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Homemade Yogurt

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Yogurt with Fresh Fruit
Lauri Patterson/Vetta/Getty Images

Yogurt is fairly easy to make at home and the result is much better in flavor and consistency than most commercial yogurt. You'll save money making your own, and also be able to choose what does or doesn't go into your yogurt (commercial brands often include thickeners and other non-dairy ingredients).

Once you've got some homemade yogurt, you can use it as a starter to get future batches going. Try combining it with some homemade jam or home-canned fruit for a quick snack.

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Waiting time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 1 quart or 1 liter

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart or 1 liter milk

  • 2 tablespoons yogurt with active cultures (all commercial brands will state on the container if the yogurt contains active cultures)
  • food thermometer
  • fine mesh strainer
  • 2 pint or 500 ml jars OR 1 quart or liter sized jar or container (with lid)

Preparation:

You can use whole, reduced fat, or low fat milk to make your homemade yogurt. In theory you could use nonfat or skim milk, but I find the result never really thickens up (commercial brands add gelatin or other ingredients to give a custard-y consistency to nonfat yogurt).

1. Gently heat the milk over medium low heat until it reaches 180F/82C. Turn off the heat and the milk cool down to between 106F/41C and 110F/43C.

2. While the heated milk is cooling, wash the jars and leave them filled with hot water so the glass will be warm when you add the yogurt.

3. When the milk has cooled enough, warm a large bowl or measuring cup by filling it with hot water. Empty out the water. Strain the milk through a fine mesh strainer into the warmed bowl. Whisk in the yogurt. Pour out the water in the jars and pour in the milk plus yogurt mixture. Fasten the lids.

4. Place the jars in a warm but not hot place where they can remain undisturbed for 8 hours or overnight. An old fashioned oven in which the pilot light is always on is perfect. So is an oven with the light turned on but the heat off. Another option is a food dehydrator set to 110F/43C with the trays removed to make room for the jars. Or you could buy a special yogurt maker that maintains the ideal temperature.

Be careful not to jostle the jars while the active yogurt cultures are working on the milk. Yogurt is very finicky about this, and will sometimes not set up well if the jars are moved during this period.

5. Transfer the jars to the refrigerator.

I find that the healthy, probiotic Lactobacillus bacteria that turn the milk into yogurt need a couple of batches to adjust to the type of milk I give them. This means that if I've just switched brands of milk, or gone from whole milk to low fat, for example, the first batch of yogurt I make may not be as creamy smooth as the next batch will be.

Once you've made a batch of yogurt, you can simply save the last couple of tablespoons to start the next batch.

This recipe can be cut in half if a quart/liter of yogurt is more than you will go through in a week or two. However, it should not be doubled: batches larger than 1 quart/1 liter don't set up well.

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