I'd only relatively recently heard about making yogurt without a yogurt maker. Yogurt makers seemed like unitaskers to me, and given the limited amount of space in the kitchen, I didn't really think about getting one or making yogurt. However, I later found out that there's no real special equipment needed to make your own yogurt. As far as equipment goes, I use a slow cooker, containers, blankets, a whisk, and a thermometer. As far as ingredients go, I use milk and a starter culture. I thought it would be a long, complicated process, but having made it a few times, it's really pretty simple. Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, magnesium, and lots of other goodies. In addition, the live cultures aid digestion and immunity. It's a lot cheaper to make your own than buy from the store, and you get to choose what kind of milk or what flavors you'd like. This recipe can also easily be scaled up or down depending on how much you want make. Don't forget to keep some around for your next batch!
- starter culture (you can use a previous batch of yogurt you made or buy plain yogurt from the store - just make sure you get one with "live and active cultures.")
- milk powder (optional)
- Take the starter culture out of the refrigerator and place it on the counter. It tends to work better when the bacteria don't have to transition suddenly from the cold refrigerator to the warm milk.
- Heat the milk to about 82°C (180°F). Mix in the powdered milk if you're using it before heating. If you don't have a thermometer, this temperature is approximately when milk begins to froth. I usually set the slow cooker to a half hour, and then just check at the end to see if it's more than 82°C.
- Allow the milk to cool down to about 40-45°C (104-113°F).
- Whisk the yogurt so that it breaks into lots of small pieces. You will want the yogurt to be more like a liquid and not set.
- Pour the yogurt into the milk, and mix well.The milk/yogurt mixture is your culture.
- Keep the culture warm (approximately about 40-45°C or 104-113°F). After 3-16 hours, the yogurt should be finished. The exact temperature and length of time depends on your preferences. The longer and warmer the culture is kept, the more tart the yogurt will be. It may take some experimentation to find out what your preferences are. When the yogurt is finished, it may have a layer of liquid at the top - that is the whey, and it is normal. It might also not have much of that liquid at the top - that's fine too. You can pour it off, mix it in, or I've even heard of some people using it as stock for soups. I have tried it as a stock, but I can't really say I recommend it, only because of the taste. However, it is pretty nutritious.
- Once the yogurt is finished, pour it into containers and store refrigerated.
Note: I use a slow cooker for the heating and incubating (blankets wrapped around to maintain temperature). However, others have used a heating pad, the oven, a warm water bath, etc. Just about anything will work as long as the temperature is maintained.
Have you tried making yogurt at home using this or a similar method? Are there other methods that you found better?