Saturday, January 10, 2009

Homemade Yogurt

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but this time around I've made several. I've decided to:
  1. Get 8 hours of sleep each night
  2. Give up alcohol for the whole month of January (too many parties in December)
  3. Eat healthier
I'm doing horrible at the first one and great on the second one.

And the third one? To be quite honest, I'm doing AMAZING!

As part of eating healthier, I've been eating a more Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables, beans, and whole grains. I'm also eating more yogurt, not only because it's healthy on its own, but also because it's supposed help me digest the veggies and beans I'm eating.

I make the yogurt myself, which I've talked about before; one reader recently asked me how I do this. Well, I originally followed the recipe I found on the Ruby Glen website, which I've edited slightly and pasted below. The recipe was originally written by Crystal Miller.

Homemade Yogurt

  • 4 and 1/4 cups milk, cow or goat
  • 1/3 cup powdered milk (this is optional but will make a thicker yogurt)
  • One envelope of yogurt starter (you can purchase this at Whole Foods or your local health food store. You may also be able to find it at those vitamin stores in the mall or around town)
  1. Before you begin, find a way to incubate your yogurt during fermentation. I use a cooler and it works very well. Some people use a thermos or simply place their yogurt on a heat vent or in the oven (sometimes the pilot light keeps the oven warmer than room temperature).
  2. Also before you begin, wash 1 quart-sized canning jar or another container that will fit the volume of milk you're using.
  3. Pour your milk into a cooking pot.
  4. Heat the milk up to 185 degrees.
  5. Remove from heat and allow the milk to cool down to 110 degrees. The cooling takes approximately 20 to 40 minutes.
  6. If you want to speed up the cooling process put the milk outside if it's cold out (and if you're confident critters won't get to it) or fill your sink with cold water and place the pot of hot milk in the water and stir and stir.
  7. After the milk reaches 110 degrees add the remaining ingredients and stir until everything is dissolved very well.
  8. Pour this mixture into your container
  9. Put the lid on and put it into what ever place you are planning to incubate it.
  10. Leave it there for 10 to 12 hours. Try not to disturb the jar to much. When the yogurt is firm (or at least somewhat thicker) it is time to remove it and put it in the refrigerator. Usually 12 to 24 hours. If you make and incubate the yogurt during the day it can refrigerate overnight and be ready for breakfast the next day. (Note that my yogurt isn't usually what I would call firm before I put it in the refrigerator, but it firms the rest of the way up overnight)
  11. If you would like flavored yogurt you can add fresh fruit or a little bit of flavored jam when serving.
And that's it. It sounds like a lot of steps, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually quite easy.

Happy New Year and enjoy your yogurt!


Tilly said...

Wow this is a great site. Well done for you for all the things you've done. It's not easy to go against this packaged world. I'm going to give it a go -thanks for the inspiration!

Heather said...

Thanks for your post, if you have time, can you email me and tell me why do you have to heat up the milk so much only to let it cool down? Why doesn't it work to just heat it to 110 degrees? I have made 3 batches of yogurt and they are not firming up well and I suspect this might be why but I hate to heat my food longer or hotter than needed so I woudl love your insight! My email address is heather (at) mom 4 life (dot) com, thanks!

LifeLessPlastic said...

Heather, I wasn't quite sure why that step was necessary so I tried to look around on the internet. It was a bit hard to find info, but from what I can tell, it has to do with creating the right texture.

From a quote originally in the book On Food and Cooking: "the scalding of the milk previous to incubation, denatures the milk proteins in such a way that they form a grid that traps the whey."

So it seems that heating the milk prevents the runny whey from separating from the rest of the yogurt...

Going Crunchy said...

Interesting! I might give it a try.

Chef James Alviz said...

Saw your story on TIME Magazine. Your an inspiration to many people who wanted to protect mother earth. Sure to try your plastic-free prod.

abby villa said...

A hearty yes to sleep and good health! I'm currently trying to get back on track to doing my basic pilates to make sure i stay more relaxed during the day and sleep better. I've noticed that i sleep much better when i exercise regularly.

Matt said...

If you don't want to buy or can't find yogurt starter, you can just buy some yogurt. Make sure it says "Live Cultures" and you are good to go. Just a bit of this yogurt (or all of it if you are less patient) instead of the starter and your recipe should work fine.

Furthermore, once you have made yogurt, you can just use that yogurt as a starter for your next batch. Now, get yourself some sourdough starter and maybe some sourkraut too and suddenly we are cooking like our great-grandmothers!

Annie said...

I've been making yogurt for about six months and I'm so happy not to be buying those plastic containers. You don't need to buy yogurt starter, though. You can just use a couple of tablespoons of recently purchased yogurt (less than a week) or yogurt from your last batch. As long as you make the next batch not much more than a week later, you can keep making new yogurt from the previous batch.

BP said...

I found you through Dr A Weil's magazine. Less plastic is abslutley a top issue. We almost have the same new year resolution, I am eating healthier, I am getting more sleep, un-fortunately my wife got involved and my quit alcohol thing seems now to be permanent. Oh Well, what are ya gonna do.

Better Panic

Is it Easy Being Green said...

Thanks so much for the instructions on making yogurt! I avoid buying yogurt because of the plastic containers, so I will definitely try this!

Lisa said...

I found you through Google while searching for ways to use less plastic. I love making my own yogurt. When I do, I use each generation of yogurt to start the next as described here: and here: I like making my own Greek yogurt by straining the finished yogurt through cheesecloth or coffee filters. Yum!

Deirdre said...

Regarding the question about heating the milk and then letting it cool--Pasteurized milks have been heated to 161 F for 15 seconds and then rapidly cooled. So some of the bad bacteria may remain that would effect your yogurt success. So that is why the milk needs to be heated--but not boiled, and then allowed to cool so that when you introduce your culture the milk is not so hot as to kill your culture.

In the research I have done there is some suggestion that the type of culture you use impacts how much whey is produced; eg. some bacteria "bind" the whey to the protein better and thereby produce less whey.

Anonymous said...

If you are having trouble making it thicker, try straining it using cheese cloth after making it.

Kris Bravo said...

I do this from time to time and have found that my wife's heating pad keeps the perfect temperature when set on high.
Place the heating pad on a baking sheet, a piece of foil over the heating pad, then a set of sterilized glass bowls on the foil. Pour the yogurt in, cover, then move the set into the over with the heating pad to keep it warm.
Then get that 8 hours of sleep you were promising yourself :)

dermatology laser said...

Yogurt is simply milk or cream that is cultured with active live cultures. These cultures are the key to many of yogurt’s health benefits. Active live cultures are basically good bacteria that are necessary for the body to function at its best.

Ken D Berry MD said...

Great post. Good luck with those resolutions.

Homemade is the way to go!

plumbing said...

The longer it sits souring, the more lactic acid is produced. It can rest at 100 degrees F. for a good 8 to 10 hours with no danger. However, beyond that time limit, mold becomes a distinct possibility.