Tips for Making Homemade Yogurt

3:54 PM

A little while ago I did a blog about making homemade yogurt.  The process always works for me, but it's sometimes cumbersome. 

What follows are a few tips that I've discovered to make my weekly yogurt making easier. 


The Problem
First allow me to give tiny primer for novice yogurt makers.  After you've heated the milk to 180 degrees and cooled it back down, you need to hold the temp at approx 110 degrees for a fairly long time.  The problem with 110 degrees is that it's not too hold and not too cold.  When I first began trying to make yogurt I had a TERRIBLE time holding the temp for the incubation period. 

Sure I could buy and use a yogurt maker, but honestly the last thing I need is yet ANOTHER kitchen device.  The challenge for me was to incubate the yogurt in a way that wasn't too fussy.

My original plan for incubation was to wrap the warm milk in a big towel and stuff it into my microwave for 10-12 hours.  This worked.  The only down side(s) being 1-it can be tricky to keep the towel wrapped around the jar and 2- my family HATED the there was no microwave for a long stretch of the day.

My solution:

I used leftover fabric I made myself a quilted incubation bag.

Yogurt incubation bag
  I wanted to find a fabric that was machine washable, easy to sew and easy to find.  Also this bag has 2 parts.  The bag and a liner.

Using left over quilted fabric I made a plain bag.  [Think brown paper bag made from fabric.] 

Inside the bag

The second part of the bag in a quilted liner.  I sandwiched cotton batting (used for making quilts) between 2 pieces of  of cotton.  The only requirement here is to make sure that the liner is big enough to wrap around the jar holding the yogurt.
Inner liner for yogurt bag

Next I wrapped the liner around the yogurt jar.

Wrap warm milk (with yogurt starter) in the liner

All wrapped up

Next put the wrapped jar inside the bag.

Milk and liner inside incubation bag.

The bag I made has velcro closures and a velcro strap to keep everything wrapped nice and tight.

Velcro closure strips
All sealed up
Velcro strap holds everything snug
Ready to incubate
Close up of the strap

Find a warm place to incubate yogurt
Once the yogurt is snug and warm wrapped in the incubation bag you'll need to keep it in a warm (draft free) environment for the duration of the incubation. 


Another problem some yogurt makers have is finding a really nice yogurt starter.  Until recently I used plain store bought yogurt with live and active yogurt cultures. 

Yogurt with live and active yogurt cultures

Again, this worked well enough and I was happy with the result.  THEN I discovered something better.

A few months back I tried freeze dried yogurt cultures.  MAN what a difference!!!!

Freeze dried yogurt cultures
I wish I'd known about this stuff when I first started making yogurt.  I would have saved me a lot of time and failed batches.

I was able to purchase 2 envelopes of Euro Cuisine freeze dried yogurt cultures on for $3.99.  You only need 1.

I heated my milk (reg and powdered milk) like always.  In case you missed it before, here's the recipe .  I cooled the milk down to 120 degrees and added the freeze dried cultures.  Next I incubated the yogurt in the usual way (see above).

The resulting product was thick and firm and incubated in less time than normal.  DELISH!

Saving Starter for next time!

I don't know about your house, but my house is busy and noisy most of the time.  It's not uncommon for the last of the yogurt to be eaten before I know we're even low!  As soon as I've incubated a successful batch of yogurt, I immediately save a few tablespoons of starter for the next time. 

Place a couple tablespoons of freshly made yogurt in a ziploc bag and toss it into the freezer for next time.

frozen yogurt starter

When you're ready to make a fresh batch of yogurt, defrost the frozen starter in the refrigerator over night (or leave it on the kitchen counter for about an hour).  If you save a bit of starter from each batch you make you'll never have to buy starter again!

More Tips:

If the yogurt doesn't set: use the unset yogurt to make pancakes, cake or waffles.  I use it in place of buttermilk

If there is clear or lightly tinted liquid on top:   You can either stir in the liquid or drain it off.  I like thick Greek style yogurt so I always drain it off.  My son likes a softer creamier texture so he stirs it in.  The choice is yours!

If you find that you've made too much yogurt:  Freeze the extra.  When you're ready to use it defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Cooking with Yogurt:  We use plain yogurt in place of sour cream for tacos or in place of buttermilk or cakes, waffles, pancakes or corn bread.

Happy Yogurt Making!

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