So it’s true. You can make yoghurt. It’s easy. You don’t need any special equipment. You don’t need a yoghurt maker, so if you don’t get your Yo’ on, you haven’t wasted money. If anything is “specialised”, it’s the thermometer. Honestly though, you’re going to use that for other things anyway (if you steam your own milk, if you’re heating food for a baby, if you’re making caramel or candy, if you’re fastidious…). My thermometer only goes to 100C because it was a cheaper one, but you can get proper candy thermometers that go up to 200C.
Anywho, why would you make your own yoghurt? Well, for a start, have you ever READ the ingredients on the side of commercial yoghurt? Not cool. The sugar is the least of our concerns, the preservatives and artificial flavours that are advertised as “natural” because .000001% of an ingredient once came from a farm. When you make your own yoghurt, you control what goes into it. It’s really easy and can be as naughty or healthy as you wish.
My basic recipe is from Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth blog and book:
½ cup of natural yoghurt at room temp (it will come to room temp while you do other stuff)
1 litre of milk (I use soy and I often use closer to 800ml/ 3 cups).
½ cup milk powder (optional, depends on how natural you want your yoghurt, and how thick. You end up with drinking yoghurt if you don’t add it).
With yoghurt, and all fermentation recipes, you have to be very clean, like sterile, or you could much around with the good bacteria you’re trying to encourage in your yoghurt. So, use a very clean saucepan and clean your utensils and the container your yoghurt will sit in with boiling water.
Chuck the milk in the saucepan and heat to 80C. When it’s there, turn the heat off and let it go back down to 45C. This helps to get rid of nasties in your milk. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell it’s time to turn off the heat when it starts to release little bubbles but is not near boiling yet.
Cooling to 45C takes 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your saucepan.
When it’s at 45C, whisk in your ½ cup of yoghurt and ½ cup of milk powder. I use Maleny natural yoghurt as it’s truly delicious (starting with good quality helps) and is not full of additives. It’s also local and is totally worth the extra dollar or two you’ll pay. You can use soy or coconut yoghurt if you’d like a vegan starter. When it’s smooth (it will still have a completely liquid consistency), bung it in your sterile container and wrap it in a towel or tea towels. Your yoghurt will need to sit for about 8 hours to do its bacteria thing, but it shouldn’t be moved and it has to keep pleasantly warm. In summer, this isn’t a problem, because our kitchens or verandahs are often hot enough. In winter, I stick mine in a bucket after wrapping it up, and after a few hours, I slide a bottle or two of hot water down the sides to make sure there’s a little heat. On a cold day, it could take 12 hours; on a hot day, 7. The longer you leave it out, the stronger the taste.
Gently open the lid of your container to check it and, when it’s at the consistency you want, put it in the fridge. You can eat it before then, but room temperature yoghurt is NOT what’s going to make you want to eat this again.
BAD IDEA: Letting it sit in the oven, turning it on low for 5 minutes every hour to keep it happy. It wasn’t happy. It was ricotta (yay, cheese!). Trust me on this.
Don’t disturb your yoghurt unless you’re checking if it’s thick enough, or it will split and look grainy. It’s still fine, but it’s not what you want to see. If you get a runny batch (and often the top is thick and looks good, but then you realise it’s thinner down below), it’s still great for muesli and smoothies.
You can also flavour it at the stage you whisk in the yoghurt and milk powder. A couple of tablespoons of honey or a scraped vanilla pod will change the flavour. I would add berries at the end, simply because you don’t want them to ferment with the yoghurt (boozy yog?!).
You can use ½ a cup of your yoghurt to make the next one! The culture gets weaker, so expect a thinner yoghurt or add more milk powder. I buy a container of Maleny yoghurt and portion it out into little containers that go in the freezer. This way, I can grab and defrost a container easily without having to eat to the bottom of a store bought yoghurt before I can make my own. It saves money too.
Yoghurt really is easy to make: three ingredients, about 45 minutes of your time and the reward of a litre of creamy goodness.