Just about everyone in my family likes yogurt. When I buy it in the store, it's I usually plain organic full fat, which in my opinion tastes so much better than a low fat or non fat yogurt. I started making homemade yogurt a few years ago, and have made it often since then. My husband is the greatest consumer of my homemade yogurt in the house. He usually eats his yogurt as a dessert after dinner, then adds chocolate while referencing some childhood memory of how his concoction tastes "exactly like the chocolate yogurt" he ate as a kid (apparently that makes it ok to add chocolate). My two youngest kids like their yogurt with berries and a little bit of honey.
The Formula for Making Homemade Yogurt
Making homemade yogurt is much easier than you might think! And the benefits of making homemade yogurt are far greater than 99% of store-bought sugary yogurts out there. First and foremost, the healthy bacteria in homemade yogurt is cultivated right there...in your home. It's highly likely than it's much more active and available for improving gut health and digestion than store bought. More "good" bacteria in your gut means improved digestion, less bloating, improved mood, an improved immune system and overall improved wellness.
In full disclosure, I try to stay away from dairy. My oldest daughter developed a couple of fairly rare skin conditions for her age. After she was treated, I had her tested for various food sensitivities. She tested very sensitive for dairy, especially cow dairy. Eliminating dairy is inconvenient, to help make things easier for her, I cut it out as well. It's sort of a blessing as it makes me really strive to make healthy meals and snacks that are dairy free. Check out the recipe section of my website to get some ideas.
If you're wondering how my daughter's skin is - it's greatly improved, which makes me really happy. She had multiple conditions, the worst of which would have affected her later in life. That one has completely resolved itself. Keep in mind, everyone's diet is unique for their own body. What you should eat might be different than what another family member or friend should eat. Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.
If you're A-ok with dairy and want to know how to make yogurt, here is what you need:
- Milk: I used a gallon because we go through yogurt like crazy in my house. You can use much less if you prefer.
- A Starter: A starter is simply a source of good bacteria that acts as the "breeder" for more of the good bacteria that's found in yogurt. A small container of plain yogurt will suffice. You can buy yogurt starters or pick up a high quality brand of yogurt with good strains of bacteria. I like Organic Valley Cream Top Organic Plain yogurt. Make sure it's a plain yogurt, regardless of what you choose. Six ounces is a good amount to start with.
- Thermometer: Candy or meat.
- Jars: I bought a bunch of Bell mason jars, but you can use any well-sterilized glass jar.
- Stock Pot or Dutch Oven: I used two stock pots - one for heating the milk (see below) and one for sterilizing the jars/heating additional water.
- Cooler: Your picnic cooler will do just fine
Step 1: Sterilize the jars by adding about 4 cups of water to a large stock pot. Place the jars you plan to use inside the pot, cover and boil water for about ten minutes.
Step 2: Heat milk to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating the milk will begin breaking down some of the lactose, making it a little more digestible.
Step 3: Remove milk from heat and allow to cool to about 120 degrees. You can speed this process up by filling your kitchen sink with cold water and placing the stock pot in the water. The milk will cool really fast this way, so keep an eye on it.
Step 4: Heat a gallon of water to 120 degrees.
Step 5: While your water is heating, add your starter by wisking it in thoroughly. If you're using a gallon of milk, add about six ounces of starter (a typical single-serving container). Scale down from there if you're making less.
Step 6: Ladle the milk/starter combination to the sterilized jars - seal tightly.
Step 7: Place the jars into a cooler and add the heated water. Close the top of the cooler and move to an undisturbed location in your house. I put my cooler in the bathtub...just in case it leaked. Leave the yogurt alone for three hours. Remove and place in refrigerator to store. Enjoy!
- Most recipes call for whole milk. From what I understand, the yogurt is runnier if you use 1% or fat free milk.
- Your starter can make of break the batch, so make sure your starter has plenty of good bacteria present.
- Save a little yogurt from your batch to use as a starter for your next round of yogurt.
I know some of you have made your own yogurt - probably using a different variation of what I did. Share your tweaks or secrets below. I'd benefit from it - as would others. If you read this and decide to make your own yogurt for the first time, let us know how it goes.