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Making Your Own Yogurt At Home

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  • Making Your Own Yogurt At Home

    Why would you want to make your own yogurt?

    1. It is cheaper than store bought yogurt. A gallon of milk, even when it is not on sale, is always cheaper than a gallon of store bought yogurt.

    2. You can control what goes into your yogurt. You can keep it simple and just have a few ingredients like skim milk and yogurt culture and no sugar or other additives, or you make it very complex and unusual. The choice is yours.

    3. You can allow it to process or culture for a full 24 hours to use up most or all of the lactose, which increases the amount of beneficial bacteria significantly and reduces or eliminates the problems associated with lactose intolerance and other issues. Store bought yogurts are usually cultured for a very short period of time and therefore have less beneficial bacteria and a lot of lactose still present in the yogurt.

    4. The taste of yogurt which has been cultured for a longer period is very different from store bought yogurt. It is very rich tasting, creamy tasting, thick, tangy, and very tart. Even if you just use skim milk. I personally find store bought yogurt to be far too sweet tasting or far too bland tasting, even when I get the plain yogurt.

    I’ll admit, #3 and 4 were my main reasons for making my own yogurt at home. I can make yogurt that tastes very different from anything I can find at the store.

    How do you make yogurt at home?

    There are lots of websites out there with step by step information about how to make it using crockpots or slow cookers.

    Some even use a “crock-o-meter” (dimmer)

    Others use the thermos method and some use a heating pad and an insulated cooler

    I personally use a yogurt maker. I bought an old West Bend 1 quart yogurt maker at a neighbor’s yard sale for $5. It works perfectly. I put a wide mouth (so I can easily clean it) 1 quart glass jar (it was a spaghetti sauce container that I simply washed out and re-purposed) in it and the yogurt maker keeps it at a steady 110 degrees. I just let it sit in there for 24 hours, and by that time it is very thick and ready to put in the refrigerator.

    The recipe for 1 quart of yogurt is simple…

    4 cups skim milk
    ½ cup non-fat dry milk (extra food for the bacteria, and it helps make a thicker yogurt)
    ½ cup of any kind of yogurt with live and active bacteria (whatever your favorite yogurt is) as a starter

    Most people will tell you that you must sterilize the milk first by heating to 185 degrees and then letting it cool back down to below 120 degrees before you put the starter in to keep the undesirable bacteria already in the milk from taking over the yogurt and out competing the good yogurt bacteria. I usually don’t bother with it. I just make sure the jar and the mixing spoon is very clean, and I make sure to use milk that is very fresh-- long before its expiration date. Every once in awhile, I get a surprise from this method where the “bad” bacteria take over and produce a vile and disgusting yogurt, but most of the time, it works fine. It’s kind of like rolling dice, you never know what your yogurt is going to end up tasting like when you use cold milk straight out of the refrigerator. Sometimes it makes for a very interesting flavor of yogurt, and like I say, sometimes (about 10% of the time) it makes a vile and disgusting yogurt.

    Another method, if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to bother with heating milk, and don’t want to roll the dice and take your chances with it is to simply use powdered milk only. Just fill the glass jar to about 1/3 full with powdered milk, and then fill the rest of it with water and put the lid on and mix it up, then stir in your starter and you’re all set to go. It works just fine.

    The starter can be any yogurt you like. I personally try to get one with the most strains of beneficial bacteria possible. There is one made in the Cascades with 8 different beneficial strains of bacteria. It produces a very rich and tangy yogurt.

    There are also powdered yogurt starters which you can find at health food stores, and on the internet. They tend to be very aggressive and active, and usually don’t take as much time as other starters to get the finished product. Many people prefer the taste of the finished yogurt from powdered starters over the yogurts made by using yogurt as a starter. I have tried them, and I noticed that they do produce a much thicker yogurt in far less time-- usually about 12 hours.

    Whichever type you use, do not beat or whip or stir the starter in too vigorously. Just gently stir it in. Otherwise, the yogurt will be runny.

    Also, keep the yogurt maker (or whatever you use) away from drafts, and do not bump it, move it, or subject it to vibrations of any kind, or you will end up with very runny yogurt.

    Some people like to flavor their yogurt with honey, sugar, or fruit, but I have found that it is best to wait to do this until the after the yogurt has completely finished and has had time to set up in the refrigerator. I wouldn’t add anything to it until just before you plan to eat it. You don’t want anything to interfere with the beneficial bacteria.
    Last edited by GoingDown; 05-30-2012, 11:24 AM.
    The world's simplest C & D Letter:
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  • #2
    For more info about 24 hour yogurt, go here...

    The world's simplest C & D Letter:
    "I demand that you cease and desist from any communication with me."
    Notice that I never actually mention or acknowledge the debt in my letter.


    • #3
      This one quote from the SCD page about sums up the value of homemade yogurt:

      " 24 HR yoghurt really is one of the most healthy foods you can find and it's an incredibly good value too. What else gives you 700 billion good bacteria per cup, lots of protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids in an easy to digest, delicious tasting, incredible value, food? If you had to try to buy the same [amount of good bacteria] in a manufactured product you would have hundreds of pills and of course they would need to pack chemicals in with them to allow them to be manufactured.

      SCD™Yoghurt is fermented for 24 hrs, unlike commercial yoghurt which is only fermented for about 4. The long 24 hour fermentation that we give ensures that all the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk is used up. The Lactose in the milk is a disaccharide and the fermentation converts it to galactose which is a monosaccharide that is easy to absorb as well as to L-lactic acid (the form the body can use). We also restrict the bacteria cultures that are used to ferment the milk to specific ones that have been found to be very beneficial."

      By the way, just so you know, I do NOT have any problems with SCD related issues, IBS, Crohns, etc. I just like the taste of really tangy and tart yogurt, and it ends up being every bit as thick as Greek style yogurt without having to drain off any of the whey, which is full of healthy bacteria by the way. It gets thick even when I just use skim milk. And I know it is good for me.

      And yes, I understand that some people are not concerned with fat content and maybe they want a milder tasting yogurt, using whole milk will accomplish this...

      "Yoghurt making is fairly foolproof as long as you respect the fact that the yoghurt making process involves a living organism that is temperature sensitive - too hot and you kill it; too cold and it won't work or multiply. This will probably be more detail than you need, but there may be something useful in it for you. SCD™ yoghurt is also an important part of the SCD™iet, because the live culture in the yoghurt repopulates the gut
      with 'good' bacteria, thereby bringing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria under control.
      The flavour and texture of the yoghurt depends on the kind of milk you use. The richer the milk, i.e. the more butterfat or milk fat it contains, the less tart ... the yoghurt will be. No matter what kind of milk or cream you use, make sure that it has no additives such as carrageenan, xanthum gum, dextrose, or other emulsifiers or sweeteners. It should contain nothing but milk, and sometimes cream. If you cannot find regular commercial dairy products that are additive free, you may need to use
      organic products."

      Unless you can find a very cheap yogurt maker at a yard sale, a thrift store, on Craig's List, ebay, or maybe a used one on Amazon, I would NOT buy one.

      You can "make" your own yogurt maker out of a cheap crock pot with a dimmer in between the crock pot and your electrical wall outlet. You need to make sure the crock pot is the old fashioned kind with a knob switch and not one of the ones with electronic (digital) controls. I have tried this method and it works really well...

      QUOTE: "A few days ago, armed with an X-Acto knife and a page of scribbled notes gleaned from a phone conversation with my father, I embarked on a mission to make yogurt.

      The first goal was to install a dimmer switch on my Crock Pot.

      Confession: I didn’t own a Crock Pot before I had the sudden, urgent craving for homemade yogurt, and so I went out and bought one. I could just as easily have purchased a yogurt-maker and saved myself the DIY hassle, but then: what if I want to make pot roast someday? What if I have a hankering to put a chicken in a warm, cozy place to cook for the better part of a day? Mind you, these are things I’ve never done before, but I’m of the Why Buy Two Appliances When You Can Buy One persuasion, and so I bought the Crock Pot.

      It is terribly thrilling to take a brand new appliance out of the box and proceed to cut. it. up. If you've never done it before, you simply must. My dad had instructed me to slice into the large-pronged side of the cord; my X-Acto blade neatly split the cord in two, and then – whack! – sliced straight through the larger half. Whee! Look at me! I'm cutting things! I struggled with the wire stripper for a few moments before tossing it aside in favor of the X-Acto blade (why use two tools when you can use one?). A few quick strokes, and I had a half-inch of exposed wire on each side, making it a cinch to install the dimmer switch.

      I placed another call to Portland: “You said to bind the wires with electrical tape, but is it okay to use those little plastic thingies that screw on top?”


      “You know? Those things that look like tiny hard hats? Kind of?”

      Him: “Oh, those. Right. Yes. But tape it anyway, just to be sure you don’t have any exposed wire.”

      In a matter of moments, my Crock Pot went from a bland white lump hulking on the countertop to a jiggered-up science-project-ish Piece of Work. I have to tell you: I was quite proud of the transformation.

      As my goal was to reproduce the yogurt my dad had made years ago, I began with raw milk, as he used to do. I heated the milk just shy of the boiling point, then removed it from the heat to let it cool.

      It might seem to defeat the purpose of using raw milk to heat it up, but since the milk is going to sit in a lukewarm bath for several hours, you do want to kill any bacteria that might grow alongside the Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Lactobacillus acidophilus and other yogurt cultures, as random bacteria might contribute sour or funky flavors that would create an “off” taste.

      Once the milk had cooled to about 110ºF, I divided it among several clear, heavy glasses. I then dipped a teaspoon into a carton of plain live-cultured yogurt and briefly plunged the spoon into each of the glasses to inoculate them. I covered the top of each glass with a square of plastic wrap, and secured it with a rubber band. Again, though the possibility for cross-contamination is small, one wouldn’t want an airborne mildew spore or other bacteria to alight on the surface of the milk.

      My notes indicated that the water bath temperature should be between 105º and 110ºF; I mixed cold water withYogurt_water_bath_1 boiling water in the Crock Pot to quickly reach that
      temperature, but the trick, I quickly learned, was to maintain it. A Crock Pot is a ceramic dish that sits inside of a heated metal basin, and thus the heat transfer is somewhat inefficient; a nudge of the dimmer switch doesn’t yield results for several minutes, making the adjustment process slow and painful.

      Me to my dad: “Sorry to keep calling you. You’d think I was making something far more complex than yogurt. Are there any secrets to regulating the temperature?”

      Him: “Not really. You just have to tinker with it until you figure it out.”

      [Ha! Ha! Hilarious!]:
      As my water bath fluctuated, so did my emotions; it plummeted to 97º – anxiously, I nudged the switch, then nudged it again. As it rose to 117º, I imagined hundreds of teensy-tiny bacteria flailing and dying in the heat, and frantically nudged the switch back down. I realized, with a thrill, that live cultures were at work – like itsy-bitsy elves, the bacteria feast on milk sugars and release lactic acid as a waste product, thus raising the acidity of the milk, which causes the milk proteins to “curdle” and become yogurt. Just because you can’t see anything doesn’t mean that complex biological processes aren’t taking place right beneath your nose!

      My water bath finally stabilized at about 112º; a few degrees warmer than I had intended, but I finally stopped fiddling with the dimmer switch and left the house.

      Hours later, I returned… to find that my cups of milk had turned into yogurt. If I had discovered Rumpelstiltskin in my kitchen spinning straw into gold, I would have been no less delighted.

      Since raw milk is not homogenized, the cream rose to the top of my yogurt cups, creating a thin, dense layer beneath which a warm, trembling mass of yogurt lay in wait. I found a spoon and ventured in. It tasted exactly like my childhood memory: tangy and soft, the texture of slow-cooked scrambled eggs. Just as I remembered, the cream adhered to the roof of my mouth as I dug through the cup.

      I refrigerated the rest, but found, the next morning, that I didn’t prefer it cold. When I submerged the glasses in hot water for a few moments, the slight warming effect restored the tender, eggy texture of the previous night.

      I imagined creating a water bath every Saturday night, late, moving through a semi-dark kitchen and inoculating cups of milk, like a ritual, to make yogurt for Sunday breakfast. Just like my dad used to bring them to the table for us, I imagined setting them on the table to be eaten plain or with a drizzle of maple syrup. Simple. Divine.

      Whether or not I’ll actually do it remains to be seen.

      There are infinite variations available to the yogurt maker; different milks yield different consistencies, while different processes such as straining or whipping can yield denser or creamier yogurts. Most cultures have their own distinct yogurts; from the lassi of India to the thick cheese-like labneh of Lebanon, there are countless flavors and textures to explore.

      My dad is making kefir now. The same day I called him for the yogurt recipe, he told me that a woman on a nearby farm is cultivating mushrooms to grow atop hay bales. I had yogurt on my brain when he was talking, and it wasn’t until later that I recalled what he said, and thought: she’s… what? Cultivating mushrooms? How…?

      Seems I need to phone home more often."

      You can make your own crock pot dimmer switch using this step by step guid, called the "Crock-o-stat":

      [The rotary dimmer switch gives you much more precise control over the temperature than a standard sliding dimmer switch or cord]

      "New update! Now in a new and improved 3-prong version!

      I like cooking using my Crock-Pot, but it is a relatively cheap one that only has 2 settings, "High" and "Low". It doesn't leave room for a lot of fine tuning. The low setting is too high and makes things boil. I decided that I needed more control over the temperature and built this "Crock-O-Stat" from off the shelf components at Home Depot. Really it is just a dimmer switch wired to an outlet inside a 2-gang handy box. For those who missed the previous sentence and need it spelled out again, this is a dimmer outlet, not a thermostat. I wanted to have more control over the settings on my Crock-Pot. For this purpose it works quite well. It took me about 15 minutes to make and cost me less than $20. Here's how to make your own.

      Here are the components we will need:

      a 600watt dimmer switch (I chose a rotary for $7.49, but others will work)
      a standard wall outlet (mine was $0.49)
      a 2-gang handy box (look in the store where the EMT is sold, $5.49)
      a 6-foot 3-Prong extension cord ($5.84 or scrounge a male plug end from anywhere)
      a switch plate cover ($0.84)
      a 1/2" PVC plug with a 3/8" hole drilled in it (large enough to pass our cord through)

      Start by stripping the male plug end of the cord and passing it through the hole in the plug and into the handy box. Tie a knot in the cord to keep it from backing out of the box.

      Wire the outlet and dimmer switch. Maintain the polarity of the outlet by matching the corresponding wide or narrow plug on the cord to the correct side of the outlet. For those who are really circuit impaired, the wiring should look something like this:[see the picture on their webpage].

      Screw the outlet and dimmer switch into the handy box

      Install the switch plate cover and knob, and you are ready to variably control the temperature of your Crock-Pot, Lamp, or whatever.

      Of course this device might be useful for other things rather than just controlling the temperature of a Crock Pot. You can use it as a lamp dimmer, or many other things. It is important to point out a couple of things though. This dimmer has a maximum capacity of 600watts. It would be unsafe to exceed this. Of even more importance is the fact that this is a dimmer and will not work on induction type appliances such as fans, and should never be used on refrigerators, fluorescent lighting and the like. If you needed a fan controller, hardware stores often sell those in the same area as the dimmer switches. If you used a fan controller it could be used for controlling the speed of some induction type motors, but still could not be used on other appliances, fluorescent lighting or refrigerators. If for some reason you hurt yourself, someone else or damage some property, my liability is limited to how much you paid for these instructions."

      And as you can see, a lot of other people are doing something similar with their crock pots...

      And this is a link to the manual for my old West Bend yogurt maker. This is an obsolete, old yogurt maker that you will never find again anywhere, but the instructions for making yogurt are very simple in this manual and you can apply them to your situation, no matter which method you end up using...
      Last edited by GoingDown; 05-31-2012, 09:32 AM.
      The world's simplest C & D Letter:
      "I demand that you cease and desist from any communication with me."
      Notice that I never actually mention or acknowledge the debt in my letter.


      • #4
        I have an update for this thread.

        I attended the Oregon Country Fair while I was visiting relatives in Oregon for my summer vacation. While I was there, I was introduced to something called Kefir.

        Kefir is a very old yogurt/buttermilk like drink that has even more probiotic bacteria than yogurt. And it is made at room temperature. There is no need for a yogurt maker, nor any special equipment at all. The symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (called a SCOBY) makes the "kefir" from ordinary milk at room temperature (60s-70s). The warmer the room is, the faster the milk will "kefir." It takes about 24 hours to make a fresh batch of kefir, but in a very warm room (80s) it will go too fast and the milk will start to separate into distinct layers of curds and whey. The same thing will happen if you let the kefir go too long (more than 24 hours).

        You want it to be liquidy and drinkable-- like a smoothie, not solid curds and liquid whey. Why? Because the solid curds will trap the SCOBY (also known as kefir "grains" eventhough they are not like grains at all) make it difficult to strain out the SCOBY from the curdled milk.

        Under ideal situations, you simply pour the kefir milk through a strainer and then put the remaining SCOBY (called kefir "grains") into a clean glass jar and pour in fresh milk to start the process all over again. The strained kefir milk can then be drunk or you can let it sit for another day to get very fizzy and more bitter and sour.

        When it is done right, it tastes a lot like a fizzy buttermilk, with a yeasty, rich taste to it.

        Many grocery stores are now carrying bottled kefir, and it is rather expensive-- close to $4 per quart. So, making your own kefir at home is a money saving idea. Once you get your kefir grains, the only expense from then on is the cost of store bought milk.

        Anyways, to sum it up... it is easier to make kefir than yogurt, and it has a lot more beneficial bacteria and yeast than yogurt has.

        There are tons of websites that will go into great details about how to make kefir at home. Sometimes you can find kefir "grains" for free, especially at local dairies, farms, etc., but you can also buy them from people. They're fairly cheap, and once you get some going, if you treat them carefully, they can live on indefinitely.

        In case you wondered, you can make your own buttermilk and sour cream at home, too. You just get some buttermilk at the store and then pour some of it into a clean glass container, about 1/3 of the way up, and then pour in fresh milk in fill the rest of the container. Put a lid on it and shake it up to mix it together. Then leave the lid on loosely and put it on the kitchen counter at room temperature undisturbed for about 24 hours. The longer you let it sit, the more sour it becomes. You'll know it is done when you gently and slowly tip it to one side, the milk should pull away from the side of the glass container. The clear liquid in between is the whey. And to make sour cream, you just add some buttermilk to fresh cream or half and half and repeat the process.

        Another thing you might want to try to make your own sauerkraut by fermenting fresh cabbage. It's easy and tastes so different from the storebought sauerkraut. The same thing with kimchi-- a spicy Korean style sauerkraut. It's easy to make, good for you, and tastes very different from the storebought variety.
        The world's simplest C & D Letter:
        "I demand that you cease and desist from any communication with me."
        Notice that I never actually mention or acknowledge the debt in my letter.


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