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How to make delicious yogurt at home

Creamy Homemade Yogurt. Image courtesy of  flickr.com
Creamy Homemade Yogurt. Image courtesy of flickr.com

Homemade yogurt might be the easiest, edible science experiment out there. It requires very little hands-on time and results in a creamy, rich product that will make you turn your nose up at any store-bought brand. You need no fancy equipment, only a large pot with a lid, a thermometer and a warm place to let your yogurt incubate. Making your own is much cheaper than buying readymade yogurt. Plus, it doesn’t contain any additives you can’t pronounce and is loaded with healthy bacteria that you actually grow (probiotics anyone?).

The best part of homemade yogurt? The endless possibilities to customize. Add your own fruits, nuts, sweeteners and spices. Keep it savory or make it sweet. Strain your yogurt through a cheesecloth to make a thicker Greek-style yogurt, labneh (a Lebanese yogurt “cheese”) or Icelandic-style skyr. Feeling adventurous? Start with grass-fed cow’s milk, or even goat, sheep, or camel milk for different flavor profiles.

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Homemade Greek Yogurt With Cashews and Citrus. Photo by Cody Moore
Homemade Greek Yogurt With Cashews and Citrus. Photo by Cody Moore

This simple recipe adapted from Megan O. Steintrager of epicurious.com can be made in the evening and allowed to ferment overnight, up to 12 hours. Allow at least 5 hours for the bacteria in the starter to ferment. A longer fermentation period leads to a slightly thicker and more tart and tangy yogurt. 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 quart) milk (Whole or 2% makes a creamier yogurt, but skim works too)
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt with live and active cultures (purchased)
  • Flavorings such as jam, honey, dulce de leche, molasses, fresh or dried fruit, garlic, herbs, etc (optional)

Preparation

1. Add the milk to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Place the pot over moderate heat and heat the milk until it reaches at least 180°F or just begins to boil, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming and making sure the milk doesn’t scald or boil over.

2. Remove the milk from the heat and allow it to cool to 110°F to 115°F. Milk should be warm enough to keep your little finger in for at least 10 seconds. To speed the cooling process, place the pot in the prepared ice bath and stir the milk occasionally. If the milk temperature drops too low, return it to the heat.

3. In a small bowl, combine about 1 cup warm milk with the yogurt and stir to combine. Add the yogurt-milk mixture to the remaining warm milk and stir until completely incorporated. Do not stir vigorously.

4. Incubate the pot between 110°F and 115°F for 5 to 10 hours, depending on the desired flavor and consistency —longer incubation periods produces thicker, more tart yogurt. Do not disturb the yogurt during incubation.

5. Cover the yogurt and refrigerate until cold or for 2 to 3 hours.

*If you used a thermos to incubate, transfer the finished yogurt to a non-insulated container for chilling so the temperature will drop.*

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6. Stir any flavorings into the yogurt just before serving.

*For thicker, Greek-style yogurt, after incubation, spoon the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined colander, set it over a bowl and let it drain. Cover it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight. Discard the whey that drains out of the yogurt or reserve it for another use.*

Collegian Reporter Cody Moore can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com. 

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