When I first started looking in my kitchen for ways to reduce trash (especially plastic), the thing that stuck out in our family was yogurt. Sahara is a lover of yogurt and we go through two quarts a week, which means we were “recycling” two plastic containers a week. I did save many for reuse (they’re great for storing frozen soups and stock) but there was no way I could reuse them all. After understanding what really happens to the plastic products I “recycle”, I decided I needed to make my own yogurt.
Easier said than done. Or so I told myself. I didn’t get it together to actually make my own yogurt until about 6 months ago. I created all kinds of excuses as to why I couldn’t start this project. “There are so many recipes I don’t know which one to use. I don’t have a yogurt maker. It’s probably not going to come out tasting good and Sahara will complain. It’s going to take too much time.” And then one magical day I picked up my new copy of Mother Earth News and featured was an article on making your own yogurt. Synchronicity!
After making my own yogurt now for 6 months I am here to tell you, it’s easy, you don’t need a yogurt maker, it tastes great (Sahara agrees) and it takes very little time. Oh yeah, it’s also cheaper than buying it ready made and it has no additives, stabilizers or sugar. For the record, the amount of sugar in fruit yogurt is astounding! By making your own, you get to add your own sweeteners and fruit.
Making yogurt is one of those projects where I look back and realize my own mind was the hurdle, not the project itself. So I encourage you to leap over your own mental hurdles and take on a project you’ve wanted to do but didn’t because your mind held you back!
We use whole milk purchased in glass bottles that are returned for reuse. To add extra flavor to your yogurt add fresh fruit, honey, or granola. Homemade granola is also easy and inexpensive to make!
Click here if you’re interested in learning more about making yogurt. Otherwise, check out the simple recipe below.
Things to have before you start:
- A thermometer that can read up to 180 degrees – a meat or candy thermometer works fine and can be found at most large grocery stores.
- A small cooler – it can be soft or hard sided and it doesn’t need to be top notch.
- Wide mouthed, quart sized mason jars.
- A hot water bottle or a quart sized mason jar will work too.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt
1 quart milk, preferably unhomogenized, not ultra-pasteurized
1 tbsp starter yogurt (as simple as using a plain, full fat purchased yogurt)
Heat the Milk. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, slowly bring the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit over low heat (use a thermometer). Stir frequently to avoid sticking caused when the sugars present in milk burn.
Remove From Heat. Pour the milk into a separate bowl to cool it to 110 to 115 degrees. Be sure to monitor the temperature carefully. I always set a timer so I don’t forget about it cooling.
Mix in the Starter. In a separate small bowl, mix about half a cup of the milk with your starter, then pour the mixture into the rest of the milk. Stir to combine.
Incubate. Pour the inoculated milk into a wide mouthed, quart sized mason jar and place it in the incubator (cooler), and keep the container at approximately 110 degrees for several hours. To do this add a hot water bottle or mason jar filled with hot water in the cooler with your yogurt. Avoid jostling the container while the yogurt sets.
Check Consistency. Most yogurt will set to a custard-like texture in 3 to 4 hours, but you might like the results better after 6 or 8 hours. The longer yogurt incubates, the tangier and grainier it will get. At the same time, the longer it ferments, the more lactose will be removed. Once it has reached desired consistency place it in the fridge to cool completely.
Think About Shelf Life. Your homemade yogurt will probably never taste better than the moment you’ve decided it’s done, but some people enjoy the changing flavor as the yogurt sours over time. It keeps well for a week or two, but may decline in effectiveness as a starter for the next batch after 5 to 7 days.
Enjoy your yogurt and congratulate yourself on keeping yet more plastic out of our landfills!