Homemade Yogurt

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One of the non-writing-related things I do regularly is make yogurt. I wasn’t 100% sold on homemade yogurt when I started a couple of years ago, but now, I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Although the overall time takes about a day, the hands-on time isn’t too bad. Back when I started, I bought a Bulgarian yogurt starter from Cultures for Health. There are other options and they have resources to help you choose, but the most important thing if you want to continue to make yogurt without spending a fortune is to make sure the culture you buy is an heirloom culture so you can continuously reculture it.

Their cultures come with directions, so I’ll only abbreviate them here. Since it’s important to keep unwanted microbes out, I wash my hands frequently during the process. I heat 2 quarts of milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. In between stirring. Then I let it cool to 110 degrees, stirring a bit more frequently. If I don’t stir often enough, a film develops over the top. This can be removed without hurting anything, but it’s annoying and it makes the cooling time take longer. Between heating and cooling, this usually takes roughly 1 hour, but it varies a bit.

After the milk has cooled, I pour it into my Instant Pot for culturing. An Instant Pot isn’t necessary, but I find it convenient. And technically, you can heat the milk in the Instant Pot too, but I prefer to use a separate pot instead. I don’t remember the exact range for the culture time, but I think it was 5-12 hours. I set my Instant Pot for 6 hours, using the glass lid and I can forget about it until the time is up.

Shorter culture times will result in a milder flavor and longer ones will give you a stronger flavor. With 2 picky kids, we’re better off with the mild flavor. After it’s finished culturing, I remove 5 tablespoons of the yogurt and store it in a small container for the next batch. If I remember correctly, the instructions said 2-3 tablespoons per quart.

At this point, the yogurt is finished unless you prefer a thicker yogurt like I do. I’ve always liked the greek style yogurt, so at this stage, I strain the yogurt in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. It took me a while to figure out what I liked using for straining it and this process has worked best for me. I think the wire bowl is called a sieve, but I’m not certain. The top layer is industrial-sized coffee filters. I bought this over a year ago and I haven’t used even half of the package yet.

Straining leaves about 1 quart of a thick yogurt and 1 quart of whey.

The culture needs to be fed, making new yogurt, about weekly. But we usually run out before the week is up. If you are interested, but haven’t tried yet, I’d recommend you do so.