Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

One of the great things about daily milking is having enough Dexter milk to make yogurt.  Getting ready for the family to arrive for Thanksgiving, I made two different batches to see how we liked them.  It's really easy!  Here's how . . .

I had fun getting into my new cheese-making book and kits from New England Cheesemaking Supply, but you don't need many special supplies to make yogurt!  I used to make it years ago in Africa, and when I wanted to start again, I looked up a recipe online and followed that.

For these batches, though, I decided to follow the recipe in Home Cheese Making, by Ricki Carroll.  You can find a recipe online on the New England Cheesemaking website; it has helpful information, but is also a bit more complicated than what I did.

The red thermos on the left is my old yogurt maker, and the blue one on the right is a thermos intended to keep soup hot for lunch.  I actually like it better because the lid screws down tightly and the handle makes it easy to pull it out of the fridge.  The "wart" on the red thermos is from leaving it too close to a hot burner, but it hasn't affected the performance!  In front are my two cultures.  For the "red" yogurt I used a couple tablespoons of my previous batch; the original culture was from Seven Stars organic yogurt, my favorite store-bought.  For the "blue" yogurt I used a couple tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt.

Other than a thermos, the only really necessary pieces of equipment are a one-quart measuring cup and a thermometer that goes up to 180°.  The disks are helpful in that they begin to rattle about the time your yogurt gets to the right temperature.  ("D" for Dexter, maybe!)

First I poured one quart of raw milk into a stainless steel pot and added the disk.  Using the smallest possible pot will allow you to clip your thermometer on the side of the pot so it hangs down in the milk.

If you are using a thickener such as carrageenan, pectin, gelatin or dry milk powder, this is the time to add it.  I prefer my yogurt au naturel!  You can always strain it through a coffee filter to make nice thick "Greek" yogurt.

Since I was making two batches, I had to use one bigger pot, and I had to hold the thermometer in the milk.  (I also had to take my own photos, and as you can see, the steam rising from the milk interfered with me aiming the camera to get my photo in focus!)  I heated the milk to 180°.  Note that once your milk hits that temperature, it will rise fast.  By the time I aimed the camera and snapped the photo, my milk had hit 181.3°.  Not a problem--the website recipe linked above calls for 185-195°.

(The website recipe calls for holding the milk at that temperature for 20-30 minutes in order for the whey proteins to thicken the milk.  I'll try that next time, but it is VERY hard to adjust an electric burner accurately enough to heat and hold the milk without getting the temperature too high or allowing it to fall too low.)

Once the milk reached 180°, I removed it from the burner and let it cool to 116°.  This is where it REALLY helps to have the thermometer clipped on the pot so it stays in the milk!  I swirl the thermometer occasionally to make sure the milk cools evenly.  As the temperature nears 116°, it is important to keep an eye on it so it doesn't cool off below your target temp.  If it does, just warm it up a bit over 116° and cool it back down.  Do keep an eye on your milk, though, or you will end up heating and reheating it ad nauseam!

Once the milk reached 116°, I added 2 T. of starter culture to the milk in the pot and stirred it thoroughly.  I like to have the culture sitting out from the beginning so it isn't ice cold when I stir it in.  Once the culture was thoroughly stirred into the milk, I poured the milk into the thermos.
I added the lid (or in the case of the red thermos, both lids) and set the thermos in a quiet spot on the kitchen counter for 6-8 hours.  Go away and do not peek!  When 6-8 hours have passed, you can check your yogurt.  Give it a jiggle and see if it looks set.  If not, let it rest closer to 8 hours.  Remember, though, that it will be thicker once it's chilled.

You  can see that timing is important.  If you start your yogurt in the afternoon, it will be ready to go into the fridge in the middle of the night!  If you make it right before bedtime, however, you can let it set all night and refrigerate it in the morning.

Here are my two thermoses busy setting yogurt.  Absolutely gripping, isn't it?  As you can see, watching yogurt set is about as fascinating as watching submarine races!  But eating your own homemade yogurt from your own hand-milked cow?  That's as exciting for me as receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor!  Okay, I exaggerate, but it is pretty exciting!

If you want to know what the yogurt looks like when it's ready, scroll up two photos.  It looks exactly the same as when you pour it into the thermos--but it's yogurt now!  If you want to know what it tastes like, make a batch!  It's that easy, and trust me, it tastes great!

My "blue" batch didn't set up as well as the "red."  (It's not the thermos because the blue one is the one I usually use; it was the culture.)  I don't recommend using Greek yogurt as a culture.  You can use your own yogurt as the culture for your next batch, although not indefinitely.  The New England Cheesemaking website recommends using an "official" culture for more consistent results, and you can see several that they sell on the link I gave you.  I used to use the Bulgarian culture in Africa, and we really liked it.  I plan to try their other ones, too, and see which is our favorite.  But if you don't want to wait for an order to arrive in the mail, just grab some organic yogurt at your local store and get going.  You'll be glad you did!


  1. Miam! That was so tasty ! I really need to try this at home!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Next time you come we can make it together, and you'll see how easy it is.

  2. I will have to show this to my wife, she loves yogurt. I don't touch the stuff. Good post Susan

    1. It is an acquired taste, Gordon! I find flavored American yogurt inedible after living in France for 11 years. I usually just eat it plain with some fresh berries or bananas cut up in it, no sugar.


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