Save money (this is up to 4x cheaper!) and make something delicious and nutritious to eat at any time of day. Yogurt is high in zinc, which can be a hard nutrient to get enough of. Learn more about zinc in this article.
No need to be intimidated - this homemade yogurt is easier than you think and ridiculously amazing! Here's how I got started making my own.
My teenage son could be described as a leg-mounted stomach. He eats A LOT. He could polish off a quart of plain, whole-fat yogurt and then ask for more. I know! And when you want to provide organic yogurt from grass-fed cows, that's an $8/qt proposition. So, I started making homemade yogurt out of financial necessity. I can buy a gallon of good milk for $6.49 and make FOUR quarts of yogurt with it.
I typically make one gallon at a time, but you can start with a much smaller amount to learn the process. I use whole milk and sometimes even add an additional cup of cream, although this substantially cuts into your cost savings!
Why heat the milk? Well, some people think it's to kill bad bacteria in the milk. This isn't true. The milk has probably already been pasteurized, unless you're using raw milk. It turns out that when milk is pasteurized, the heating process changes the molecular structure of the milk proteins. And so, if you try to make yogurt, it never thickens and sets properly. It will end up making a cultured milk product, but more like a liquid "drinkable" yogurt.
If you like/want drinkable yogurt, you can absolutely skip steps 1 and 2. If you want a thicker, set yogurt, this step is non-negotiable.
Once the milk has been brought up to 185 degrees, you hold it at that temp for about 5 minutes.
You can put the pot in a cold water bath in the sink if you want, or just let it come back down to temperature on its own. A cool water bath gets a whole gallon down to 100 F in less than an hour– if you let it sit out at room temperature, it can take several hours.
During this time, be careful to keep contaminants out! We only want our delicious starter cultures to be growing in the milk medium.
I know, I know, you need yogurt to make yogurt. Yup, at first this is true, but eventually, you can save a bit from your last batch to make your next batch. If I don't think I'm going to make yogurt for a while, I freeze 1/4C of yogurt from my last batch and it works just fine.
Interestingly, not all bacteria strains in commercial yogurts are good for you. Research has shown that some strains of bacteria that are COMMONLY added to yogurt can actually CAUSE brain fog. Seriously?!
Avoid using a yogurt starter culture (or probiotic supplement for that matter) that contains Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, and/or Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
The liquid on the right is bright yellow–this might be unfamiliar to some! However, that is liquid whey strained from the last batch of yogurt that we made into a nice thick, Greek-style yogurt. It's delicious!
Put the cooled milk into mason jars or some other non-reactive (preferably glass) container. I use these big beautiful half-gallon jars.
Once you've confirmed with a thermometer that your milk is 100 F or less, add 1T to 1/4 C of live yogurt. That live yogurt has multiple strains of bacteria in it that start to populate in your milk medium to turn it into yogurt. Try not to jostle or over stir the milk much at this point. The bacteria will proliferate on their own. Just drop it in!
How can you incubate it at a specific temperature?!? Tip: I use our food dehydrator at the 104 F setting for 20-24 hours. It works great! If you don't have a dehydrator, then this blog explains some other common practices for incubating yogurt. However, these methods won't keep the yogurt in the optimal temperature range for bacterial growth for as long, so you'll have a shorter, 4-10 hour incubation. This is fine, but a longer incubation time gives the bacteria a longer period of time to proliferate, which means they have a longer period of time to "eat." What do they eat? The lactose (milk sugars) in the yogurt.
So, you'll get a lower carb product the longer you can ferment it. I've heard reports that people who are lactose intolerant can eat 24-hour cultured yogurt. Wow!
During the incubation period, the yogurt will "set" into a delicious yogurt texture.
If you'd like to get a dehydrator for yogurt and other fun projects (like homemade jerky without additives and dried snacks), I'd recommend this product.
I definitely prefer thick, Greek-style yogurt both in flavor and in texture. You'll need either cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. I use this one and LOVE it. You'll set up your yogurt in your straining solution over a big glass bowl and over the course of a couple of hours, the bright yellow liquid whey will strain out.
This changes the flavor of the yogurt because the whey is quite acidic, so your strained yogurt will have a more creamy, less tangy flavor which I prefer. Not everyone prefers this though. And your yogurt will get much thicker, which I also like.
You can strain it for as long as you like, it will get thicker and thicker the longer you leave it there.
I usually strain a half-gallon until I get about a quart of whey, so I strain half the volume out. That gives me a really nice thick yogurt and a bunch of whey.
My son likes to drink the liquid whey and it's a protein-rich, probiotic beverage.
Your yogurt is good to go! Store it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. It keeps really well! Cultured dairy products are high in zinc, which most people don't get enough of.
I like it plain, but some people add honey or pure maple syrup to theirs.
I also like to add vanilla extract to mine, it tastes SO good!
We also like to sprinkle ours with pecans (I order these ones because they are an excellent price and supporting a small farm in the U.S.)
Another option is to sprinkle hemp hearts over the top.
Hemp hearts are packed with nutrients and the jury is still out on their anti-nutrient load, but they don't appear to be as concerning as other seeds/germs.
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