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Making yogurt at home is easy and doesn't take much work at all. Homemade yogurt is also delicious, economical, and has great health benefits for you and your family.
Yogurt making is dependent on a family of beneficial bacteria to
convert sugars in the milk called lactose to lactic acid and to convert
liquid milk into semi-solid yogurt. These bacteria are in the
Lactobacillis and Streptococcus family.
NOTE: this is related to, but IS NOT the same bacteria that causes strep.
The most common varieties are L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, and S. Thermophilus. Some commercial yogurts also have other species, like L. Caseii, and L. Bifidis. All of which are beneficial to you.
These same bacteria families are marketed as probiotics, and sold in capsule form for huge amounts of money more than the cost of yogurt. Why buy probiotics in a pill, when you can make your own cultures at home? These little critters are good for your digestive system.
If you want to learn more information about beneficial bacteria, see Dawn's website that tells you all about
Yogurt has a very long shelf life if it is kept covered and refrigerated, due to the preservative properties of the acids. I've read that it will keep easily up to 2 months, and I don't doubt that. I don't know that for certain though...yogurt never lasts a week in my house, let alone two months!
You only need two ingredients to make yogurt:
1 - Milk - You can use fresh from the cow, whole, 2%, skim, or reconstituted dry milk to make yogurt. You can also use goat's milk if you have access to it.
2 - Starter Culture - You can buy starter culture from a few health food stores, or you can just buy a container of PLAIN yogurt from the store. Make sure that the container it says that it has "live, active cultures".
Once you have some of your own yogurt made, you can use that for starter for the next 5-6 cycles before you have to buy another cup from the store.
1 - Double Boiler - for heating the milk.
2 - Yogurt Maker - for incubating the yogurt at 108°F to 112°F.
3 - Candy Thermometer - to monitor the temperature when heating and cooling back down.
4 - Tablespoon - for measuring and mixing the starter culture.
5 - Glass measuring pitcher - for mixing the starter culture with milk and pouring it into cups.
Heat the Milk
For this recipe, you need 1 quart of milk. Pour milk in double boiler and heat it it to 175°f to 200°f. Keep stirring gently. This can be done in a regular pan if you don't own a double boiler, but it has to be done more slowly to avoid scorching the milk.
Cool The Milk
Remove the milk from the heat and set it in cold water. Keep stirring gently and monitor the temperature carefully. When the temperature drops to 105°f to 115°f, remove it from the cold water.
Add Starter Culture
Add powdered starter culture or 1 heaping tablespoon of yogurt to glass measuring pitcher, and spoon in some of the milk. Stir until liquid enough to pour, then pour it back into the milk and stir it in.
Pour into Yogurt Cups
Use the the pitcher to carefully fill the yogurt cups. Make sure to put lids securely on the filled cups.
Put the cups in the yogurt maker and incubate for 10 hours. Refrigerate when done. I have heard about other methods to incubate your yogurt, which I'll review below.
Home made yogurt is good eaten simply plain or you can add any kind of flavoring you like. Fresh fruit is popular. One of my favorites is cinnamon, a dash of ginger or nutmeg, and a generous dollop of honey.
Use your imagination. Use what you have. A few drops of vanilla, peaches, grape jelly, strawberries, blackberries, persimmon pulp is good if you have any, and so is stewed rhubarb and a little chopped hickory nuts or pecans.
I have read and heard about some other methods for making yogurt. I haven't tried these myself, but they seem reasonable if you take proper care.
1 - Use an insulated thermos bottle to incubate yogurt. Pour milk and starter mixture into a thermos, put on lid and let it set.
2 - Use a covered insulated cooler, with a couple of milk jugs full of 120°f water to maintain temperature.
3 - Use a heating pad set on low as a base to sit yogurt containers on. Wrap towels around and over the top to hold in warmth.
4 - Use your oven for making yogurt. I use my oven to raise bread dough, so it seems reasonable that you could do the same with yogurt, but it seems that you could over do it very easily. If the heat gets too high, you kill the bacteria, and all you'll have is warm milk when you're done.
5 - Use a thermostatically controlled egg incubator. There's no doubt that this will work, but not everybody has an egg incubator just lying around.
Making yogurt at home is very economical when compared to buying it at the store.
A gallon of milk costs around $3.50, which makes a quart cost about 87 cents.
A cup of good plain yogurt costs about $1.00. You can usually get 4 good heaping tablespoons from a cup, so it costs 25 cents per batch.
Total cost for ingredients = $1.13, which makes 5 cups of yogurt.
This comes out to 22.5 cents per cup, or less than a fourth of the cost of store bought yogurt.
Once you start using your own yogurt as culture, then your cost per cup goes down to about 17.5 cents.
Learning how to make yogurt is easy and enjoyable. Freshly made yogurt is more healthy for you and your family. It's also more economical to do it yourself than to buy it at the store. Learning this skill is another little step on your way to becoming more self sufficient.