Yogurt Making 101

If you love yogurt but hate all the additives of store-bought (sugar, gelatin, chemicals), it is time to make homemade yogurt. Despite what many people think, it does not require a special “yogurt maker”. In the directions, I have bolded the items required. *See summary at end of post.

I use an approx. 8 inch square cardboard box; heating pad; small thin bath towel (or thick hand towel); grocery pickle jar, quart-size = 32oz. Make certain you clean and air out well before using! Jelly jar works too, but I prefer the short, fat, wide mouth jar of pickles. Also, does not have to be 32oz, use whatever size you have on hand – I’ve used 28 oz. as well.

Also needed are a whisk, and a candy thermometer. Remember when you buy something for kitchen, buy nice quality that will be with you for many years.
Lay out all your ingredients and kitchen utensils BEFORE you begin.

Buy one 6oz Dannon PLAIN yogurt (or any brand that reads ‘live cultures’), this will start several batches, approx $.05 a batch. If you are ‘chain yogurting’, your starter is as low as $.01 a batch. If you do not make yogurt often and do not want to keep in fridge, freeze in ice-cube trays: 1 cube = 2 Tbls.

Once you have made your own yogurt you can use your own (if you do NOT add honey). You can ‘chain yogurt’ up to 4x but batches will get more runny the more you chain. Also, you need to make new batches within 5 days if using your own yogurt; if you are making yogurt every other or 3 days this won’t be a problem.

  1. Put 2 Tbls. yogurt in jar and bring to room temp after “measuring” milk by pouring into jar and leaving headroom. Any type milk works: skim, 2%, whole milk, and even non-fat instant powdered milk.
  2. Add milk to pan, heat on stove to 180F. (check with candy thermometer)
  3. Add 1/2 cup dry instant milk powder if you want thick yogurt (I prefer that).
  4. Stir in 2 Tbls. honey if you want mildly sweet yogurt; leave out if you want plain.
  5. Cool to 115F (about 1/2hr).
    Check the time it takes; batches after this you will know for approximately how long to set timer. Set timer few minutes early… pans conduct heat differently, so a thinner bottom pan will cool more quickly than a heavy pan. You can also do small things around kitchen while you wait for cooling.
  6. Pour approx. 1/2 cup warm milk (115F) into jar and whisk so yogurt mixes well with milk.
  7. Add milk/yogurt mix back to the rest of milk in pan and whisk well. It is IMPORTANT the milk and yogurt be mixed well!
  8. Pour milk/yogurt mix into jar.
  9. Put lid on jar, not too tight but finger tight.
  10. Put heating pad (turned on medium/middle setting) over box opening, set jar in center and push down into box so that heating pad surrounds sides of jar.
  11. Cover with folded towel (this is your “insulation”).
  12. Set in a warm, draft-free area where it will not be disturbed.
  13. Do NOT open for at least 4hrs. NO PEEKING. It’s like rice, you open to peek = you will ruin it.
  14. After 4hrs take towel off and GENTLY tilt box so you can see thru the top/side of jar. If yogurt looks stiff it is finished; do not remove if it looks runny, leave it in heatingpad/box 2hrs longer.
  15. If stiff, turn off heating pad, put jar in fridge.

I can NEVER resist and always eat a custard dish of it while it’s warm. I usually do mine in evening so it can put in fridge overnight, then it’s nice and firm next morning for breakfast with a little crumbled cereal on it.

It won’t hurt it if you need to leave house and come back with more time than 4hrs (up to 12hrs); it’s like a slow cooker, it won’t ruin the yogurt to leave extra time BUT it will make the yogurt more tart. Because I like it sweet I remove it at 4hrs. Even if you make this plain, it will be a little more sweet than store-bought… not “sweet” but “less sour”.

The key to good yogurt is consistent heat. There are many cheaper ways to make (example: put in a pot of hot water and set inside a preheated to lowest setting then turned off oven with light on for heat; don’t open oven till time is up) but the way I do has been perfect yogurt every time except the very first time, when I couldn’t resist peeking! So, I added blueberries, blended, and put into popsicle molds into the freezer YUMMY! Even a failed batch isn’t wasted. If you find you do not eat all the yogurt within 5 days you can do the same – add fruit and freeze it; fruit/yogurt popsicles are delicious!

You can make “yogurt cheese” by putting a cloth in a colander, put your thick homemade yogurt over a bowl, and set in fridge overnight.

*Summary of items needed:

  • Approx. 8 inch square cardboard box
  • Heating Pad
  • Small Thin Bath Towel (or thick hand towel)
  • Quart-size Jar = 32oz
  • Whisk
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Dannon PLAIN yogurt – 2 Tbls. (or any brand that reads ‘live cultures’)
  • Milk – Enough to fill your jar, leaving headroom. Any type milk works: skim, 2%, whole milk, and even non-fat instant powdered milk. 
  • Dry Instant Milk Powder – 1/2 cup (for more thick yogurt, which I prefer)
  • Honey – 2 Tbls. (optional – if you prefer a mildly sweet yogurt)
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