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Making your own yogurt and yogurt cheese

by Mireille Bourgeois

My mother always made her own yogurt with this low-tech “machine” called the Yogotherm. It was weird looking, a big plastic container with a foam insert that was suppose to “cook” the yogurt. I didn’t really get the cooking part of it, I’m mean, it didn’t even have an electrical cord! She made maple syrup yogurt if it was flavored at all, either way it was always delicious and really wonderful to have plenty of fresh yogurt anytime we wanted. Yogurt is so incredibly healthy. Probiotics, which is the new hip word in self-directed health these days are a-plenty. Whenever I’ve had a stomach ache or just felt weird in the gut I eat quality yogurt, and I’m cured. It has other benefits like this one too (though I usually just EAT the yogurt).

As an adult I never thought much about it, but I didn’t buy a lot of yogurt, since it was always about 4 dollars per container, and if it was flavored had a weird chemical taste. I discovered I was allergic to aspartame by eating flavored yogurts and vowed never to buy the cheap flavored stuff again. My boyfriend and I occasionally buy the “good kind”, full fat (my German friend was horrified at the thought of fat-free yogurt the first time she saw it in America), active bacteria, ect, ect, ect. But it’s gone in two breakfasts. So I took my mother’s Yogoterm out from behind the sandwich maker, the juicer and the rice cooker… and dusted it off.

It’s extremely difficult to find yogurt culture for some reason, every time I go to any supermarket to find some they say “I always get asked that question! No, we don’t carry it”. …. Obviously I think this is dumb, but I digress…  So I used the yogurt from yogurt method which worked perfectly for me. AND if you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can use the mason jar method (explained below). I make a LOT of yogurt. But feel free to cut this recipe in half if you don’t eat that much.

You’ll need:

8 cups of 2% milk (2L)
1 cup of fresh plain yogurt
1/2 cup powdered milk (I hear this can be optional, I’ll try it without next and update this post on the results)
For a light sweet taste: 3Tbs honey or maple syrup plus 1 to 2 Tsp of vanilla
Candy Thermometer (optional)
Large pot
Yogurt Maker or a total of Mason Jars that will hold 8cups of yogurt

First thing you want to do is run a cold water bath in your sink that would come to about halfway up the pot you will be using. Use cold water, and ice if you want the process to be quicker. Pour the milk, powdered milk, natural sweeteners and vanilla into a large pot on the stove. Bring to a low simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk frequently but gently so the milk doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom. If you have a candy thermometer, let the milk rise to a temperature of 180F. If you don’t, gently whisk and simmer for about 20 minutes until mixture is almost boiling.

When milk reaches proper temperature, take whole pot and gently place it in the cold water bath for the milk to cool down. If you have a candy thermometer, wait until it cools to 110F. If you don’t have a thermometer, check the milk temperature by putting a finger in the milk. If you can hold it in there for ten seconds without pulling it out (because it’s too hot), then it’s ready! Scoop up one cup of the milk mixture with a measuring cup,  add it to the fresh cup of yogurt and gently stir together until smooth. Add to the pot and gently stir again until smooth (I used a whisk).

Transfer to yogurt maker, quickly but gently and place lid on container and yogurt maker immediately. If you don’t have a yogurt maker, pour your milk mixture into your mason jars, cover with lid, and wrap warmly with many towels to keep the mixture as warm as possible. (I’ve never tried this, but I may suggest preparing ahead of time a thermal picnic case lined with towels). Basically, the mixture has to stay warm and “cook” for about 6 hours, that means, NOT in the fridge. During this time, the good bacteria is forming and you don’t want the mixture to cool too quickly, because it won’t set properly. After six hours, you can open the containers to check on your yogurt (but DON’T STIR IT. It won’t be set yet). Put it straight in the fridge and allow the yogurt to cool completely in fridge before eating. Next time I want to make yogurt, I’ll use the same method, but I’ll use my own yogurt as the starter!

For yogurt cheese or a thick Greek yogurt, Place some of the yogurt (already set and cooled), in cheesecloth and let the whey (the yellow liquid) strain out of the yogurt for about 4 to 6 hours (depending on how thick you want it). I use on e of these yogurt cheese maker and I LOVE it. Another low-tech gadget gem. Overnight for a cream cheese type of consistency (which you can flavor with herbs, and garlic or strawberries and jam and butter your toast with it!), and maybe just a couple of hours for the Greek yogurt variety!

The last thing is: don’t throw away the whey! Whey has all kinds of wonderful nutritional properties. You can use whey in many fermentation recipes (instead of salt) like homemade sauerkraut and health tonics. I’ll post some of these other recipes soon with pictures of what they look like 🙂

Enjoy your yogurt!




  1. Pingback: Kimchi and Sauerkraut « hobbyjunkies - February 9, 2013

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