Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tutorial/Recipe: How I make yogurt

With honey and granola, it's almost a dessert!

I have been asked several times how I make our yogurt, and this time of year I make it frequently.  Milk is abundant with the new grass, we eat more cold breakfasts and I make a lot of smoothies.  Gemma eats yogurt every day.  She likes it with pureed fruit, and she likes it plain, too.

Anyway, here is the way I go about it.  There are many ways to make yogurt, but they all are the same in the basics.  Since I make four quarts at a time, I start with a scant gallon of fresh milk, generally straight from the cow so that it is already warm and takes less time to bring to a scald.  I have tried making the yogurt without scalding the milk in order to preserve the enzymes, but haven't had luck with it.  It always turns out soupy. 

I rinse the pot with cold water before putting in the milk, as this prevents milk from burning on the bottom.  I pour in the milk and bring it to a scald on medium heat.  I use a dairy thermometer to watch the temperature.  It takes quite a long time for it to cool to the right temperature for adding the culture, 100-110 degrees.

In the meantime, I prepare my "incubator", which is one of these:

My heating element is one of these:

See the warning there?  That's me, throwing caution to the wind.  I like to live dangerously.  I've even been known to eat things past their expiration dates.  I turn the pad on to medium and put in my towels, and close it up to get warm.

When the milk is about ready, I fill my clean jars with hot water and set out my canning funnel and a sieve.
The milk will have formed quite a skin on top, so I carefully skim that off and plop it in the pig bucket.  My yogurt culture is just a cup of yogurt (about 1/4 cup per scant quart of milk) saved from my last batch.  If I am totally out, I'll use the Dannon All Natural Plain Yogurt, not the nonfat.  I let it warm to room temperature, or put it in a water bath to speed the process up.  Then I wisk it smooth and stir it into the milk.  I also add a couple of tablespoons of powdered milk and wisk that in as well.

Then I empty the jars, one at a time, and place the canning funnel in the jar with the sieve resting in it.  I pour the milk into the jars, close them up and place them in the incubator.

I insulate them with dishtowels, and place one on top.  Newspapers folded around them would work, too.
Then I let every thing sit for about 6 hours.  I tilt a jar gently to see if the contents look solid.  There will be a layer of yellow cream on top, and the whey will show (this disappears when the yogurt is chilled).  I let it set on the counter until it is room temperature before placing it in the fridge.

That's all there is to that!


  1. Dear Nadja,
    I have been making our yougrt in a crock pot recently.
    Is yours very thick?
    Do you know how to make really thick yogurt? Mine doesn't go really htick though
    God Bless

  2. Can I come to your house for breakfast someday? Pleeeease...?

  3. Thank you for posting this!!

    I have several questions (if you have time):

    #1. Do you strain the milk first? (I mean... like... STRAIGHT from the cow? Or strained from the cow?)

    #2. How long does it take from start to finish? (incubation = 6 hours, but including scalding time, etc.?)

    #3. Why do you strain the yogurt before putting it in the jars?

    #4. Can you freeze your starter?

    #5. Yogurt makers always stress to the point of paranoia that the starter has to be the FRESHEST available... but is that like 2 days old, a week, two weeks?

    #6. You probably never have enough left over to find out, but how long does raw milk yogurt stay good?

    I so wish I could call you! We may be getting a cow tomorrow (who won't be in milk until October) and I don't know what I'm doing! (But the KFC Forum has been extremely helpful!)

  4. Nadja, this is exactly how we make ours! Except we use goats' milk. We got this method from Carla Emmery's Encylopedia of Country Living -- and it works most every time. We've learned, too, that if you want a thicker, more "jelled" consistency, you can add a packet of unflavored gelatin to the mix. MM, good. Wish our goats were milking now. I miss the fresh, homemade yogurt!

  5. City Wife, let me try to answer your questions:

    1)DO strain it first! You do want to check for mastitis and hair and such. Could make for very unappealing yogurt otherwise.

    2)Smaller amounts of milk probably cool faster, but I find that it takes 8-10 hours, depending on how cold the kitchen is and how quickly the milk cools. I always do it in the morning before school starts, and it is done by 5 or 6 pm.

    3)I like to strain out any lumps of yogurt starter, powdered milk or the "skin" that comes from scalding the milk. I like my yogurt smoooooth.

    4)I've never tried, but I would guess you could, since one can do it with cheese starters. I almost always have yogurt in my fridge, though, so it never occurred to me to freeze it.

    5)Our yogurt is made from scalded milk, so technically it isn't raw milk yogurt. Our yogurt is used within a week usually. I'll bet that it could keep 2 weeks easy in unopened jars (the cooling creates a vacuum). We keep our fridge at 40 degrees and never had milk go bad. In the summer, get it cold as soon as you can and keep it cold, and it should keep a week easily.

    You can contact me at nadjamagdalena at gee-mail dot com.

    Hope that's helpful! And enjoy your cow!

  6. Oops--missed a question. Fresher works better, but I have used week-old yogurt as my starter, and it has almost always worked!

  7. Gae, there is always Lisa's gelatin method, but Jersey milk is pretty well loaded with milk solids. But because I like my yogurt thick like sour cream, I add powdered milk to increase the solids. I also boosts the calcium!

  8. it's funny you should say that-about yogurt tasting like a dessert with granola and honey-'cause this morning i made oatmeal topped with strawberries and vanilla yogurt and honey-and it was SO yummy-the kids loved it!
    i've been trying to eat more (with flax oil for my heart). and i've gotten quite addicted to the brown cow stuff with cream on the top. but i doubt it tastes like your homemade goodies!

    and i do so admire you. i think it is awesome that you are so resourceful!

    one question: do you feel pressure not to waste anything...sometimes i wonder about that myself. i hate to throw food out, but when you've got animals producing stuff on a grand scale-is it hard-even with all those mouths to feed-not to waste anything?

  9. I still get irritated with waste around here, even though technically nothing really gets wasted, between the chickens, the pig, the dogs and the compost pile. I still yell at the kids, "I'm not cooking dinner so that I can feed it to the pig!"


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