Yogurt is the simplest and easiest dairy food you can make, and it’s efficient, too: Every drop of the milk you start with turns into yogurt, with no waste. Also, you can make it with no special equipment and just ingredients from your local grocer or health food store, or a local farm if you are really lucky. Making your own yogurt at home will save you money, since milk costs less than yogurt, and you can avoid the waste associated with all those plastic containers (the Ocean Conservancy says that 8 percent of the trash that winds up on beaches is plastic food containers and lids). Ecological, economical, and easy—my kind of project!
Supplies You'll Need
I make my yogurt in canning jars and incubate it in a soup pot wrapped in a quilt to keep it warm overnight. You can buy electric yogurt makers, but the yogurt they make is no better than mine. Plus, they cost money, take up space in your kitchen, and use electricity instead of insulation to maintain their temperature.
The only other piece of equipment you'll need is a thermometer. A candy or dairy thermometer is ideal, but I do just fine with a metal probe thermometer with a clean clothespin clipped to the top so I can balance it on the jar rim with the probe in the milk.
This recipe makes 2 pints, but feel free to double or quadruple it if you'll eat more than that within a week or two.
1 quart whole, organic milk (avoid ultra-pasteurized if you can; see note on raw milk, below)
2 Tablespoons plain, live-culture yogurt whose taste and consistency you like (use a store-bought brand first, then just save some from each batch to use in the next)
Scrub two 1-pint canning jars and their lids in hot, soapy water and put them upside down to dry. Pour just under a pint of milk into each; don’t fill them all the way to the top.
Put a large soup or pasta pot on the stove and place either a wire rack or a folded towel in the bottom to protect the jars from the direct heat. If the jars rest directly on the bottom of the pot, they may break. Also, the pot needs to be deep enough so you can put its lid on while the jars are inside.
Set the milk-filled jars in the pot so they're not touching each other or the sides of the pot. Carefully pour enough cold water into the pot to bring the level around the jars up to about the same level as the milk inside them. Suspend your thermometer into the milk in one of the jars and turn the burner on medium. Heat until the thermometer reads 110 degrees F and turn off the heat. Remove the thermometer. With a clean spoon, mix a tablespoon of yogurt into each jar of milk, screw on the jar lids, and pop the lid on the pot. Spread a folded quilt or a couple of heavy bath towels on a counter or table, place the pot in the center, and fold up the corners to wrap the entire pot snugly, lid and all. Leave your swaddled pot undisturbed overnight or for about 12 hours—the timing is not critical. Then, unwrap the pot, lift the jars out, dry off the outsides, and enjoy! The yogurt will keep for 3 or 4 weeks in the fridge…if you can resist it for that long!