REAL FOOD 101: How to Make Yogurt

Spread the love

homemade yogurtYogurt can be made many different ways: raw milk yogurt, 24-hour yogurt, yogurt made from one of many different culture strains.  That’s the great thing about yogurt.  It’s very simple, but it’s also variable depending on what you would like to make yogurt for.  Some are thick, some are thin, but all have that bright and sour flavor that we all love.

Yogurt is basically milk and cream that has been thickened with beneficial bacteria.  We all know that yogurt is “good for you”, but why?  Probiotic foods are claimed to be good for our bodies in many ways: gut flora balance, immune system defenses, and general health.  Making your own yogurt at home is simple, and yields the freshest probiotic bang for your buck!

What Kinds of Yogurt Are There?

Making yogurt can be done many ways.  But first you must understand the difference between yogurts that culture at room temperature and those that culture in a warm space.  Room temperature cultured yogurts are called mesophilic, and warm temperature yogurts are called thermophilic.

You can use a yogurt maker or a dehydrator to make thermophilic yogurts, which is very easy since temperature controls are built into these kitchen items.

Mesophilic yogurts are easiest for a beginner, since they simply culture in a jar on the kitchen counter at room temperature.  You can buy mesophilic starters here.  I have personally used the Viili culture from Cultures for Health, and it really was easy to use!  This was what I used before I bought my dehydrator, which really facilitates ease when making yogurt.

Where did yogurt come from?

There seem to be as many strains of yogurt as there are traditional societies.  It seems every culture has some kind of fermented dairy they traditionally make, from Indian raitas and lassis to our American acidophilus yogurts sweetened with fruit.

The history of yogurt is fascinating.  According to Wikipedia:

How milk was first cultured into yogurt remains a mystery. Analysis of the L. bulgaricus genome indicates that the bacteria may have originated on the surface of a plant…

There is evidence of cultured milk products in cultures as far back as 2000 BCE. In the records of the ancient culture of Indo-Iranians (Iran and India), yogurt is mentioned by 500 BCE. In this record the combination of yogurt and honey is called ‘the food of the gods’. Persian traditions hold that ‘Abraham owed his fecundity and longevity to the regular ingestion of yogurt’.

The oldest writings mentioning yogurt are attributed to Pliny the Elder, who remarked that certain nomadic tribes knew how ‘to thicken the milk into a substance with an agreeable acidity’. The use of yogurt by medieval Turks is recorded in the books Diwan Lughat al-Turk by Mahmud Kashgari and Kutadgu Bilig by Yusuf Has Hajib written in the 11th century. Both texts mention the word “yogurt” in different sections and describe its use by nomadic Turks.  The earliest yogurts were probably spontaneously fermented by wild bacteria in goat skin bags.

I think the rich history of yogurt is absolutely fascinating.  To think that ancestral peoples discovered thickened milk and it’s beneficial and sour goodness is amazing to me!

What Kind of Milk and Cream Should I Use?

If you use raw milk, your finished yogurt will have a tendency to be runnier than it’s store-bought or pasteurized counterpart.  This is due to the enzymes present in raw milk, which are good for you but result in a thinner yogurt.

So how can you thicken your raw milk yogurt up?  By adding cream to your milk mixture before culturing.  It also helps to heat your milk to 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) before culturing.  I also find that 24-hour yogurt tends to be thicker, probably due to the extended culturing time that allows it to thicken and proliferate for longer.

You can also use pasteurized milk if you don’t have access to raw milk.  Try to get the best quality milk you can: whole, organic, grass-fed milk.  You can find good quality milk information for your area here.

Why should I make yogurt?  Yogurt is probiotic and is claimed to aid in digestion and immune system function.  Of course I can’t make any health claims here that are definitive, but I do notice that when I eat fermented and probiotic and enzymatic foods, I feel better.

Making your own yogurt at home is also much fresher than anything you can buy, and that generally means that the probiotic count is very high.  Homemade yogurt is simple, something you can make once a week for you and your family that will nourish all of you.

Equipment Needed:

  • saucepan
  • candy thermometer
  • glass quart jars and storage lids
  • dehydrator or yogurt maker
  • yogurt starter, OR a good quality store-bought yogurt (plain, organic, whole milk, grass-fed if possible), OR yogurt from a previous batch

Remember that when you make yogurt, the process is cyclical.  Once you make your first batch, you can save a few spoonfuls to make your next batch and keep going that way to make endless batches of yogurt.

If your yogurt ever fails to continue proliferating, you can always buy a new starter or buy a good quality store-bought yogurt to get your yogurt-making cycle going again.

Basic Whole Milk Raw Yogurt

1 quart (4 cups) raw milk (find raw milk near you here)
raw cream, optional for up to 2 cups of the milk (find raw cream near you here)
yogurt starter (find yogurt starters here) either from a new batch or a previous batch of yogurt OR good quality store-bought yogurt

  1. In a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, gently heat milk until it registers at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Pour into glass jars, leaving at least an inch and half head space.  Add one or two heaping spoonfuls of yogurt starter, stirring very well to incorporate without lumps.
  3. Cover loosely with a storage lid, and place into a yogurt maker or dehydrator.
  4. Set the temperature to the heat specified.  If you are using store-bought yogurt as your starter, then set your temperature at 85-90 degrees.  I like my yogurt a little thinner, so this temperature is perfect for me.  You can also go as high as 100 degrees.
  5. Culture for 12 hours or so, or until the desired thickness is reached.  Then place your yogurt in the refrigerator and let it chill for an hour or two to thicken up completely.

24-Hour Raw Milk GAPS Yogurt

1 quart (4 cups) raw milk (find raw milk near you here)
raw cream, optional for up to 2 cups of the milk (find raw cream near you here)
yogurt starter (find yogurt starters here) either from a new batch or a previous batch of yogurt OR good quality store-bought yogurt

  1. In a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, gently heat milk until it registers at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Pour into glass jars, leaving at least an inch and half head space.  Add one or two heaping spoonfuls of yogurt starter, stirring very well to incorporate without lumps.
  3. Cover loosely with a storage lid, and place into a yogurt maker or dehydrator.
  4. Set the temperature to the heat specified.  If you are using store-bought yogurt as your starter, then set your temperature at 100 degrees.
  5. Culture for a full 24 hours, to make sure that the lactose present in the milk is completely converted to lactic acid by the culturing process.  Then place your yogurt in the refrigerator and let it chill for an hour or two to thicken up completely.

Yogurt Made with Pasteurized Milk

1 quart (4 cups) milk
yogurt starter (find yogurt starters here) either from a new batch or a previous batch of yogurt OR good quality store-bought yogurt

  1. In a saucepan, briefly scald the milk and then remove from heat and set aside.  Let cool but only until still warm to the touch.
  2. Pour into glass jars and add the starter, mixing well to incorporate without any lumps.  Cover loosely with a storage lid and put into the yogurt maker or dehydrator to culture.  (Alternately, follow the directions on your starter packet if it is specific for temperature and culture times.)
  3. Culture overnight for about 12 hours, or until desired thickness is reached.  Then place your yogurt in the refrigerator and let it chill for an hour or two to thicken up completely.

As far as varieties of yogurt, you can buy many different kinds on my resource page.  When you receive the starter in the mail, simply follow the directions that they come with.  Some culture at specific temperatures and for specific times, depending on the strain of bacteria in that particular yogurt.

Remember to read the specifications before you buy, so that you will know if you need a yogurt maker or dehydrator to make your yogurt at home.

How should I use my yogurt?  Use your homemade yogurt for smoothies, yogurt bowls with honey and nuts and fruit, to make frozen yogurt, or just to mix with a little jam and take to school or work for lunch.  Sometimes I just like to drizzle mine with honey and dig in.

Please follow and like us:
error