Easy and Fast Yogurt Making

Linda at Greenhorn Wisdom recently posted about making yogurt and her post made it sound so simple that I gave up on my procrastinating and finally created my own batch of the creamy goodness. Now that I’ve made one batch, I am happy to proclaim that yogurt is unbelievably easy to make within a single day and without any special ingredients or tools. I’m ashamed I haven’t been doing this for years.

Linda’s post gives a very good step-by-step process with some Q&A at the bottom so I’d recommend going there for the details. Here’s my yogurt recipe based on Linda’s.

For every cup of milk, you’ll need one Tablespoon of yogurt (your favourite store-bought brand or your last homemade batch). That’s all the ingredients you’ll need: milk and yogurt. And yes, UHT or Long Life milk works. I’ve read you can even skip the step of boiling the milk since this type of milk is already super heated before packaging. I chose not to skip that step but one day I may just give it a go. Could it be any easier?

1) Gently boil 1 cup of milk, stirring regularly to avoid scalding, until it reaches 85 C. (If you don’t have a thermometer, rumour has it that this is the temp at which milk froths. I’m not sure it’s all that important – after all, yogurt was being made before cooking thermometers were.)

2) Take milk off the heat and let cool to 38-49 C. (Your body is 37 C so if you don’t have a thermometer, this is just nice, warm water – like bath water. Again, it’s not that critical, just don’t make it too hot or you’ll kill the bacteria. Too cool means the process slows a little.)

3) Add 1 Tablespoon of yogurt to the warm milk and stir through well (mix around that good yogurt culture).

4) Pour into a jar and stand jar in warm water (38-49 C) filled in an esky up to the neck of the jar. Or just put the jar somewhere warm (and wrap it in a towel).

5) Wait 6-12 hours (the longer it steeps, the sourer it gets). Depending on how cold your house is and how good your esky is you might need to take out cool water and add warm water through the day to keep the temp in the right range.

That’s it. In 1 day you have magically converted 1 tablespoon of yogurt into 1 cup of yogurt.

I used Long Life Milk (we don’t drink milk so that’s what we keep around the house) which cost 99 cents for the litre. I used Greek Style Natural Yogurt which cost $4.69 for the kilo (roughly equivalent to a litre of milk). This means I’m getting yogurt for about 1/4 the cost this way. Plus (the real advantage for me) it is another item that I can make from raw ingredients rather than buying finished and no packaging is involved. Now all I need is a nice dairy cow in my back garden and I’m all set 🙂

The finished product (mine sat for about 11 hours) isn’t as sour or as thick and creamy as the store-bought, but it’s really good. Even Frank said so. Next time I might try adding milk powder before boiling the water, that is supposed to make it creamier, but it’s perfectly edible as is. And I’ll be brave enough to make a bigger batch. I’m thinking 3 cups is a good size for my needs.

Update 30 November 2012: A few weeks ago I was given an EasyYo yogurt maker (freecycle.org – fantastic community of givers). This makes the whole process super simple. I boil up my milk until it foams (generally about 3/4 litre). Then I set the pan in cold water in the sink. I avoid stirring because I don’t want the stuff that sticks to the bottom to end up in my yogurt. I’m sure I could master avoiding getting milk stuck with double boilers or whatever, but very little gets lost in the process and it doesn’t affect the taste so I’m taking the easy way and just not stirring.

In a few minutes, when the milk is body temperature, I add a couple of heaped tablespoons of yogurt to the warm liquid and stir. I pour the milk mixture into the plastic container in the yogurt maker. I pour boiling water into the yogurt maker and close the lid. 6 hours later my yogurt is perfect. It’s the perfect amount of sour for my taste and it is firm (it definitely firms up even more in the fridge).

The yogurt maker is essentially an oversized Thermos but because it is so insulated, the water doesn’t need changing like it did in the large Esky. I make at least a batch a week and I need about 15 minutes to make it then I need to be home 6 hours later to take my yogurt out of the container and put it in the fridge. Nothing could be easier.

Again, thanks to Linda for inspiring me to finally try this. I’m never going back to store-bought yogurt.

About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
This entry was posted in Recipe, Sustainability and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Easy and Fast Yogurt Making

  1. Linda says:

    Looks like it turned out really well! Thickened up nice even though you didn’t strain it at all. Good to know it works well with UHT milk.

    • I have to say I was surprised when I checked it at 6 hours and it was thick already (I should have trusted you more 🙂 but the taste was a bit bland. At 11 hours it was sour and thick. Thanks again for the nudge.

      • Linda says:

        Yeah, it depends on personal preference as well as the starter used as some culture quicker. I usually do mine a few hours before I go to bed, do one water change right before, and then check it when I wake up. Glad you enjoyed it!

        • I might try the overnight method. My esky is pretty pathetic so I know the water will be cold by morning (especially in the winter – we don’t have heating so it gets cool even inside overnight) but I bet the culture will continue to do something even in luke-warm temps. My sourdough culture bubbles like mad when the sun shines on the jar and then it goes to sleep at night to be reawakened as the day warms. I’m sure yogurt would do something similar so if it wasn’t “done” in the morning, I could just heat up the water bath and give it a bit more time.

          • Linda says:

            Considering you can use cold yogurt that’s been sitting in the fridge as a starter, I bet it would just go to sleep and awaken again in the morning. I would just worry about whether the milk would spoil or not? I would imagine this won’t happen once the yogurt bacteria starts to culture. Probably just a silly fear, we’re like that in the states with edibles.

            • You are like that in the States – everything goes in the fridge so you have massive refrigerators. This phenomenon is marveled at in the rest of the world. US TV shows, where someone opens a fridge to get out a bottle of water, can evoke a gasp of awe 🙂

              I’m not sure milk can spoil – doesn’t it just become cheese, yogurt or buttermilk? Okay, at some point it gets obnoxious but I’m pretty confident that wouldn’t be very fast with yogurt culture growing. My sourdough starter bubbles away and, as long as I keep using it (taking out a cup then adding more flour and water to the mash) it never spoils (or never has). I put it in the fridge after a few days if I don’t use it. It naps until I want to make a new loaf of bread. My suspicion is that yogurt would be the same. I’m almost feeling a challenge to try just growing some for a few days on my counter.

              • Linda says:

                We do have massive fridges here. I try to keep ours fairly empty, but some people do keep a lot in there. When I had international students for roommates in college, it would be so weird because they hardly kept anything in the fridge. Mayo, ketchup, etc were all kept on a pantry shelf.

                You’re probably right about the milk…it makes a lot of sense. Would make yogurt making even easier too! You’ll have to let me know if you give it a try…I’m definitely curious! I would try it myself, but I know it isn’t warm enough in my apartment.

              • Maria says:

                Hi Laura! I am a freecycler who came and got some strawberry plants from you in Sydney JUST before you moved to the farm fulltime. I would like to know more about your sourdough starter please! Happy that your yoghurt is going well – and I have wanted to make it for ages . . just one concern . . . . the yoghurt maker . . I worry about putting hot milk into plastic, as I don’t trust the plastic (health) – is it possible to use a glass jar instead in a yoghurt maker? or not?

                • Hi Maria, how are the strawberry plants going? I moved dozens to the farm and they are starting to do okay but I am not thrilled with a small handful rather than a large bowl full. Next year though…. watch out 🙂

                  I must admit that I really only use my sourdough starter for taste. I find it rises too slow and too unreliably for my taste. But maybe I should try it again, I’m much more confident with my bread these days and I gave up using a breadmaker so I have more control over the proofing process. Anyway, it’s easy to get started (or restart if your starter ever dies).

                  To MAKE your sourdough starter:
                  – Mix 1/2 teaspoon with 1 cup water and 1 cup plain white flour. I put mine in a large glass jar and stick a wooden spoon in it.
                  – Cover the jar with a cotton towel or cheesecloth or similar to keep the gnats out. I put a rubber band around an old kitchen towel over the top of my jar.
                  – Stir every day and add a bit more flour (and water if it needs it) until you have about 2 cups worth of flour. It should always have some bubbles in it which show the yeast is active. In the beginning it can rise pretty high so make sure the jar is quite big.
                  – Once you have that distinctive sour smell coming from your brew, it’s done! Any bread you use it with will have that sour taste. The older your sourdough, the sourer it smells, the sourer your bread will taste. I like mine very sour!

                  To USE your sourdough starter:
                  – Take 1 cup of starter out of your jar and use it to begin any bread recipe. I take 200 ml of water and 1 cup of flour out of any bread recipe and substitute 1 cup of my sourdough. This varies based on how wet your starter is so I sometimes have to add a bit more water or flour to my bread. In theory you shouldn’t need to add yeast to your bread recipe using sourdough but, as I said above, I do add yeast as well as my sourdough. Darn it, next time I’ll try making a loaf without yeast and see what it does.
                  – Replace 1 cup water and 1 cup plain flour in your sourdough jar. I add all the water up front then add the flour maybe 1/3 at a time over 3 days to keep my starter active for longer. If you want to use the starter the next day, just add all the flour on day 1 and by day 2 it’s ready to go.

                  To keep your starter alive:
                  – It’s best to use your starter frequently. If you don’t bake ever 3 days then you need to store the starter in the fridge. I bake bread using sourdough about once a week. I find that isn’t often enough to keep my starter living on my counter. After 3 or 4 days (when I find it’s big enough and I don’t want to add more flour) I put in a couple of tablespoons of flour, stir it up, set the lid on the jar (don’t screw it down) and put the starter in the fridge. It can survive in there for ages (I’m not sure how long as it never has to linger too long in my fridge).
                  – 1 day before you plan to use the starter, remove the jar from the fridge, feed it 1/4 cup of flour (and maybe some warm water) stir and set on your counter. It should be awake and active the next day.

                  If you bake often, you’ll have yeast spores in your kitchen so you don’t need to use yeast to start your sourdough. I have because a) I started baking and wanted my sourdough right away, b) I’ve only had to regrow my sourdough once and c) the is a (small) chance you could get an odd yeast growing in your sourdough that doesn’t taste nice. To be completely honest, I may have killed and restarted my sourdough without really knowing it. I’ve certainly found it very dormant on my counter and then I just dump in flour, stir and leave it to revive. It always does. Whether because it is drawing yeast from the air or because the sourdough isn’t really dead, I can’t be sure.

                  As an aside, I NEVER wash my sourdough jar. It looks kind of nasty. I scrape down the dried flour glue every once in a while and stir it in. Ditto with the gunge on the side of the wooden spoon.

                  Finally, yes, definitely glass jars will work for your yogurt. Any glass jar (since it doesn’t ever get too hot, it won’t break a jar) can be used. The trick is keeping it warm. I used and esky for a while and kept adding warm water and emptying out cold water. My jars stood in the water bath and the yogurt grew nicely. I found that a major pain so I love this plastic yogurt maker. I’m sure even my “maker” (which is really just a large thermos) would hold a good sized (but finding the right size might be tricky) glass jar.

                  Let me know how your projects go!

                  • Maria says:

                    How funny! I JUST received a yoghurt maker from a fello freecycler AND I have a glass jar (a Fowler’s one) which the lid fits on! So I don’t have to use the plastic container – just the outside container but the warm milk doesn’t go in there.Ithink I will add milk powder as I like yoghurt REALLY creamy.
                    I really do want to start sourdough bread making so thanks for the tips.
                    So much to do – so little time!!!
                    Kindest regards
                    PS HOW ARE THE BEES!!!

                    • Great about the yoghurt maker! The bees had a hard time because the winter was so dry. Hopefully they’ll recover through spring.

                      Did the strawberries take off? I have a bunch here but my dog (and possums and rats and birds) eat them when they’re pink so I rarely get a single berry 😦

                    • Maria says:

                      Hi again – the strawbs grew – but I never get many . . I work in the grounds of a primary school and they have planted a kitchen garden AND IT THRIVES – strabs, silverbeet, lettuces – EVERYTHING thrives

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  7. Reblogged this on 2 Boys 1 Homestead and commented:
    I’m definitely going to try this! I’ll post my results once I do!

  8. Maria says:

    What’s happened to our posts – they are in 1 skinny column?!

  9. Maria says:

    That’s funny! Not any more!!!

  10. Maria says:

    Ahhhh – when I reply right down the bottom where it says Leave a Reply, it works well.
    BUT when I press the Reply immediately under the comment I am replying to, it seems to indent the column – which if I am replying to one already indented, indents even further and gets really skinny.

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