I made my own yogurt- along with bread and just about everything else- back in the ‘70s. But the practice got lost in the busy lifestyle that came with three kids and a career. The career is more demanding than ever but those boys are all grown-up with wives and homes of their own.
So I started making yogurt again. But this time around it’s Greek style, thick, creamy, and luscious. I use local milk from Snowville Creamery, (you don’t have to) and a gallon yields about a quart of yogurt. So I don’t think going DIY is saving me much money. But the husband and I are enjoying it almost daily and I’ve come to see the preparation as a kind of weekly ritual that gets me away from my desk.
Here’s the pretty much foolproof recipe I’ve settled on, after trying various methods and utensils. A thermometer is essential to prevent inconsistent results.
Start with whole, 2%, or skim milk, your choice, and a container of good quality plain unsweetened yogurt with active cultures.
Heat the milk slowly over medium-low heat until it reaches 180º. I use a heavy bottomed soup pot large enough to hold a gallon of liquid without being filled to the very top. The heating also sterilizes the pot so it is perfect for fermenting, insuring that no unwanted bacteria are introduced.
Let the milk cool to 112-115º.
Add 3–4 tablespoons of the yogurt to the cooled milk, and stir to distribute. You can use the yogurt you’ve made for each subsequent batch. I occasionally refresh with a new starter, and of course sometimes we just run out before I find time to make it again.
Cover the pot and put in a draft-free place that will keep the milk warm without heating it any further. I have found that our Coleman cooler is perfect. I put a bath towel on the bottom and tuck another over and around the pot. Some people use an unheated oven.
It takes 6–10 hours for the yogurt to fully set. No harm in leaving it overnight.
When it’s ready, line a colander with multiple layers of cheesecloth or a piece of clean muslin. Set the colander in the sink and slowly pour in the yogurt, using a spatula to get it all out of the pot. Then set the colander over the same pot it came out of or a bowl to drain. Cover—lid of the pot or a large plate works—and refrigerate. It generally takes 4–6 hours to get that really thick consistency. If it stays longer and seems too dense and dry, you can always add some of the whey—that’s the yellowish liquid that drained out of it—back in. Do not throw out the whey that remains.
Pick up the cloth like a sack and dump the drained yogurt into the container you’ll store it in. I use a large lidded Pyrex glass bowl. Use a spatula to scrape any yogurt bits that remains off the cloth. And because I’m finicky I do one last step (you don’t have to). Using a stick (immersion) blender, I whip it to a smooth silky finish. I meticulously rinse the cheesecloth in cold water until clean and air dry so I can reuse it a few times.
Save and freeze the whey. Next month I’ll tell you about what can be done with it.
— Laura Taxel
Photos by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group