there is plenty of information out on the web about making homemade yogurt that it can seem a little daunting. especially the whole incubating process. leaving milk in a warm place for 12 hours doesn't sound very safe to me. but i've tried our yogurt a few times since making it, and i'm still here so the process must be safe, right?
i ended up using a 4 different tutorials as the basis of my yogurt making, just to make sure that i didn't mess things up. the first three are from soule mama, granola mom for god and blooming glen farm, which offer pretty much the same instructions. it made me feel better to see that the basic process was the same, and that small variations were okay and didn't mess up the final product. the fourth site is pretty awesome because it was compiled by a biology and chemistry professor and titled, yogurt making illustrated. reading about the scientific aspects of yogurt making was very helpful, because it gave me peace of mind that i'm not going to become deathly ill from trying to make my own yogurt. plus it gave me a better understanding of the purpose behind each step, and how flexible i can be at each point in the yogurt making process.
though i'll share how i ended up making mine, i won't go into too much detail since the above links have already provided much of the information needed about yogurt making. so, here we go...
- i used 1 quart commercial (rbst free) milk for our yogurt. 1 quart of milk will make 1 quart of yogurt. i ended up making a 2nd batch of yogurt the next day because 1 quart didn't look like it was going to last us very long. i just poured the milk into the jar i was going to use for the yogurt to measure the correct amount.
- pour it in a pot and heat to 180 degrees F, stirring occasionally. note: do not go and feed your baby thinking that it will be plenty of time before the milk gets to the correct temperature. i did that on the first attempt and heated the milk way too hot (which apparently can affect how the yogurt comes together).
- while the milk is being heated, rinse out the jar you used to measure out the milk. put the jar and the lid in a large pot of water and boil for 10 minutes to sanitize and kill any potential bad bacteria. after boiling for 10 minutes, turn off heat and leave in the pot.
- after it reaches 180, let the milk cool to 110ish degrees F. i cooled mine to 115, but some of the sites above mention 110 or even 120. it's important to note, though, that if the milk is not cooled enough (above 120) it can kill the live cultures that you're going to add into your milk.
- while your milk is cooling you can take out the sanitized jar and lid from the pot and let it dry on a super clean drying rack. the other option is to have the jar(s) super clean ahead of time. whichever ends up being easier. the most important thing is to make sure they're clean. also use this time to heat up some water (i just reheated the water used for sanitizing the jar) to about 115-120 degrees.
- once your milk is cooled between 110-120 degrees, pour it into your jar(s). put about 4 Tbs of plain yogurt (with live cultures) in the jar, or you can save some of your previously made yogurt, and mix. the yogurt illustrated site calls this point inoculation. he, he. so scientific, eh? the measured amount doesn't have to be exact. i just used a regular table spoon instead of an actual measuring spoon. some of the sites above tell you to inoculate (ooOOhh) while the milk is in the pot. either way it doesn't matter, just as long as you mix in some of the live cultures. after inoculation, cover jar with lid.
- pour your preheated 115-120 degree water into a cooler. place the jar in the cooler. i had my water level at about half way up the jar. close up the cooler and place in a spot where it won't get moved. you can cover the cooler with additional blankets or towels to keep it warm, but i don't know that it's absolutely necessary. you can try out other methods to incubate your yogurt, but the cooler one works best for us.
- incubate for 8-12 hours. i left both of mine for 10 hours. the flavor and smell was pretty much the same as the tub of plain yogurt i used to buy at trader joe's. if you leave the yogurt in the fridge for a couple of hours after incubation, it will thicken it up a bit. the longer you incubate, the more tart the flavor (and i think it thickens up a bit more too, though i'm no sure...guess you'll have to try it out). i think next time, i'll let it go for 12 hours. i like my plain yogurt a little more on the tart side so that i can use it as a substitute for sour cream.
so now i am totally sold on making homemade yogurt, and can't believe i've waited so long to try! i don't think i'll go back to spending my usual $3.50 on 2lbs. of plain yogurt ever again. well, maybe when convenience and saving time trumps over saving money.