June 19, 2012 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Homemade yogurt filter! Hit me with your best plain yogurt recipes.

I have a surplus of organic 2% milk from my CSA, and I'd like to make yogurt. Bonus points for not needing any specific equipment, and for not needing to boil jars.
posted by computech_apolloniajames to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The actual "recipe" is the easy part: heat milk to about 180 degrees, let it cool to 110 degrees, and mix in a small quantity of whole yogurt as a starter (make sure it's the organic stuff that only has milk and yogurt culture in it).

The fiddly bit comes with this next step: Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into jars and keep at a comfortably warm temperature for the next 8 to 10 hours. (It's that "keeping things warm for 8 to 10 hours" that most "yogurt makers" do - you still have to do the mixing-and-heating-then-cooling-then-yogurt bit yourself.)

Now, some people have success by taking a cooler just big enough to hold the number of milk jars you have plus one or two, and then filling up the jars for the yogurt with the yogurt mix and then filling the couple extra jars with boiling water, tucking them all into the cooler, tucking a towel around it all, and then closing the cooler and leaving it all alone. Other people dump the milk/yogurt mix into a big bowl, wrap it all in a towel, and leave it in their turned-off oven overnight, and the pilot light is sufficient. I was only able to get the cooler-and-water-jars method to work once, but it is at least possible.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know a farm wife who makes yogurt by putting a tablespoon of plain yogurt with active cultures into a two-quart jar of fresh-from-the-cow raw milk and leaving it on the countertop, covered by a cloth to keep the sun out. That's about as no-specific-equipment and no-boiling as it gets. (The jar is washed in hot soapy water with the dishes.)

Having said that, please remember that milk, pasteurized or raw, is a bacterial growth medium, and sometimes, those bacteria can be harmful to you. Proper sanitation, including boiling the jars, is an important component of managing your risk of exposure. Use of a bleach solution for sanitizing food preparation surfaces is also a good idea.

I've made yogurt the way EmpressCallipygos suggests by keeping it in a thermos overnight, which held the temperature nicely.
posted by gauche at 11:14 AM on June 19, 2012

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter has a recipe that worked for me and just involved putting it in the oven overnight.
posted by mgogol at 11:16 AM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: I do the exact recipe that EmpressCallipygos mentions, and it works wonderfully. And once you've got your own yogurt, you can start straining it in cheesecloth for your very own wonderful (and cheap!) "greek" yogurt
posted by dis_integration at 11:19 AM on June 19, 2012

If you have a slow cooker, you can use that to keep the yogurt warm; Wrap it in towels, unwrapping it and turning it on low for 10 minutes or so if needed about halfway through.
posted by amarynth at 11:24 AM on June 19, 2012

Nthing amarynth's method. I heat up the crock pot while the milk is heating and cooling (can stick the pot in a sink of cold water to speed up that bit), then unplug it, dump the milk and yogurt starter in, wrap it with a towel and let it sit overnight. It's worked every time for me (which is saying something).
posted by goggie at 11:31 AM on June 19, 2012

Alton Brown's heating-pad-in-stock-pot works great for me, as does my commercial yogurt incubator.

I find that a thermometer with a low-temp alarm is really helpful in cooling down the yogurt, and it was very helpful when calibrating the heating-pad incubator. (Now I know I can just put the thing on low and leave it for 5 hours.)

I don't boil jars. I went on a sanitation kick once, and started dunking my yogurt cups in boiling water, and that's when I got all kinds of weird mold and yeast issues, for some reason, so I stopped.
posted by BrashTech at 11:33 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have a gas stove, a lot of people find that the heat from the pilot light in the oven with the door cracked open is a good enough temperature for yogurt making.
posted by telegraph at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a yoghurt-making newb but the one thing I thoroughly enjoyed from my first efforts has been the addition of a good glog of heavy cream. My yoghurt maker has eight little glass jars in it and they all come out with creamy tops; this may be less exciting if you're making it all in one big container, tho.

Adding powdered milk is supposed to be an improvement and I have done this to what I think is good effect (I have not not done this)...
posted by kmennie at 11:47 AM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: I've tried most of these recipes, and you can get very uneven results. By far the best yogurt making instructions I've found and the method I've used exclusively for the last three years, is chemistry professor Dr. David Fankhauser's "Making Yogurt Illustrated". Please overlook the circa 1996 web-design if you are snobby about such things. This is the best way to make yogurt, also remarkably one of the simplest as well. By showing you the science behind what is going on, and by forcing you to use a candy or dairy thermometer to regulate the heating and cooling, you will get superior yogurt. Also, using a cooler filled with hot water for the gelling phase is a really good idea! I've literally never had a batch fail using this method. Fankhauser will also walk you through making things with your finished yogurt-- Greek Yogurt (will you feel cheated when you learn it is just regular yogurt that has been strained?), farmer's cheese, etc. Once you have yogurt making down, he uses those techniques you've learned to move you on to cottage cheese, cream cheese, blue cheese, neuchatel and so on if you want to go on and learn the real secrets of cheese making. Personally, I've found the perfect balance of easy and delicious in this recipe. The other stuff is nice, but it's hard to find the time and attention to detail to make hard cheeses unless you have a real passion for it. But the information is there on his website, if you want a really good cheesemaking education. I love the internet.
posted by seasparrow at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The only equipment you need that you might not already have is a thermometer. Mine is an instant-read digital probe with an alarm that goes off when a target temp is reached. It was under $20 and worth every penny since I use it all the time.

You don't need to boil jars; I never have. Dishwasher gets them clean enough.

I leave mine overnight inside the oven with the light turned on, or wrapped in a blanket inside a soft-sided cooler with a bottle or jar of hot water. It's all good.

I drain mine (in a paper towel in a colander) to make it thicker, but you don't have to. Just mix the whey back in. If you do drain the whey you can use it for liquid in breads and other baked goods. There is good nutrition in the whey. My raw milk dairy feeds it to their pigs, which is NOT to say it's only good for slop - these are pampered piggies.

I like to add vanilla and creamed honey, maybe some fruit, before I gobble it all up.
posted by caryatid at 12:09 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: I made some yogurt from a litre of 1% with some dry milk powder added in, plus the tablespoon of starter yogurt using the temperatures described above. I wanted drained yogurt, so I didn't fiddle with little cups, but kept it all in a big bowl that I put into the oven (heated to 170 F, then switched off) for a few hours.

It came out quite well, with a couple of drawbacks. What I learned:

1) If you're going to drain the yogurt anyway, don't both with dry milk to thicken it. It adds a bit of a processed taste.

2) If you leave the yogurt for longer than a good recipe says, it will get thicker, but also a lot tangier. It may also develop a bubbly top layer. This isn't dangerous, just weird.

I'm going to try this again, but I'll add some cream to the milk to get something naturally richer and thicker. And don't forget to us the drained why in smoothies and baking! I use the whey to substitute for the lager and water in Cook's Illustrated's version of no-knead bread. (You should still add the vinegar.)
posted by maudlin at 12:11 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Funny, I just heard a great episode of Fresh Air this weekend. Sandor Katz was the guest, he is some sort of master fermenter. Anyway, they discussed his yogurt process.
posted by obscurator at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm making yogurt at this very moment!

Following this recipe (note: involves crock pot).

We've found that whole milk and yogurt seem to give the best results, but we've gotten varying degrees of thickness with this method, even with propogating the remnants of one batch into the next. Generally, it comes out to more of a Yoplait-type texture, where it's not really solid but could be much more so if we were finicky about filtering out the whey.
posted by LionIndex at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: I follow the recipe in this NY Times article:
Heat the fresh milk at 180 to 190 degrees, or to the point that it’s steaming and beginning to form bubbles. The heat alters the milk’s whey proteins and helps create a finer, denser consistency.

Let the milk cool to around 115 to 120 degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot. For each quart of milk, stir in two tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk.

Then put the milk in a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. I simply swaddle my quart jar in several kitchen towels. You can also put the container in an oven with the light bulb on.

Once the yogurt sets, refrigerate it to firm its structure and slow the continuing acid production. To make a thick Greek-style yogurt, spoon it into a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth, and let the whey and its lactic acid drain into a bowl for several hours. (Don’t discard the whey, whose yellow-green tint comes from riboflavin. It makes a refreshing cool drink, touched up with a little sugar or salt.)
Also, you don't really need a thermometer, but it does make things more exact. I successfully made many many batches of yogurt without a thermometer following the above guidelines. Out of an estimated 50+ batches, I only had one ever go wrong
posted by ephemerista at 12:20 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: As EmpressCallipygos said, heat to 180F briefly, cool to 90-110F, innoculate with a spoonful of yogurt, maintain at a warm-not-hot temperature for a few hours.

If you don't have a gas oven (the pilot light keeps them warm, but not too warm - 90-140F), a heating pad wrapped around your yogurt jar will do nicely. In winter months, putting both inside a cooler will help keep the incubator warm enough.

I find the heat-to-180 serves two purposes: it kills off most of the competitive organisms (which can spoil the taste), and makes the final product thicker.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:24 PM on June 19, 2012

maudlin: " And don't forget to us the drained why in smoothies and baking!"

I believe you meant to say "drained whey".
posted by IAmBroom at 12:27 PM on June 19, 2012

Make sure that the yogurt you use as a starter is really yogurt. It doesn't have to be "organic" it just has to have live acidophilus cultures. I haven't made any in years, but my old oven that had a pilot light kept it at just the right temperature.
posted by mareli at 12:28 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: My set-up is pretty bare-bones. I use a cooler, a heating pad, and an old sheet. I heat my milk to 180, cool it to about 120, pitch the yogurt culture, then pour the whole thing into a large Glad container. That goes into the cooler, on top of the heating pad. I use the sheet to stuff the cooler full, shut the lid, set the hot pad, and let it sit warm for 6-8 hours. From there, we strain the yogurt a little, then take it right to the fridge.
posted by Gilbert at 12:46 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: Another option which fits with your last two tags is fresh ricotta using this method. Basically, heat the milk with some salt, add acid (lemon juice or white vinegar) to curdle, drain the whey (I line a fine mesh strainer with paper towel which works fine and means easier cleanup). The linked recipe recommends using a combo of milk and cream; I've used just whole milk and gotten delicious results but haven't ever done it with 2%. Quicker than yogurt and less fiddly.
posted by yarrow at 1:43 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: Nthing all those bare bones ideas, I never used anything other than a stove top and a water bath. Whole powdered milk makes a huge difference and I add all natural vanilla or honey to sweeten.
posted by danapiper at 1:54 PM on June 19, 2012

Has anyone had success with ultrapasteurized milk? Where I live the only organic milk available is ultrapasteurized. I saw that one posted recipe advised against it, but I wonder about first-hand experience.
posted by SinAesthetic at 2:03 PM on June 19, 2012

Best answer: EmpressCallipygos's recipe is basically what I use also. But just know this: If you mix in the yogurt culture while the milk is still hot (180 degree-ish) then it won't work. I know from experience. You need to wait for it to cool down. My mom's measuring method is to stick your pinky in the milk and stir, if you can keep your finger in there for 30 seconds, then it's ready to add the yogurt. takes some practice and you learn quickly :)
posted by eatcake at 6:51 PM on June 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the recipes, everybody. I don't own a slow cooker, but it's something I have been considering adding to the appliance stable. I have a small cooler, but I'm not sure how many jars it would fit. My oven is a convection (however, my stove is gas--yeah, it's a weird kitchen!), but maybe keeping the light on would provide enough heat.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:25 PM on June 19, 2012

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