Homemade Yogurt

uhand I’m not an expert.  In fact, not too long ago I was really nervous about trying to make homemade yogurt.  We like yogurt, but the store bought ones are expensive…especially with all of us.  Those kinds of expenses are the first ones to go when the budget tightens.  But as a mom…I know how important the probiotics in the yogurt are for little tummies.  The problems with 3 of my kidlets’ tummies improves dramatically if they get yogurt at least 3 times a week.  So I looked into trying to make yogurt on my own…I have some friends who said it was really easy and completely worth it.  I have to admit that I was more then a little nervous.  How could it possibly be so easy?  It’s supposed to be hard, right?  That’s why we buy it at the store…right?  Besides…what if I mess up?

I did a lot of research…quizzed my friends until I’m sure they were sick of hearing my questions…and then crossed my fingers and and gave it a try.  There are a lot of websites on making yogurt.  I like How to Make Yogurt – but there are a lot of other great sites so google for more.  I’ve experimented with a few methods.  Powdered milk works well enough, but the ones I tried stayed pretty runny.  One thing to note is that homemade yogurt isn’t thick like the store bought stuff…there’s not any of the commercial fillers and thickeners added…though the longer you let it culture the thicker it will become but the tartness will increase too.  The more milk fat the thicker it will be.  We weren’t overly thrilled with the powdered  milk — and Morning Moo’s Milk does NOT work at all.  2% and any combination of 2% with powdered milk works just fine…adding powdered will increase thickness.  Our favorite is whole milk…I think the yogurt is fuller, creamier and tastes a better.  But that’s just me.

Here’s what I do:

First off, you’ll need containers to culture the yogurt in – something with a fairly air tight lid.  Quart jars work well enough.  I like using used peanut butter jars….cleaned out well of course.  That way I can make the yogurt and store the finished product all in the same containers…and not fear broken glass if one of the kidlets drops the jar.  ***Note: make sure all of your containers and utinsels are clean and sterilized.  The microbes that make the yogurt are easily damaged by bacteria, etc.

Next you’ll need some yogurt starters. That’s easy enough…just get some plain yogurt from the store – make sure it says “live cultures”.  I get a big container, use what I need (2-4 Tablespoons per container) and then freeze the rest in ice cube trays for use later.

Here I’ve place 2-3 cubes in each of my containers.  I’ve found that 1 gallon of milk fills 5 16oz peanut butter jars.  That gives me 4 for the kids and 1 plain to use for cooking.

Here’s where some more trial an error comes into play.  We’ve tried flavoring the yogurt in various different ways.  I like just a touch of vanilla and sugar with a bit of fruit…but my kids are used to the store stuff.  It’s amazing how addicted we can become to something that is artificial in so many ways.  They also had a hard time with it being too runny.  I found a comparable solution…I’ll work on phasing this out for more fruits from our garden as time goes by.  In each container in the picture above, there is 1/2 a pack of jell-o.  The plain yogurt has a packet of plain gelatin in it…I like the thickness too :).

The milk will need to be scalded a bit (heat to about 185*).  You don’t really want to boil it…and you definitely don’t want to burn it!  The cultures need temps to be about 110*.  Any higher and they’ll die…lower then that and they work slower.  So after scalding make sure you let it cool before adding to your starters. It’s pretty easy to set it in a sink of ice cold water to cool it quicker…just watch the thermometer.

I fill each container about half full with warm milk, shake vigorously to mix and then fill the rest of the way.

The next step is to maintain the 110* temp for 6-8 hours to let the cultures do their thing.  My oven doesn’t get low enough to let it set inside over night…and my heating pad has a timed shut off.  I tried using a camp chest…filling it about half way with hot water.  That worked well enough…except I couldn’t lift it or drag it to dump it when done.  That’s when I pulled out another camping tool :)…the orange water “igloo”.  It’ll hold up to 6 of my peanut butter containers…so the 5 fit nicely.

I just fill it with 110* tap water…if the jars float, I just cover them with warm wet towels and they do fine…

…and then cover for about 7 hours.

When the time is up, the finished yogurt looks wonderful.  It’ll thicken a bit more after cooling over night in the fridge.

 

As you can see my kidlets got creative :).

Doesn’t that look so good?  And the savings are even better! 😀

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