Saturday, July 22, 2006

How to make your own yogurt

This doesn’t have a lot to do with cycling, but it fits with the general idea of better health and living in a more independent way. Yogurt has come up on Misanthrope Cyclist and Oil is for Sissies lately, so it seems like as good a time as any to share a technique for making your own yogurt.

Why bother? It does require a bit of effort, so you’ll need some type of motivation. I like it for a few reasons. The yogurt tastes better. You choose the ingredients so if you like lots of preservatives in your yogurt, you can put all you want. You can make the yogurt so it’s as sweet or sour, creamy or firm as you like. You can save a little bit of money since you basically pay the price of milk instead of yogurt. This is a bigger deal if you’re trying to use organic dairy. If you like the idea of buying locally, you just need to find a local dairy source that sells milk. Also, it might mean you’ll eat more yogurt, which is good for your colon, and therefore your immune system (I’m no doctor, but there seems to be a pretty wide consensus on this). Another reason: it’s satisfying to learn about a technology that’s been passed down for centuries in most parts of the world, yet somewhat forgotten in this time and place. Even though I can’t milk my own cow, it’s a small step closer to self sufficiency.

As for that effort, it really isn’t that hard. You’ll probably make some mistakes the first few times. After you figure out what you did wrong, you’ll have a reliable system for making yogurt on a regular basis.

This technology, passed on through the ancient civilizations of Bulgaria and India (thanks Rad and Raj!), I now pass on to you.

This will be based on 1 litre of milk which makes a tiny bit less than 1 litre of yogurt. This is how I do it, but you’ll figure out how you can vary it with the equipment you have available.

You need:

1 medium sized pot, probably 2 litres (to boil the milk)
1 big clean jar or 2 of those 750 g yogurt tubs (for the yogurt to go in)
1 dollop of plain yogurt (to start the process) (1 dollop is about a heaping tablespoon). This must be real yogurt. It should say on the package “Contains Live Culture”.
1 litre of milk
1 wisk
1 big mixing bowl
1 jar of warm water
1 cooler
1 towel

The process:

1. Bring the milk to a boil on the stove. Watch it carefully because when milk boils over, it makes a big mess. Let it boil for long enough to kill any bacteria in the milk (say 1 minute?).

2. Let the milk cool down to just above body temperature. This is the part I found the hardest to learn. A thermometer would have been useful, but I never bothered. Take a tablespoon of milk from the pot and put it in your mouth. It should feel a little warmer than your mouth, and definitely not scalding. The main thing to keep in mind is that your going to be creating a comfortable environment for a bacteria to grow. If you make it too hot, you kill the bacteria. If it’s too cold, the process doesn’t get kickstarted.

3. Pour the milk in the mixing bowl. Add the dollop of yogurt. Wisk well. I don’t recommend mixing in the pot since the inside surface of the pot may still be hot enough to kill the bacteria in the starter yogurt.

4. Pour the yogurt milk mix into the clean tubs or jar.

5. Put the tubs into the cooler and put the jar of warm water beside them. Cover them with a towel and close the cooler.

6. Wait.

7. I usually leave it overnight at this point. 6 hours will give you a reasonably firm tart yogurt. After 3 or 4 hours, the yogurt will be more creamy and sweet.

8. Put your new yogurt in the fridge. This stops the bacteria from growing any more. It's ready to eat.

- Instead of the cooler, you can use some other warm place, like the inside of an oven. In the winter, I sometimes rest it on top of my radiator with some towels wrapped around. In the summer, a counter top in a warm kitchen will work. I’ve used an oven too, which allows you to rewarm it if you think the growing process has stopped, but you have to be careful not to overwarm it and kill it. And you might want to use a ceramic container instead of a plastic tub!
- Add more starter yogurt. This will make the process go faster.
- Different containers. Ceramic, glass, plastic. It’s all fine, as long as you keep it covered so you don’t get dust in it and don’t spill it.
- If you think it’s not working after a few hours, restart. You can re-boil the milk yogurt mix and start again. (I don’t know when milk becomes unsafe after sitting in a warm place. I'd recommend visiting and asking your doctor, as long as you have a private health care system.)
- 1%, 2%, homo milk (as we call it in Canada; You may called it 3.25%.) They all work.
- I’ve heard you can use a microwave to boil the milk, but never tried it.

It’s much easier than all those words let on. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, feel free to ask me questions and I’ll try to help.

What to do with all this yogurt? I like to have it plain, put it on toast and jam, mix it with cereal, or add it to just about any dinner.

One more benefit is that yogurt has less lactose than milk. If you add some water to your yogurt, you’ll find you can use yogurt as a flavourful replacement to milk. The lactose gives the milk its sweetness. The longer you let the bacteria grow, the less lactose and the greater the tartness.


Next I’d like to learn how to make cheese and beer, how to clean a fish, and maybe some day, how to slaughter a pig, a deer or at least a pheasant (based on where I live a recipe for pigeon casserole would be more appropriate). OK, I’d probably learn how to be a vegetarian before I’d start slaughtering.

Darren J 7/22/2006 05:41:00 p.m.


Very cool How-To, Darren. I'm with you on learning how to make beer... and wine!
I'm going to try this.

Here is another 'recipe' at least somewhat related to cycling: in the morning I prepare my salad for lunch by putting all vegetables and the dressing in a plastic container. When I arrive at work the dressing and salad are perfectly mixed because of the bumpy ride on the rack of my bike. Every single slice of cucumber is perfectly coated. I love it. But you do have to take a few dirt roads for it to work perfectly....
That's great Jeroen. Let me know if it works out for you.

I'll give your salad mixing technology a try.
Hi Darren,

Tried it last night. Worked perfectly! It tasted great.

Our convection oven has an option for rising bread (38degC). I used that to 'react' the yogurt/milk mixture. You may want to look into that. It is almost a hidden feature that is only mentioned in the user manual. You have to hold the 'baked goods' button for more than 5 seconds and it will enter this mode.

I left it in for about 4 hours. At that time it was still a bit thin for me (but I wanted to go to bed). So I'll try a bit longer next time.

We eat quite a bit of yogurt. A Q&D estimate is that this will save me about $15 in yogurt every week! Thanks again.

Very cool. When I was first learning, I once managed to do a very firm yogurt in 3 hours. I think the trick was that I kept it a bit warmer.

That feature on your oven could be very handy. I'm fairly confident I don't have anything like that. The clock on mine is only correct during daylight savings time.
By the way, the bacteria generate their own heat, so if you take it out of the oven to go to bed, you can just wrap it in 1 or 2 towels and it would probably be fine in the morning.
I'm trying this right now. Thanks for the instructions!
My pleasure, Jim. Hope it went well for you.

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