There are so many recipes online for making yogurt, and I think I have tried most all of them! Some with better success than others. In an attempt to save you all some time and pain in making yogurt, I thought I would list my success with raw milk making without the addition of powdered milk or other thickeners such as pectin etc.
Now, I will mention that you are more than welcome to purchase a starter culture! In the long run they are more economical...but I haven't done that yet. You will just want to find a starter that doesn't contain excessive additives geared at thickener your milk. Yogurt isn't supposed to be super thick! It is more meant to be a pourable consistency. Americans seem to have an obsession with it being an extremely thick gelatinous consistency. Get your family used to the way yogurt is naturally made. It is just another way to cut out the additives!
So, you will notice that this is a recipe for Raw yogurt. There is much debate that goes on in the cultured dairy world about weather to bring the milk up to 180, like you do for pasteurized milk, or not. The proponents of heating talk about killing off the competitive bacteria so your culture will take. My issue with this is that you are than consuming a large amount of dead pathogens that your body doesn't have a "Que card" for in how to handle them. (See the Raw milk post.)
So, if you have it raw, why create this process intentionally! If the cow you got it from is healthy there should be a nice balance of good and bad bacteria, and the culture will just enrich your bacteria counts! If you start with pasteurized milk, than you must bring the milk to 180. This is because pasteurized milk provides the perfect breading ground for bad bacteria to multiple! So, you need to re pasteurize it, or your culture WON'T TAKE! and you just wasted milk! :)
Most sites also talk about needing a yogurt maker for incubation, and than there are the thousands of homemade ways to incubate. I have, again, tried almost all of them! I will tell you that without a doubt I get the best results with the water bathing method! I will explain more in the technique section.
Pretty much I feel like I have run a test kitchen in order to figure out the best way to make home-made yogurt, simply because my son loves it, it is a fabulous pro-biotic food that is great for the gut flora when consumed after every meal or with every meal along with kefir, but that is for another post!
Okay here we go with the recipe:
Start with 1 quart minus 3/4 cup of raw milk preferably milk that is at least 3-4 days old (I don't have a great scientific reason for this, but I find my milk sets the best when it is this old)
1 room temperature 6 oz container of Brown Cow yogurt or another Organic non growth hormone yogurt with live cultures and no fillers. (brown cow just started to add pectin to their yogurt! Bo ho. 60z is 3/4 of a cup just so you all know. If you are starting from a large container of Hawthorne of seven springs go with 3/4 cup! Stay away from yogurt with inulin for culturing! )
small or large Cooler (or in our case a heater)
Clean (or sterilized) 1 quart wide mouth mason jar
In a stainless steal pot bring 1 quart of raw milk to 110 degrees over medium heat. Keep a careful watch on the milk as the temperature will rise quicker than you think. Stir the milk occasionally to prevent cooking on the bottom. You can also use a double boiler if you are more comfortable.
While the milk is heating set your culture in a water bath of water aprox. 115 degrees. Stir your starter to bring it up to 100-105 degrees. This won't kill your bacteria, but it will allow for better assimilation with your milk.
When the milk and the starter are both temped, remove the milk from the heat, and whisk the starter into the pot with the milk. Whisk until well combined. Pour the mixture into your wide mouthed mason jar, leaving a 1/2 inch to 1 inch from the top to give the bacteria some space to ferment. Place the lid on your jar tightly.
Fill a Cooler with water 120 degrees. It is very important that the water is not above 120 degrees! It can be as low as 110. Our tap water when put to "hot" produces water that is aprox 130 degrees, just to give you a feel. So, this water shouldn't require stove top heating. Use your candy thermometer to make sure that your water temperature is right. Place the jar submerged in the cooler for 12-24 hours.
Why so long? This allows for the bacteria to successfully eat away all the lactose and makes the end product extremely digestible! After all you are making it homemade, you mind as well make it optimal in nutrition! :)
I check the temperature of the water bath after 8-10 hours and add some more hot water as necessary try to keep the temperature around 100-105 degrees. If you don't it is okay! Your yogurt will still come out, I think it just improves the flavor and consistency. If you have a yogurt maker, obviously, instead of water bathing you would just place in a the maker!
As you can see from the picture, when the yogurt is done, you will see a yellowish layer of whey at the top. You are welcome to strain this off for soaking your grains, and for a thicken more protein dense yogurt. You can also than immediately strain all the whey out if you are making homemade cream cheese or cottage cheese. Nourishing traditions cookbook has the instructions for both of these things!
A note about using probiotic capsules. I have done this several times when I was too lazy to go out a get a starter. It does culture the milk, and it does taste sour like yogurt, but my experience has been the yogurt is runnier than using an actual starter. I have read that it is due to too many "bacteria" in the probiotic capsule. N, J and I eat it anyway, and it is perfect for smoothies or drinking. So, in a pinch I find it to be an acceptable substitute, but you will have to be the judge of that for your own family! :)
Happy yogurt making and please let me know how it goes for you! If you come up with any great additions post them! :)
Again this is only for raw milk. Pasteurized milk is a different entity, and the incubating temperatures are different.
Please check out The Nourishing Gourmet for more frugal nourishing ideas at the Pennywise Platter Carnival every Thursday!
And also see Real Food Wednesday on Cheeseslave