Yogurt is a staple in our home. Making it homemade saves us money, but more importantly I like knowing just what goes into the food we eat. It’s really an easy process, and I’ll share a few ways to make homemade yogurt without a yogurt maker.
I make yogurt from raw milk which we purchase from a farmer who really cares about how his cows are raised, and how the milk is handled after milking. You can, of course, choose pasteurized milk to make your yogurt.
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The milk does end up being pasteurized when you make homemade yogurt from raw milk, but it’s a gentle pasteurization and no where near as destructive as factory-pasteurized milk. The bacteria in raw milk compete with those in yogurt and the yogurt will not set if the milk is not heated.
Making Homemade Yogurt
Yogurt making is simple and straight forward. Heat the milk, cool the milk, add the culture. And then keep it at a consistently warm temperature for several hours to allow the good bacteria to do its thing.
The variation in process comes with keeping the culture warm. There are a number of ways to do this. The two ways to make homemade yogurt without a yogurt maker that I’ll discuss in detail are using a dehydrator, and using a picnic cooler.
Slow cookers or the oven can be used but the temperature has to be closely monitored. Since neither will keep low enough temperatures, they have to be turned off and on to maintain the correct temperature. You could even experiment with using a heating pad, but again, watch that temperature.
First Steps to Yogurt Making
Whether you decide to use a dehydrator, or a picnic cooler to keep your culture warm, the first steps are the same.
Using a Dehydrator
To use a dehydrator to keep your yogurt warm as it cultures, simply remove the trays, and place your jars of yogurt in the bottom of the dehydrator. I use an Excalibur Dehydrator.
If I need whey for a fermentation recipe, I’ll just place the entire pot, rather than individual jars, into the dehydrator since I’m going to be straining the yogurt (see Greek Yogurt below).
But if you do want it ready to serve, 8 ounce glass canning jars work perfectly. When I use the dehydrator to make my yogurt, I don’t put a lid on the jars, (or the pot), so that excess moisture can evaporate.
Using a Picnic Cooler
If you don’t have a dehydrator, a picnic cooler works really well to keep the milk warm as it cultures. Simply place your jars (or pot) of yogurt into a cooler and then place canning jars of boiling water into the cooler to keep it warm. Be sure that the cooler lid is on tightly. Replace the water with freshly boiled water every few hours until your yogurt is set, generally about 8 hours.
After about 8 hours in either the dehydrator or cooler, the yogurt will be set. It’s generally a little wiggly but will set more as it cools in the refrigerator.
If you are only straining a small amount of yogurt, a paper coffee filter placed into a mesh strainer over a jar works just fine.
Since I generally make a gallon of yogurt at at time, I use a large jelly bag (juice strainer) like the one pictured to strain my yogurt.
If Your Yogurt Isn’t as Thick as You’d Like
There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to consistently make thick yogurt:
- The yogurt will only be as good as the culture you begin with. I’ve tried lots of different brands with live cultures as my starter, and I’ve had best results with Stonyfield Whole Milk Plain Yogurt.
- Whole milk sets firmer than low-fat milk. Adding cream helps, too.
- If using raw milk, use the freshest possible. Don’t open a gallon of milk and use it for other things for a few days, and then decide to use the rest for yogurt. It is best freshly purchased, and freshly opened.
- If all else fails, strain it to make Greek yogurt (see above).
What you use to top your yogurt is only limited by your imagination.
You can use:
- maple syrup
- coconut sugar,
- apple sugar
- low-sugar jams or jellies
- toasted coconut
- and even chocolate
Try combining toppings and see what great flavor combinations you can come up with!