As predicted earlier, I’ve now been promoted to “Master of Fermentables” with the creation of my very first fermented milk product, yogurt (cheese still to come–keep an eye out!). Turns out that yogurt is pretty easy to make (much easier than beer or wine, for example)–basically you just heat up some milk, cool it off, add some existing yogurt, and let it grow at a fairly warm temperature for a couple of hours.
I highly recommend Dr. Fankhauser’s website for beginning cheesemakers. It got us started, and it can get you started as well.
Before I dive into the recipe, I’d like to share (1) the modification I made to Fankhauser’s recipe, (2) some advice, (3) some interesting tidbits, and (4) a judgement:
- Only use half the amount of cultured yogurt that Fankhauser calls for as a starter; that is, half a cup for 1 gallon of milk (instead of 1 cup).
- Don’t heat up the yogurt too fast. The first time I did this, I heated it with the stove burner at four or five (out of ten). While I was careful to stir frequently and tried not to let it heat any one part of the milk too much, the yogurt still came out a bit grainy. The second time, I heated it at two to three, and while it certainly took longer, I didn’t have to stir it at all, practically, and it came out wonderfully.
- In the course of yogurt making, the milk is heated to ~90 C. This causes the proteins to precipitate out of the liquid (whey), so there’s nothing you can do with the whey remnants after you’ve made yogurt–so don’t feel bad about throwing it away (though it does have a bunch of vitamins, I guess). When making cheese, the milk is heated to ~40 C, so some of the proteins remain in the whey, so the leftover cheese-whey can be made into things like ricotta.
- The yogurt is delicious! While I sometimes wish it were more solid, the commercial yogurt we got the bacteria from is pretty runny, so I don’t know what I was expecting. The taste is actually just about exactly the same as the commercial yogurt, so I think it counts as a success.
Ingredients and Directions
I really can’t give you better directions for yogurt making than Fankhauser’s, but here you go anyway. For equipment, you’ll need a pot capable of holding 1 gallon of milk, a method for sterilizing jars (see #2 below), a thermometer, four quart jars and one pint jar (and their lids), and a cooler capable of holding them for thermal insulation. (Other methods of thermal insulation may work as well, but I haven’t tried them; I’ve just done what Fankauser says.)
1 gallon milk (we used Organic Valley brand whole milk)
1/2 cup yogurt with live cultures (we used Strauss brand, European style, plain whole milk yogurt)
- Put the milk in a pot and heat it to 90 C over a low flame (see above for commentary).
- Meanwhile, sterilize four quart jars and one pint jar by putting them in a big pot; filling it with about 1 inch of water; bringing to a boil, covered; and allowing to boil for 10 minutes. Because the water heats gradually, the glass is in no danger, but it will be hot to handle when done, of course. After 10 minutes, turn off heat but leave the lid on until you’re ready to use them.
- Cool the milk to 55 C in a water bath; that is, fill your sink with water and put the pot in there.
- Meanwhile, warm a gallon of water to 55 C. This will be used for thermal insulation. Pour the water into the cooler, and check that the cooler temperature is near 50 C.
- Remove one cup of milk at 55 C, add the yogurt to it, mix it thoroughly, return it to the main pot, and mix thoroughly.
- Distribute the inoculated milk into the jars. I have yet to do this without spilling it all over the place. Somehow, though, I always end up with more than 1 gallon + 1/2 cup, so it doesn’t bother me (other than for cleanup). Close the lids tightly.
- Place the jars in the water in the cooler. The water should come up to the neck but not touch the lids (i.e. no possibility of it seeping in). You may have to prop up the pint jar so that it doesn’t get completely submerged.
- Wait for three to six hours, and refrigerate!
- (Bonus step!) If you want Greek-style yogurt, you may strain the yogurt as follows: line a colander or strainer with a cheese cloth or similar (we use a “nut milk bag”) and put the yogurt in that, and put the whole thing over a bowl for the whey to strain into. You can strain for as long as you like; we typically do overnight. You should probably do this in the fridge; we always have, and I don’t know what would happen if you left the yogurt at room temperature for a while.