Why is yogurt considered such a healthy food? Well, the live bacteria that live in it help to balance out the bacteria in our own body. Fighting off the bad stuff that cause sickness and illnesses. This in turn helps both our immune system and our digestive system. It’s also an excellent source of protein, calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B 12, containing more than just a glass of milk does.
The downside to buying it at the store:
- Most versions are chock full of sugar! And the low fat/ low calorie options are full of artificial sweeteners. Not something your body needs. Plus, sugar just feeds the natural yeasts in your system and kills off the good bacteria in your body.
- Flavored options have plenty of artificial flavorings and coloring added to them.
- All the packages seem to state different claims of bettering your health, but most of what is added to it is detrimental to your health.
- Most of what is sold in stores is labeled low fat or non-fat. Both of these options greatly increase the number of ingredients in it as they need to add in some extras (like gluten and thickeners) to get it to the same consistency as whole fat yogurt. I actually have a problem finding full fat plain yogurt in most stores!
- Buying yogurt that is stored on the shelf at the store and not in the fridge is perhaps the worst kind you can buy. (and also the stuff directed at kids!) Not only is it full of sweeteners and colorings, it’s been heat processed at a high enough temperature to the point that it actually kills off the beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
Making it at home is actually much easier than you might think and you also know exactly what’s in it. No additives, no thickeners needed.
Now, before I go into how to make it, I must say that for the healthiest results to use raw organic milk. I know a lot of you aren’t on that bandwagon yet or never will be, so let me also say that the second best choice would be for whole fat organic non-homogenized milk. I’ve recently seen this offered in a few normal grocery stores as well as the health food store we have in town. Third choice if you have no access to non-homogenized milk, regular whole fat milk. Preferably organic, but please check out the labels. (Although going organic can be much healthier for you, some organic milks are sold as ultra-pasteurized. This basically means they heat the milk so high and for so long that it can sit on the shelves for months and months. The only reason they keep it in the cooler at the store is because people wouldn’t buy it if it was just sitting on a shelf!) I would also take the time to make sure that you’re buying milk free of rBGH, a hormone injected into some dairy cows.
You’ll also need a yogurt starter, so you will have to pick up some yogurt from the store (or buy a culture online). Make sure you purchase whole fat, plain yogurt. Also, whatever bacteria is in the yogurt you buy, will end up in the yogurt you make. The type to buy is one with at least 2 bacteria strains in it since this moderates the acidity of the finished product. This article recommends Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Now that you have your products picked out, it’s time to make some yogurt!
- 2 Tbsp yogurt (from the store or a previous batch)
- 1 qt (4 cups) milk
- thermometer for ease of testing
If using pasteurized milk – Slowly heat the milk up to 180 degrees and then let cool back down to 110 degrees. Stir in the yogurt and place in a warm place (about 95 – 105 degrees) about 8 hours or overnight. If you have any whey (a light yellowish liquid) standing at the top of your yogurt, just take a paper towel to soak it up if you’d like to keep the yogurt thicker or stir it back in.
If using raw milk – You have the option of how high you want to heat your milk. Slowly heating to 110 degrees will keep the enzymes of the milk intact, but will produce a runnier product (more like kefir). You can also heat all the way up to 180 degrees to make a thicker product. So, to make yogurt with raw milk once it is at 110 degrees (or brought back down to that temp after higher heating) add in 2 tablespoons of yogurt. Stir well and let set in a warm place for about 8 hours.
You can let the yogurt sit out for up to 24 hours in order to remove all of the lactose from the milk, but I find it difficult to keep it at a steady temperature for that long and it becomes less smooth. On average I let it sit for about 12-14 hours.
Personally I like to set my yogurt in a bowl lined with a heating pad. I’ve tested out my pad and on the high setting will stay at 96 degrees all day. I just pour my yogurt into a quart sized mason jar with a plastic lid, set in the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel overnight.
(**update – my heating pad is now getting older and gets warmer as time goes on. I now start on medium and turn it down after about 8 hours so it doesn’t get to hot)
This has always made great yogurt for me, although I tend to heat my raw milk to almost 180 degrees. While I know it kills off the enzymes in the milk, we eat much more of it if it is thicker in consistency.
We use our yogurt, sweetened lightly with honey, over fresh fruit and also in smoothies, as well as in some baked goods. While I have recently gotten out of the habit of making it myself due to the fact that our milk share has come up a bit dry right now (all the animals are due to birth soon and no longer produce milk) I normally make a batch or so a week.
Have you and do you make your own? If not, what kind do you buy?
Eat Real Food: Yogurt
- 2 Tbsp yogurt from the store or a previous batch
- 1 qt 4 cups milk
- thermometer for ease of testing
- If using pasteurized milk - Slowly heat the milk up to 180 degrees and then let cool back down to 110 degrees. Stir in the yogurt and place in a warm place (about 95 – 105 degrees) about 8 hours or overnight. If you have any whey (a light yellowish liquid) standing at the top of your yogurt, just take a paper towel to soak it up.
- If using raw milk - You have the option of how high you want to heat your milk. Slowly heating to 110 degrees will keep the enzymes of the milk intact, but will produce a runnier product (more like kefir). You can also heat all the way up to 180 degrees to make a thicker product. So, to make yogurt with raw milk once it is at 110 degrees (or brought back down to that temp after higher heating) add in 2 tablespoons of yogurt. Stir well and let set in a warm place for about 8 hours.
- You can let the yogurt sit out for up to 24 hours in order to remove all of the lactose from the milk, but I find it difficult to keep it at a steady temperature for that long and it becomes less smooth. On average I let it sit for about 12-14 hours.
Thanks for posting this. I make smoothies almost every day using Stoneyfield Farms organic yogurt. However, I’ve been paying more attention to sugar content lately and was shocked to learn how much was in my yogurt! I’d love to use raw milk, but the closest farm is that sells it is almost an hour away. I’ll probably try this with whole organic milk.
Heather @ Not a DIY Life
I’ve tried making my own yogurt recently. Twice. Both times, it flopped. How much of a difference in outcome is there if you use whole milk vs. lower fat milk? One blogger posted that she made it with powdered milk and it came out fine. I tried that but it didn’t work for me.
I’d love to figure this out! I’d rather have homemade yogurt!
Heather, I’ve never made it with skim, but as far as I know, the thinner the milk, the thinner the final product. Personally I think we need all the “good” fats we can get so I only use whole fat milk and yogurt.
How about making yogurt in a crockpot? I think I read this somewhere…. is that possible?
Michele @ Frugal Granola
If I’m not making my own yogurt, I buy Nancy’s Whole Milk Yogurt (preferably organic) every time. It’s the best! 🙂 I also like Nancy’s Cultured Cottage Cheese.
Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
I do make my own, and I posted a detailed tutorial on my blog as well.
Since we can only afford to buy enough raw milk just for the kids to drink and a little bit for my hubby and me, I have to use organic, pasteurized milk that I buy on discount from my local store.
I’ve tried the crockpot method once, and wasn’t happy with my yogurt, so I stick to my jars in the oven. 🙂
And I never thicken it with powdered milk or anything, but just make sure the temperature is warm enough and that I leave it for a long time and then it seems to be thick enough and quite nice. We love it, and it’s so much cheaper than organic, store-bought yogurt!
I’ve tried yogurt in my crockpot and followed these directions (the comments are helpful, too).
It is a bit runnier than store bought but also cheaper! We use it this way in smoothies.
Beth @ The Natural Mommy
Wow, that IS easy! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m staring at my yogurt container and I have two questions.
1) It’s low-fat (my stores don’t have any other option). As long as I use whole milk in making the new batch, it should still be okay, right?
2) It has sugar (My brain farted at the exact time I reached for the yogurt. Could have had something to do with the 2 kids running around my cart like crazy people.) Will it be horribly detrimental if I use it anyway?
3) The container (It’s Dannon all natural) states: Contains active yogurt cultures including L. Acidophilus) That makes it sound like it has others, but it doesn’t list them. How do I know if it has the two good kinds you mentioned?
I really wanted to make this today, and was so excited to see you’d posted the recipe already… but do I need to run out and get a different brand first?
My farm sells raw yogurt and so I have been buying that for the sake of one less thing to do currently. BUT, someday soon I will begin experimenting. Thanks for the info on heating it two different ways. That will definitely be helpful when I decide what milk I am going to use.
I make our yogurt with Raw Organic local milk, heat slowly only to 110 (Yeah, a hippie Fallon follower). I have found that if I do not sterilize the jars before use the yogurt turns out much thinner (I would assume there may be a competing bacteria issue?). I have also found that Guernsey milk turns out better than short-horn milk. Have any of you noticed a difference?
Kari – I’ll have to try and sterilize the jars next time I make it, see if it makes it any thicker for me. I’d like to keep the heat around 110, but then it’s to runny for my kiddo to eat with a spoon, so I always heat a bit more. Normally 150 or so.
And our farm only has one breed of cows (don’t ask me what kind!) so I’d be interested to find out if that changes it too!
So I tried this yesterday with raw milk and some nonfat plain yogurt from Trader Joe’s. Next time I would use full-fat but that’s all I had. I heated my milk up to 180 first and it did turn out pretty thick but it’s kind of curdled. Do you think it got too hot at some point? And why do you add 3T + 2t yogurt – why not just 1/4 cup?
Anna, it’s possible that it got to hot, or to hot to fast. Next time make sure it heats nice and slow. For me the temp has been trial and error to get it to just the right consistency for my family. Lately I’ve been heating to about 140-150 and like the results.
*and does that really equal 1/4 cup? 🙂 (yea, I never paid attention in school with that stuff!) Honestly, it’s just the directions that were given to me, it worked, so that’s how I do it!
Beth @ The Natural Mommy
I’ve been meaning to ask you, Donielle, what went wrong w/ my yogurt. It had the yogurt-y taste, but the texture was grainy! (So, no one would eat it.) Has that ever happened to you? If so, what did you do to fix it? I’ve been wanting to make more, but I’ve been afraid to try and waste more milk!
I think that with it getting curdled, it could have something to do with it culturing too long (final step). I have found that even if I follow the exact same steps with sterilizing, heating, adding yogurt culture, and then incubating…the time for incubating it changes week to week. This is influenced by temp in the house, the cooler, how many times I open it to “check” on it, etc, etc. I usually check every half hour after the 5th hour of incubation. Anyway, just my $.02. And I think 4 T is= 1/4 cup. And 3t=1T. So, add just shy of 1/4 cup. I usually just eyeball it.
Thanks for the tips, I guess I was more asking about how precise I needed to be with measuring the starter, now I know I can just use slightly less than 1/4 cup. As for the curdling, I think I may have simply left it out too long as my “hot spot” was a bit over 100 degrees for a little over 8 hours. I guess I should’ve checked it earlier, but how do I know when it’s done?
Anna, I like to open a jar at the five hour mark and slice a sterilized butter knife through it. You can tell what the texture is like as you slice it…firm enough or not(it will never be as firm as store bought, but my results are usually pretty close). If not, just close it all back up and let it incubate another hour, and check it again. You want to check quickly though so as to not lower the temp too much. When you get the hang of it, you will be able to tell at the 5 hour mark…oh just another 1/2 and hour…or this will take another 2 hours. You will get “the feel” for it after a few times. I am no pro, but these are just some thoughts I have picked up along the way 😀
I love making my own yogurt!!
However, if I’m too lazy to make it, we buy Astro Balkan yogurt- its only ingredients are milk products and active bacterial cultures.