any jam recipes? Hoping to try my hand at that this summer!

  3. @ Sleeping or Sewing- it is a Donvier Half Pint, and it works fast!

    Miss P- I have only made it twice so far, but both times I used recipes from the Ball Blue Book, and it came out delicious! I made blackberry first, as we have fields full that are free for the picking right next door! I blogged about making the peach jam.


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