Homemade yogurt is by far the most delicious and nutritious yogurt you will ever taste, even more so if you use raw, organic milk. You can use goat’s milk or cow’s milk. They both culture well, but I have found that goat’s milk does not turn out as thick. Organic pasteurized whole milk works great if you cannot get raw milk where you live. I also have a delicious easy-to-make recipe for coconut milk yogurt, perfect for if you are dairy-free. Making yogurt from nut and coconut milks requires less time, only 8 to 10 hours to culture however it may taste more tart if you leave it 18 to 24 hours.
I recommend culturing your dairy yogurt for at least 20-24 hours. This longer culturing time eliminates all the lactose and will break down and predigest the milk proteins making it easier to digest. It is often possible for those normally intolerant to dairy to enjoy this type of yogurt. There are ways to test for this that I can help you with. One way is to just put a small amount of the finished yogurt on your wrist before you go to bed at night and look for any redness, rash, or bumps when you wake up the next morning.
Before you start always make sure that your hands are clean. When you are making any cultured food you should always take extra care to use only very cleans bowls, pots, strainers, jars, and utensils. This will help avoid adding different bacteria and avoid the possibility of contaminating your yogurt.
There are many ways to make homemade yogurt and you really do not need a yogurt maker. I have actually never had or used one. You can make yogurt on top of a warm fridge, in an oven, inside a cooler, and even in a thermos. My favorite way is to use a large ceramic pot and put the yogurt in the oven with the pilot light on. This makes it easy to test the temperature and turn the oven on low for a few minutes if necessary. The pilot light may keep the yogurt at a perfect temperature.
If you are using mason jars, you can still use the oven and it may be helpful to put the jars into a glass-baking dish filled with warm/almost hot water. You can also place these jars and baking dish with water into a cooler. Then, just switch out the water a couple times for warmer water if necessary.
For the top of a warm fridge, cover the jars or ceramic pot with a towel to keep jars insulated. Heat rises off the fridge and the will towel holds in that heat.
I know people who have made yogurt in a thermos too. First though make sure it is very clean, fill the thermos with hot water and add baking soda or vinegar. Let it sit for at least two hours, then wash with it soap and very hot water. Pour your yogurt/milk mixture into the thermos and seal tightly.
- 2 quarts whole milk, organic
- 1/2 cup yogurt, plain, whole milk, organic
- 1 packet yogurt cultured starter mix,
- Heat two quarts of milk or more (depending on the size of yogurt maker or other container) in a stainless steel or ceramic pot and stir constantly over a medium heat until it reaches just under 180 degrees.
- If you are using raw milk only heat it to 120 so you do not kill the live enzymes. Please do not boil! The milk proteins will be damaged, and the taste will be altered.
- Remove from heat, cover and set aside to cool to 105 –113 degrees.
- Test the milk by using a meat thermometer or placing a spoonful of it on your wrist. You will know that the temperature is correct if the milk feels slightly warm.
- Add ½ cup of full fat plain organic yogurt per ½ gallon (2 quarts) of milk, or add your cultured starter mix at this point and mix well.
- Transfer the milk into a very clean glass jar or a ceramic pot, leaving about a one-inch space at the top of the jar for the yogurt to expand. Cover. Mason jars work very well and are inexpensive and reusable. Please avoid using plastic because it will leach chemicals into the yogurt. If using a yogurt maker, use the container(s) that come with your yogurt maker and follow the instructions.
- Place the yogurt in the warm place you choose (100 -112 degrees is best) or your yogurt maker for 24 hours. Inside the oven or the top of your refrigerator are perfect places.
- Check your yogurt for desired consistency and taste after 24 hours. If it is not thick enough simply culture for 6 to 8 more hours and check again. Raw milk and goat’s milk will not thicken as much. Continue to culture until desired taste/consistency is reached. The longer you let it culture, the more tart it will become.
- Once your yogurt has cultured for the required time (20-24 hours), place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours. Once cooled you can use a whisk to even out the yogurt and make it a nice smooth consistency. Always add flavors such as fruits, honey and sweeteners after the yogurt has cultured and chilled. Vanilla extract, stevia, and cinnamon are good options.
- The cultures in your yogurt will be active for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. It’s best to eat it during this period to receive maximum benefits.
- It is normal for the yellowish liquid called whey to sit on top of the yogurt. There is no need to pour off unless you prefer to. Simply stir into the yogurt and enjoy! The long culturing time will eliminate all the lactose and break down /predigest the milk proteins making it easier to digest.
- If you want thicker yogurt, you can strain or drip the yogurt through a large wire mesh strainer lined with a couple of layers of cheesecloth. Make sure that you place a bowl beneath the strainer to catch the yellowish liquid called whey. This drip method will strain off the whey from yogurt making it thicker. Drip or strain until desired thickness of your yogurt is attained.
- The longer you strain your yogurt, the less moist it will become and the more “cheese- like” it will be. This is a good way to make a veggie dip or spread. If you have ever had Farmer’s cheese or cottage cheese, then you have an idea of the consistency. You can add herbs and spices to this soft cheese to flavor it and use it as a dip or spread. The thickening/drip method works for both cow’s and goat’s yogurt.
- Congratulations on making your first successful batch of yogurt! Now you may want to make succeeding batches. To do so, save some of your first batch to use in the next. You can also start your next batch with the reserved whey from dripping your yogurt. Store the whey in a tightly sealed glass jar in the refrigerator to save for future batches. Whey has a pretty long shelf life so you’ll be able to use it for at least three or more batches of yogurt. At some point, if your prepared yogurt and the whey will not work, the organisms are no longer alive and active. You will need to start at the beginning steps with fresh yogurt or a starter culture or a vegan starter culture.