Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yogurt Making

My boys hate milk. I give them a cup of it and they get all excited because they think it is going to be something they love like water with a dash of juice in it. When they realize it is milk, they make a face and toss it.

I know so many kids that drink milk like a booze hound goes after the dregs of the eggnog on boxing day. But mine? It's like I laced their sippies with rat poison.

So, what's a Mama to do when she has growing boys that refuse to drink their bone building juice? Make yogurt.

Now, before I made it, I thought this would be the feather in the cap of all my culinary triumphs in the past. Surely I couldn't take milk and turn it into yogurt. Yogurt was something mass produced and bought in a store. By me. Frequently. But, it had to stop. Organic whole milk yogurt is expensive and sometimes hard to find in the stores near me.

So, I pulled out my book about making food for babies to read up on how to do it. I made a few adjustments that work best with what I've got. Here it is for you!

Get some quart size Mason jars- the quarts work best for me (despite this picture- it was the first batch that I made with smaller jars which didn't work quite as well). Fill them with the milk of your choice. For us, I want organic and I need the whole milk since the boys are under two years old and need the fats.

Place jars into a large pot. I can fit 4 quart size jars in my pot.

Insert a candy thermometer into one of the jars. Fill the pot with water until about 1.5 inches from the tops of the jars. Place pot on your stove.

Turn on medium high and wait for water to boil to begin checking the temperature of your milk. You are trying to scald it to remove harmful bacteria before adding the good guys to make the yogurt. That happens at about 180-190 degrees.

To save time and make sure I don't introduce any bacteria to the scalded milk, I drop a spoon and the lids and rings for the jars into the pot while it boils to make sure there aren't any bad critters left to hitch a ride into my warm milk.

Once the milk reaches the proper temperature, remove it from the pot and let it cool to between 110 and 120 degrees. This takes about an hour to an hour and a half. During cooling time, check it a few times and stir it with the thermometer to distribute any cool or warm spots.

While it cools, get your incubation spot all ready. What worked for me was this: on the counter, put a heating pad on high and cover with 4 layers of fleece (just a folded fleece blanket). I put a cooling rack on top of the pad under the fleece. I also used our outdoor thermometer and stuck it under there to monitor them temp. You are looking for between 90 and 120 degrees. My setup keeps it around 110.

Once the milk has cooled you have two choices. The first is to use yogurt starter which is a powder of yogurt culture you add to the milk. The second is to add 1tbs per quart of pre made yogurt. This can be storebought or from a previous batch of homemade yogurt.

For my first batch, I used the starter just to be sure I'd get good bacteria action. For the second batch, I used leftover yogurt from the first batch. Both worked great.

Stir in your choice with your sterile spoon and lid your jars. Place them under the fleece on the rack for at least 4 hours, checking the temperature of the thermometer placed under there occasionally.

Then....YOGURT! Refrigerate and enjoy!

I couldn't believe I had done it. It was so satisfying to see that milk turned into a custardy yogurt. It felt like magic and, even only the second time through, the process has gotten so streamlined that I literally almost forgot I was incubating it!

What a rewarding sight it was when I gave the yogurt to the boys the next day (mixed with a dab of low-sugar homemade strawberry freezer jam). They loved it so much that they clapped while they ate it!


  1. This is such a cool thing to do, and so healthy! And those babies sure gave you the round of applause that you deserved. :-)

  2. you make it sound so easy! how long did the batch last?

  3. The yogurt lasts about 10 days in the fridge. Of course, at the rate my boys go through it, it will never last that long.

    To use the yogurt as a starter for a new batch, it should be used within 7 days. :)