By Mary Jane Toth – Yogurt is healthy and delicious. Learning how to make yogurt from scratch is very easy, and requires very little equipment.
Yogurt is a thermophilic culture which also contains live acidophilus. You will need a starter culture which can be purchased from a cheese making supply company or you can also use a plain unflavored store bought yogurt. Just be sure it has live cultures and contains no fillers or thickeners.
Plain yogurt is the main ingredient for most of my flavored yogurt recipes. Experiment with your favorite flavors and create your own special treat. You can make any flavor you see in a store. It’s only as endless as your imagination.
Make a delicious breakfast yogurt by adding homemade granola, chopped raisins, dates or nuts. Artificial sweetener also can be used in place of sugar.
Homemade yogurt will not be as thick as store-bought types. Commercial yogurt has gelatins, nonfat milk solids and other thickeners added. If you like your yogurt plain and want thicker texture adding powdered milk to your plain yogurt will give you results that more closely resemble the store bought variety. Having said that, most people in my household do not eat plain yogurt. My family prefers the custard style flavored yogurt. My recipes for custard style yogurt will give you a thick creamy yogurt that will more closely resemble the store versions without adding powdered milk. Yogurt gets thicker as it chills.
The friendly bacteria yogurt produce like room to flourish. Adding more culture than the recipe calls for to the milk will not make the yogurt thicker; it will only make it sourer.
How to Make Yogurt from Scratch
Yogurt needs to be incubated undisturbed for several hours. You can purchase a yogurt maker. Usually, the yogurt makers on the market today make very small batches of yogurt. It is not necessary to have a yogurt maker. My family loves yogurt so much that we eat large quantities of this stuff. I like to make a gallon or two at a time, and then turn it into pints and quarts of different flavors of custard style.
You need a warm place that can hold a temperature of 100°F for 6-8 hours to incubate your yogurt. This can be achieved by using a heating pad, a dish towel and a large kettle (such as a canning kettle) or any large container that can hold your jars of yogurt and be covered to keep them warm.
You’ll need canning jars with lids. The best canning jars to use are the pint or quart sizes. Place the heating pad on the counter. Lay the towel over the heating pad. Pour your warm cultured yogurt into the jars, and set them into the large kettle or container. Fill the kettle or container with hot water up to the neck of the jars of yogurt. Place the whole thing on top of the towel covered heating pad. Plug in the heating pad and leave the yogurt undisturbed for 6-8 hours. If the yogurt has not thickened after 8 hours, let it incubate a little longer.
If, after 12 hours, it still looks like milk and has not thickened, something has gone wrong. Review your steps.
Some Causes for Failures in Yogurt Making
• High heat will kill the culture preventing the milk from thickening. When warming the milk do not heat above 115°F.
• Incubation temperature too low. Yogurt needs to be incubated at 90-100°F. Temperatures lower than 90°F will prevent the culture from growing.
• Inactive or old culture can ruin a good starter. Make sure you are using a good culture with live bacteria. If using some from a previous batch, make sure it is not too old. The cultures die over time.
• Canning jars with lids (can be pint or quart) depending on how much you are making
• Large kettle, canning kettle, roaster pan or any container that can hold the jars for incubating.
• Heating pad to hold temperature
• Dish towel
• Yogurt maker (optional) only used if making a small batch. If using omit the items 1-4 above.
Ingredients for My Natural Yogurt Recipes
• Milk, recipes can be increased or decreased depending on how much you want to make.
• Cultured yogurt, 1 teaspoon per quart of milk
• Powdered milk (optional) use for plain or vanilla only if you want a thicker style yogurt. Do not use for recipes where the yogurt will be flavored, as my recipes add other things to thicken the yogurt.
Plain Yogurt Recipe
2 quarts milk
2 teaspoons cultured yogurt
Optional: 1 cup powdered milk
Directions: Warm milk to 115°F. Stir in powdered milk if using. Place 2 teaspoons of cultured yogurt into a small dish and stir in some of the warmed milk until you have a smooth consistency. Mix all into the warmed milk; stir well using a whisk if necessary to make sure the yogurt is incorporated into the milk. Pour into clean jars. Put lids on the jars. Place filled jars into container that you will be incubating them in. Fill the container up to the neck of the jars with hot water. Cover and incubate for 6-8 hours. Do not disturb, stir or shake during incubation. Refrigerate after yogurt has thickened. Yogurt will get thicker after it is chilled. Be sure to save some from the previous batch to culture the next.
Vanilla Yogurt Recipe
2 quarts milk
1 cup powdered milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cultured yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla (learn how to make vanilla extract at home)
Directions: Warm milk to 115°F. Stir in powdered milk, sugar and vanilla. Mix a small amount of milk into the yogurt culture, stir to remove any lumps then add to the milk. Stir well and put into jars with lids. Incubate at 100°F for 6-8 hours. When thickened refrigerate. Yogurt gets thicker as it cools.
Coffee Yogurt Recipe
1 quart milk
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/3 cup sugar
2-4 teaspoons instant coffee (depends on how much coffee taste you like)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cultured yogurt
Directions: Warm the milk to 115°F. Stir in the powdered milk, sugar, instant coffee and vanilla. Mix a small amount of milk with the yogurt, stir to remove any lumps. Stir into the milk. Put into jars and incubate for 6-8 hours. Refrigerate when thick.
Fresh Fruit Yogurt
2 quarts plain yogurt
2 packages unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup sugar
2-3 cups fruit (chopped fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup cool water
Directions: In a pan sprinkle the gelatin over the cool water. Bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the gelatin, remove from heat and stir in the sugar and chopped fruit. Mix well and cool. Stir in the yogurt, pour back into jars with lids and refrigerate. Mixture thickens as it cools.
Super Fruity Jam Yogurt
(My kid’s favorite) 2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup jam (any flavor such as strawberry, raspberry, etc.)
3-4 tablespoons of Jell-O (flavor to match jam)
1/2 cup cool water
Directions: In a sauce pan sprinkle the Jell-O into the cool water. Bring to a boil to dissolve the Jell-O. Remove from heat and stir in the jam. The jam will melt into the Jell-O. Cool to lukewarm then add 2 cups plain yogurt, mix well. Pour back into jars with lids and refrigerate to thicken.
(My favorite) 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
6 cups plain yogurt
Yellow food coloring (few drops)
Directions: Place lemon juice in a saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over the juice. Heat to boiling to dissolve the gelatin. Remove from heat. Stir in the grated lemon rind, sugar and a few drops of yellow food coloring. Mix well. Stir in 6 cups of plain yogurt. Pour into jars with lids. Refrigerate until thickened. Makes 2 quarts of the best lemon yogurt you will ever have.
Now that you know how to make yogurt from scratch, enjoy making these natural yogurt recipes or coming up with your own creations.
Originally published in Countryside May / June 2012 and regularly vetted for accuracy.