Be Cultured: Make Your Own Yogurt

Three days a week, I get up early and head to the organic farm where I work all day picking vegetables.  Before a long day of physical work, I need the right breakfast to keep me going. This meal nearly always includes homemade yogurt. Yes, I make my own yogurt every week or so, and it’s easy enough that you should, too.

For the price of a half gallon of organic milk, you will soon have quarts of yogurt. The process takes very little active time, just heating and cooling and then leaving the milk to culture. Homemade yogurt is creamy and soft, not stiff or gelatinous like commercial yogurt. I would love to convince you of the money you’ll save and the little time it takes, but let me just tell you how to facilitate the simple transformation from milk to yogurt.

It is possible to make yogurt with many different kinds of milk, but I usually start with a half gallon of whole milk from a local organic farm. I pour it into a pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. With a heat-proof spatula, I stir the milk a few times as it heats to keep it from burning or sticking too much to the pot. I use an instant read thermometer to track the heating process as I go about other kitchen tasks. If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t let it keep you from homemade yogurt. When the pot of milk until is steamy and bubbly, but not boiling, it should be about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature the milk needs to reach before the culturing can take place. When it gets to this point, remove the pot from the heat.

Now, while you continue about other tasks, let the milk cool until it reaches 120 degrees, or warm but not hot. If it is too hot, the cultures will not survive; if it is too cool, they won’t have enough heat to grow and transform the milk into yogurt. When the milk has cooled to 120 degrees, stir in a quarter of a cup of yogurt. You can use any kind of yogurt, just make sure it has live active cultures. These cultures in the will do the work to make your milk into more yogurt.

Make sure the yogurt is mixed thoroughly with the milk. Pour the milk into two quart sized jars and cover with lids. Place the jars someplace warm, but not too hot, and cover with several tea towels. Leave them alone for 6 to 8 hours. By that time, the milk should have thickened into yogurt. Place the jars in the refrigerator to finish the process.

If you prefer Greek-style yogurt, simply place a cheese cloth or clean tea towel into a colander or strainer. Place the yogurt in the cloth and strain until it reaches the thickness you like. Before you eat up all of your homemade yogurt, save a quarter of a cup to make the next batch. You will be able to continue using the previous yogurt for the next batch for a long time. Eventually it might not be strong enough to culture your milk. Then you can use commercially produced yogurt for your cultures to get them going again.

I love yogurt for breakfast, in smoothies, and in popsicles, but it can also be used in savory recipes. Once you have plenty of good homemade you’ll be able to use it in many different ways.

Anna Hewitt

Whether sewing, planting seeds, or in the kitchen, Anna loves to create. She spends lots of time in the kitchen making as much as possible from scratch. When not baking, canning, or fermenting, she sews bags, aprons, and other items inspired by the kitchen and the garden (www.seedlingdesign.net). She often feels torn between finding some land to put down roots and taking the opportunity to travel and see more of the world. For now she eagerly explores her new surroundings in the mid-west and schemes about how to see more. Anna writes and shares recipes on her blog (roadtothefarm.blogspot.com).

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