Making Yogurt

Thursday is Yogurt day around here. As in almost every Thursday I make a batch of yogurt.

It surprises a lot of people that I make yogurt.

Yogurt with berries and a bit of honey
Yogurt with berries and a bit of honey

It’s really not hard to make, once you do it a couple times. It doesn’t take a lot of time, most of the time it’s doing it’s thing, you don’t need to watch it! And it’s SO much better than store bought. Most store bought yogurts now are not left to culture long enough, so there’s not as much of that good stuff in there. And because they can’t risk a “bad batch” that doesn’t come out quite the right texture, most have stabilizers and thickeners in them. 

Since yogurt is supposed to be an amazingly helpful food for your stomach and gut health, all that makes me sad! 

So if you’re convinced, here’s the how-to!

The Hows & Whys of Yogurt:

Milk – Store bought/fresh/raw it all works. You will need some! 😉 I get my milk from a local dairy, so I’m using raw, fresh whole milk.

Starter – This refers to the cultures you will add to your milk to make it become yogurt instead of just warm sour milk that stayed out too long. Basically, you are taking a few “cultures” in the form of your starter, adding them to plain warm milk, and letting them grow and multiply to make all that warm milk into yogurt. They make and sell “yogurt starter“, or you can use some already made yogurt. When I make it I use some from my last batch. If you are starting your first batch, you can buy some yogurt in the store to use, however it has to be plain with no additives (check the ingredients). I’m using yogurt from my last batch, which I originally started from starter. 

yogurt making how to-10Warmth – Lastly, you need a way to keep your yogurt warm while it cultures. There are MANY methods. The important thing is to keep it around 105-115 for a certain amount of time. There are yogurt makers. You can use a crockpot. Or an oven. Or a cooler filled with hot water. Or a heating pad. Or a dehydrator… I have used the heating pad: wrapping Mason jars in towels on top of the pad. Last year I purchased a dehydrator for this purpose, which allows me to set a certain temp and walk away! (Plus I can make jerky 😉 ) I now use my Excaliber dehydrator.

Tools you will need:

  • A measuring pitcher – 2 or 4 cup. I use a glass Pyrex
  • A wire whisk
  • A thermometer – I have so therefore I use a candy one, but they also sell dairy ones. Or any thermometer that can accurately read from 100-200 degrees F
  • A measuring cup – in the 1/3 to 1/2 range OR ladle 
  • Large cook pan – I use a 4 quart to make 3 quarts of yogurt
  • Some containers to put the yogurt in – I use old yogurt containers. Mason jars work too. A friend of mine uses old baby food jars for kid size portions
  • Heat source


(Pics below)

(making 3 quarts of yogurt, adjust if needed) 

  1. Begin heating 11 cups of milk on low to medium heat (3 quarts minus the 1 cup of starter)
  2. Measure out 1 cup of yogurt/starter into your 2 or 4 cup measuring pitcher and leave on counter to begin warming
  3. Stir milk regularly to keep it from scorching on the bottom of the pan
  4. Heat until frothy and around 175-185 degrees F 
  5. Remove from heat and place in sink of cold water (don’t overflow water into your pan of milk! Just a few inches of water in the sink will do the trick). OR you can let sit till cooled. (Cooling time: sink of water = 15 min or less, air cooling = 45 min plus. I’m impatient…)
  6. Continue stirring frequently as it cools. This will keep it from skimming over on top (yucky) and you can keep an eye on the temp to not cool too much! 
  7. When milk reaches 105-110 degrees F pull pan out of the cold water. Make sure your milk has reached this temp range before adding your starter. If you add it earlier, when the milk is hotter, you will kill the cultures! Very sad…
  8. Add some warm milk into your measuring cup with the starter in it (using measuring cup or ladle)
  9. Whisk starter and milk until smooth and all lumps are gone
  10. Then dump starter into pan of warm milk, whisking to combine. If there is still some starter stuck in the bottom of the measuring pitcher, using whisk and more warm milk to rinse out
  11. Set aside whisk, and using measuring pitcher, transfer milk to containers 
  12. Add heat

I cook my yogurt for 4 hours (I set a timer on my phone to remind me) at 115 degrees. After 4 hours I turn it down to 110 degrees and do another 4 hours.

This is open to adjustments. If I’m not home it goes longer, if I forget it it goes longer… I never do shorter… Most cookbooks will say it’s done after 3 hours, as in it is yogurt consistency. But I prefer to give the cultures a lot longer than that to do their thing (SCD calls for 24 hr yogurt! You really can’t screw this up!) And I found by dropping the temp part way through made a milder yogurt, which is what we like. And yes, I’ve forgotten it and left it out overnight… It was probably great for us, but whoa was it strong!

Once you’ve gotten some practice, don’t be afraid to experiment! 

(click images to see larger)

Sneaky Tips:

  • The “Official Ratio” of starter is 2 tablespoons per quart of milk. However, I use 1 cup of yogurt in a 3 quart batch, and don’t experience the gradual thinning that commonly happens. So I’m content to use a little extra!
  • When you buy your first official starter, make a batch and freeze it in ice cube trays or other small containers. Then make a batch from that batch to eat. That first batch will have the strongest culture, and you can go back to it if your yogurt starts to get thin.
  • After a few times, you’ll probably ditch the thermometer. I do for the heating process, but always check that the milk has cooled enough before adding my starter. If it’s too hot it will kill the starter and you’ll find out in 8 hrs when you have warm sour milk…
  • You might have a few dud batches along the way. It happens. And you don’t always know what went wrong. Don’t let it get you down. Make a bunch of buttermilk pancakes… (dud yogurt = buttermilk/sour milk. It also freezes fine if you can’t use it up quickly. I usually freeze it in 1 cup chunks so I can just thaw what I need)