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Make it Yourself: Yogurt

A few years ago I stopped buying yogurt in little containers and purchased the big containers to prevent waste.  Then we transitioned from flavored yogurt to plain because most flavored varieties have so much sugar, thickeners and other unhealthy additives.  Now we are making it ourselves.  Homemade yogurt is so easy and yummy you should try it too! Start with good milk.  We use our raw milk from the herdshare.  Our milk comes whole and unhomogenized.  If I want extra special yogurt, I leave all the cream in, but usually I skim most of it and reserve for making butter.  (Post about making butter forthcoming.)  If you don't have a herdshare (really, only us crazy hippies do), choose fresh local milk wherever possible, in whatever fat content you prefer.

You must also have a starter to make yogurt.  For 1 quart of milk, you need 5 oz of starter yogurt.  I like brown cow plain or fage.  You can also piggyback with yogurt you make, but potentcy dwindles over each generation, so it's best to use a storebought starter at least every other batch.

Most recipes recommend pasteurizing your milk by gently heating to 180 deg. F, then quickly cooling to 110 deg. F before adding the starter.  Pasteurization prevents any incompatible cultures from interfering with the yogurt cultures.  I have been told that this step isn't necessary for raw milk, but I haven't been adventurous enough to try making yogurt without pastuerizing yet.

heated milk cooling in a bigger pot filled with ice

After the heating (or not), thoroughly wisk in the starter yogurt.  Pour into containers and keep at about 110 deg for 6 - 12 hours.

There are many ways to keep yogurt at temperature for the incubation period:

- in the stove with pilot light

-in a dehydrator set on low

-wrapped in an electric heat pad (the kind you might use if you pull a muscle in your back)

-in a yogurt maker

After experimenting with the other methods with little success, Alex gave me a yogurt maker for my birthday last year.  I almost never advocate one-use tools, but the yogurt maker has its place in our kitchen. I ditched the plastic containers that came with the set and designated a set of pint glass jars instead.

yogurt incubating in maker

I like to leave an inch of room at the top for adding sweetener, fruit, or granola, or all three for a parfait.  When packing lunch on the go, I often add frozen fruit to keep the yogurt cool and tasty.

There you have it.  Homemade yogurt, free of sweeteners, thickeners, and other unhealthy stuff, and full of love!