Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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Homemade Yogurt

posted by in Recipes

Yes, it can be made at home – and quite easily at that – without any fancy equipment.

Disgusted with the watery texture of supermarket yogurts and unable to maintain a regular supply of Rizal Dairy’s Greek yogurt, I decide to try my hand at making my own yogurt.

Making yogurt is, surprisingly, easy enough; so easy in fact that I now make it regularly. No special equipment is required. All that’s needed is milk, a starter (about ¼ to ½ cup of store-bought yogurt), a stockpot that fits inside a larger pot (for a waterbath), and – this is absolutely crucial – an instant-read or candy thermometer; I use my Wilton professional thermometer (seen in the photos below).

Once I’ve got my equipment, I create a “water jacket” using the two stockpots. This ensures consistent results and prevents the milk from burning. The larger pot is filled with water while the smaller pot is filled with milk. I’ve used whole milk and carabao’s milk – both produce excellent, full-bodied yogurts (naturally, considering how much fat and milk solids are retained in these types of milk); while low fat milk produces a very thin yogurt with somewhat insipid flavor (again, not surprising). I beseech you to not even think about using skim milk.

When milk nears 185°F, a film forms on the milk’s surface. This is also the temperature, incidentally, when milk begins to froth as for a latte, say.

Placed on the stovetop over medium heat, the water heats the milk to 185°F, the temperature needed to remove the possibility of bacteria or anything else that may interfere with cultivating the yogurt cultures. The milk is then cooled to 110°F, the temperature at which the yogurt cultures start to reproduce. I do this by removing the smaller stockpot containing the now-hot milk and placing the pot over an ice bath (a huge mixing bowl filled with ice water). In such an “arctic” environment, the temperature drops quickly, something I wish this torrid summer heat would do as well.

Once the milk reaches 110°F, I pitch my yogurt. The term “pitch” is a beer maker’s term that simply means “to add.” Brewers pitch yeast to make alcohol, I pitch yogurt to make more yogurt. In these photos, I’ve pitched one-half cup of my previously made homemade yogurt to make new yogurt. If this were a new batch, I’d use one-half cup of a store-bought plain yogurt.

The prepared yogurt is then stirred in – the milk visibly begins to curdle almost immediately; the transformation is fascinating! – and I cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel. Curious minds and tiny hands have made it necessary for me to put a “DO NOT TOUCH” sign. Homemade yogurt needs to rest in peace for at least seven hours, no more or else it becomes too sour and thick.

Yogurt is created by “helpful” bacteria that ferment the milk. It consumes the sugars (lactose) found in milk, which cause it to curdle and produce lactic acid. It’s lactic acid that acts as a natural preservative and gives yogurt its pleasantly sour taste. We all know how healthy yogurt is – frozen yogurt, anyone? Yogurt is also a great source of protein, calcium, and other essential vitamins whose active bacterial cultures aid in digestion.

After seven hours, I now have yogurt (that looks a bit like broken up taho and whey, a clear liquid that separates from the milk solids and which I describe as a benign but indescribable shade of yellow-green; chartreuse perhaps? Though I’m not brave enough to do so, culinary enthusiasts use whey as a cold libation, a soup base, or as a cooking liquid for pilafs and risottos.

I strain the yogurt/whey by lining a large wire mesh sifter with a double layer of cheesecloth and placing it over a glass bowl. It’s quite relaxing to hear the pitter! patter! of the dripping whey, quickly at first and then intermittently.

I’ve found that it’s best to make yogurt early in the day so that after its seven hour rest, I just pour the strained yogurt into containers and let it chill overnight. The next morning, I’ve got the best yogurt I’ve ever had for breakfast along with some granola that I’ve also made.

The advantages of homemade yogurt are many: it’s cheaper, preservative-free, and better-tasting. Personally, I like that I can control how thick and sour I want my yogurt to be, as well as choose what kind of milk to use. Making my own yogurt has opened my eyes to how good yogurt can be, and what I’ve been missing all these years. Thick and pleasingly sour, it’s refreshingly nutritious and perfect for my beat-the-heat fruit smoothies.

26 Responses to “Homemade Yogurt”

  • Hi! I’m a new reader.. (just saw your blog in an issue of Rogue–congrats by the way:D)

    I’m a yogurt addict too and it’s really great that you shared this post! I’m planning on taking this “addiction” to the next level and I’ll try making my own too!

    By the way, what brand of yogurt should I use? Will Nestle or Yoplait do?

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  • I make my own yogurt, too. Yum. I use the whey for pancakes, really good.

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  • I’ve always wanted to try my hand at this! I’m a yogurt lover too but I’ve never tried making my own…you’ve made it look nice and simple…maybe one of these days!

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  • Im too afraid to make this. I might just spoil and eat it…scary…

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  • “I strain the yogurt/whey by lining a large wire mesh sifter with a double layer of cheesecloth and placing it over a glass bowl”
    Its good idea i too try it.

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  • how much milk did you use for this recipe?

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  • Hi Lori, I want to make this asap because my daughter devours yogurt! How much milk did you use for this and can I just use any store-bought UHT milk brand?

    Hi Angie and Paul -
    I use 2 liters of full cream, non-UHT milk. It’s worth looking for the milks from Haceinda Macalauan or Rizal Dairy.

    –lori

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  • Hi Lori, how long is the fridge life of the home-made yoghurt?

    Anne-
    Almost 2 weeks, but it gets progressively more sour with each week; not because it’s going bad but just because it’s the nature of yogurt to be so.

    –lori

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  • Funny you should post this because I was just chatting with a friend of mine last Saturday about making our own yogurt.

    I think I’ll try this one of these weekends. I just need to buy myself a thermometer.

    Thanks for posting this sweetheart. You saved me the effort of researching. kisses and see you soon.

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  • Hi Lori, I’m the biggest lurker of dessertcomesfirst. I adore great yogurt, always wanted to try making a batch at home but all of the recipes I came across with are a little too complicated or need “special” equipment. Thank you for sharing.

    By the way, how much is the yield per batch?

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  • Whey can be also used as a water replacement for breadmaking, pancakes, etc. Added protein and it helps rising to boot!

    For a starter, best to check the label for live lactobacilli. Acidophilus and bifidus are good strains.

    Sourcing good milk is important as well. Pasteurized is ok but try to avoid homogenized. If you trust your source enough, raw milk is best. I trust mine enough that I forego the scalding of milk.

    Lattes and cappuccinos are actually better frothed to 140-160F only, enough to sweeten the milk while avoiding the” toasted/scalded” taste.

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    Divina Reply:

    Where do you buy raw milk?

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    RT Reply:

    Raw milk can be sourced from small dairies, but requires special arrangements. They’re hesitant to sell raw due to sanitary and longevity issues. Non-pasteurized spoils easier and can be dangerous if not prepared in sanitary conditions and chilled constantly. If handled properly, raw milk has it’s own beneficial microorganisms (pasteurization kills them) that fight contamination. Most lactose intolerant milk drinkers find they can take raw milk with no problems.

    I special order as much as 10-20 liters and just chuck em in the freezer. I use them for yogurt, gelato, cappuccinos, etc so even if there’s a bit of separation or graininess, the churning reconstitutes the milk. Frozen milk’s texture when defrosted might not be smooth enough to drink though.

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  • Lori, I make yogurt using 1 liter milk reconstituted from full cream instant powder milk and cold filtered water plus 1/4 C active yogurt (Nestle) in a glass jar with lid. Using a 6 qt pressure cooker as my water bath container @ 115-150 degree F, immerse the glass jar containing the mixture. The water bath should reach just before the glass lid. Put pressure cooker cover and let it sit in a closed unheated oven for 8 hours. With this method, I don’t have to transfer the yogurt to another container. When done, refrigerate to further firm up the yogurt.

    For frozen yogurt, I make vietnamese yogurt using condensed milk plus starter from my homemade yogurt. A cuisinart ice cream maker helps churn the
    mixture into a sweet, tangy frozen yogurt.

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  • Just pulled out half a gallon of milk to make my yogurt and realized I’d forgotten to reserve a portion of last week’s batch to pitch. Do you think I could get the same results using left over whey that I saved?

    Thanks!

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    Lori Reply:

    Kjerste-
    No, don’t waste your time. Just buy some yogurt instead and use that as your starter.
    –lori

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  • I can’t fault you for making your own yogurt. I am horrified at the amount of sugar a single serving of shop bought yogurt contains!….nearly 5 teaspoons!!!!

    The sugar is refined as well which personally I avoid like the plague. Home made is the way to go especially if you want to feed your family fresh yogurt without the nasty additives.

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  • I like this blog. :) Ms Lori, I’m into homemade yoghurt, too. I make for friends and for myself. Frozen yoghurt available in the market gives it a more appealing taste but nothing beats the real thing and it’s more healthy when it’s homemade. :))

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  • i am always making my own yoghurt. i am using a yoghurt maker (the brand is stalton) just plug it and wait for 5-6 hours , using yogourmet powder as my starter. just want to share this infor to make yogurt making easier.

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  • Is it okay if I use Nestle’s Creamy Yogurt as a starter? Judging from the package, it says it has live microorganisms in it.

    Thanks for the guide.

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    Lori Reply:

    Hi Rich,
    I don’t see why not.
    –lori

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  • Hi! I was given a yogurt maker but it didn’t come with an instruction booklet–would you know how to make yogurt using the maker? Thank you for your help…

    susan

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  • Hi ! I received a yogurt maker but it didn’t have an instruction booklet. Would you know how to make yogurt using it? Many anticipated thanks..

    susan

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