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Old 01-12-2014, 10:33 PM   #1
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Homemade Yogurt

It's easy to make your own yogurt, once you get the hang of it. Yogurt is a bacterial culture, grown on milk. The two essential elements for successful yogurt making are (a) good sterile technique, so that you don't end up culturing anything but good, friendly yogurt bacteria and (b) a way to keep the culture at the right temperature for the right amount of time.

To achieve element (a), you need to sterilize everything that will touch the culture, and you have to slowly heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to kill any wild yeasts or unwanted bacteria that might be in it. To achieve (b), cool the hot milk to about 118 degrees Fahrenheit, then add the culture, put it in sterile jars, and keep them warm until the yogurt sets up. I use a small ice chest filled with water that's about 118 degrees F. I think this is the simplest and easiest way to incubate the culture, though there are others.

Just keep those two basic elements of yogurt making in mind. And then read these specific instructions:

You need: Two wide mouth quart canning jars, lids for them (I suggest you buy plastic lids, which are available online. They don't rust), a big soup pot to boil everything in, a dairy thermometer or instant-read meat thermometer, a 4 to 6 oz. canning jar with a lid, a whisk, a fine-mesh sieve, a ladle, a big spoon, both a pot and a bowl that will hold two + quarts, and a little ice chest that your three jars will fit into. You also need a little over 2 quarts of milk, and some good-quality commercial plain yogurt that's marked "live and active cultures." I use Stonyfield because one of the cultures it uses, l. rhamnosis, has been clinically proven to boost the immune system.

Wash your hands. Wash all the jars and utensils with hot, soapy water and rinse well.

Fill the big soup pot almost full of water and put all the jars, the whisk, and the ladle into the big soup pot and bring it to a boil. When it comes to a boil you can turn it down and keep simmering.

Put the milk into the other pot, and put it on the stove over medium heat. Be patient. You don't want to scorch the milk. Slowly heat it to 180 degrees F., then turn off the heat. Use the thermometer to monitor the temperature. You can stir the milk while it's heating, but don't scrape the bottom of the pot.

Now pour the hot milk through the strainer into the big bowl, and then either let the hot milk cool by itself, or speed it up by sticking the bowl into a still larger container of ice water, and stir it to even out the temperature as it cools down. In either case, cool it to about 115 to 118 degrees F. Use the thermometer. This is hotter than you probably think it should be.

While the hot milk is cooling, toss the lids into your big pot of sterilized jars and hot water to sterilize them. Empty the jars, take them out of the soup pot, and set them on the counter to cool down a bit.

When the milk is the right temperature, whisk in about 1/2 cup of "starter." Then fill your jars close to the top, starting with the little jar (which will become your new starter). Set the jars in the ice chest, fill it almost to the top with 118 degree F. water, and close the lid. Set a timer for 2 1/2 hours and go away. Initially, starter is any good, high quality commercial plain yogurt with live and active cultures. After the first time you make it, starter is what you culture in the small jar and keep until the next time you make yogurt.

When the timer goes off, pick up one of the jars and tilt it. If it sloshes, it's not done yet. If it just shifts a little bit, or is obviously solid, then your blessed event has occurred. If it needs more time, empty out the water in the "incubator," replenish with water at the right temperature, and give it another hour. (Repeat as necessary. The fresher your starter, the faster the yogurt will culture.) When it's ready, then take your jars out and stick them in the fridge to chill.

Hide the little starter jar in the fridge where no one can get to it. Don't open it or stick a spoon into it until the next time you make yogurt. That way you'll keep mold, yeast, or random bacteria from getting into it and contaminating it. It will last a long time in the refrigerator. My record is 2 1/2 months between batches of yogurt. It took a little longer than usual for the yogurt to set up, but it worked, and it tasted fine.

I use Jersey milk, which (for some unknown reason) has more milk solids in it, and produces a nice, thick yogurt. You can also add non-instant powdered milk to your fresh milk before you cool it and add the starter. Non-instant milk powder doesn't blend easily, so you need a blender or whisk to mix it. Add about 1/4 cup to two quarts. (Instant milk powder will make it taste chalky.)

To make Greek yogurt, simply line a colander with a cloth, set it inside a bowl, and dump your finished, chilled plain yogurt into it. Tie the opposite corners of the cloth together, and set the whole thing back in your fridge to let the whey drain. Empty the whey as it accumulates in the bowl, and put your finished product in a clean (scalded) container when it's as thick as you want. Greek yogurt is just yogurt reduced in volume by half by straining in this way. The whole process takes several hours.

If you make your own yogurt you know it's fresh, with lots of lively friendly bacteria. Temperature is important, as is technique. Don't put starter into too-hot milk. That will kill the bacteria. Don't get sloppy about sterilizing equipment (and the milk itself). That will result in unwanted organisms in your yogurt.

Although it sounds kind of tricky, it's really not. All the specific instructions are just how you achieve (a) and (b) from the opening paragraph.

By doing this you can have organic Greek yogurt for about half what it costs in the store, and it will taste much better. Once you try this, I doubt you'll want to go back to the commercial stuff.

If you have enough jars, and a big enough "incubator," you can make more than 2 quarts at a time.

Last edited by Mtngrl; 01-29-2014 at 07:14 PM.. Reason: To clarify what "starter" is
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Old 01-29-2014, 07:10 PM   #2
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Join Date: May 2011
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 1,427
Re: Homemade Yogurt

Dear Jersmith,

Thank you for the response, and welcome to the club nobody wants to join.

I have no insights on cottage cheese because I don't like it. However, when I read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I learned that mozzarella cheese is extremely easy to make. I think she has a web site to go with her book, with all the recipes. It's a fun book.

All the best,
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