Making Yogurt at Home is Easy

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

It’s kind of embarrassing looking back, but before I knew Puja, I didn’t know the difference between plain and vanilla yogurt. I had never had plain. What would a person want with unflavored, unsweetened yogurt?

But yogurt is used extensively in Indian cuisine, as a condiment, a base, a marinade, it’s even used in naan to give it a nice, subtle tang. A few years back Puja and I made a simple Indian dinner for some friends. We made chole (garbanzo bean stew) and naan, with a yogurt and cumin mixture to accompany the chole. One of them called the next day to get the recipe for “that delicious yogurt sauce.” I completely understood where she was coming from, but it was funny to Puja because it was such a simple thing: mix yogurt, cumin, chili powder and salt to taste, not something she ever would have thought of as a recipe.

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

The residue left at the bottom of the dutch oven is caramelized milk. I used a heavy pan and medium-low heat to minimize the problem, but a double boiler would have solved it completely.

When you use as much yogurt as we do, it makes sense to make it yourself. Store bought yogurt comes in such small containers and the markup is ridiculous. There are also other great reasons to make it at home. The store bought stuff is often packed with unwanted stabilizers like corn starch and gelatin. Have you ever noticed a jello-like texture to your yogurt? That’s because the manufacturer is taking shortcuts. You’re getting the thickness of a good yogurt, but not the richness, and the texture is just wrong.

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

Also, if you make a lot of smoothies, it makes sense to make your own yogurt because you can make a large quantity to save a bunch of money. It takes about the same amount of labor to make a little bit of yogurt as to make a lot. One time I made yogurt in the same plastic jug the milk came in. I wanted to be able to easily pour it from there into the blender for smoothies. Even though I like the idea, it ended up being too messy to do again. When the yogurt got low I had to squeeze the container to get it to come out.

It’s also really easy to make the yogurt really thick and delicious, like Greek yogurt. All you do is strain out the whey as I’ll describe in the recipe. And you can choose how thick you want it. I don’t know why, but yogurt becomes more delicious the thicker it gets. I often make something between a Greek-style yogurt and lebne, which is about as thick as ricotta cheese. And if you want to make a sweet yogurt like the Yoplait stuff I grew up eating, just mix a little jelly in or make your own fruit mixture with some sugar.

If you research how to make yogurt you’ll find people have all sorts of complicated methods, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t even have to buy a starter. In fact, please don’t. Just start with a little store bought yogurt. By law, when you buy yogurt from the store the cultures have to still be alive or they can’t call it yogurt, at least in the U.S. Despite what you might read elsewhere, the process is very forgiving. I don’t even use a thermometer or measure the milk or yogurt.

Making Yogurt at Home is Easy. How to at Indiaphile.info

Yogurt with cumin, chili powder and salt sprinkled over the top. We had this for a quick lunch today with some bread.

Yogurt (Dahi) from Scratch

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Gallon Milk (or a pint, or a gallon)
  • 1/3 cup Plain Yogurt

Instructions

  1. Heat all of the milk to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about the temperature of hot coffee. Use a thermometer if you want, but it doesn’t have to be exact. Try to avoid bringing it all the way to a boil but even that won’t ruin it. Use a double boiler or as thick a pot as you have for this to avoid burning any milk, and stir occasionally for the same reason.
  2. Let the milk cool to 105 degrees. That’s about the temperature of a heated spa. I use my finger to judge this. As long as you are under about 120 degrees here you should be okay. You just don’t want to kill your cultures.
  3. Stir in the yogurt.
  4. Store in covered container (use plastic wrap or a well fitting lid). It’s best, but not crucial, if you can keep it at around 105 degrees. I make it in a dutch oven and then put that in my actual oven with the oven off to stay warm. If it’s significantly cooler than 105, the yogurt will just take longer to set.
  5. Wait about 8-48 hours depending on how warm you were able to keep the yogurt.
  6. Optionally you can strain the yogurt. I recommend doing this because homemade yogurt comes out pretty thin since it doesn’t have any thickeners like corn starch or gelatin. To strain it, line a colander with cheese cloth or paper towels. Put the colander in a bowl or sink with something to raise it up like a second, overturned bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cheese cloth. Wrap it. Put a plate with some kind of weight on top such as a couple of cans of beans. This will squeeze out the whey (the yellow liquid). You can leave this for a few minutes or a couple of hours depending on how thick you want your yogurt to be. You can also add more weight to speed up the process.

Comments

  1. Carol Martin says

    Stir in a bit of honey, two smashed aspirin into plain yogurt. Apply to face, wait 20-30 minutes, wash off. Lovely facial!

    After reading food label on my favorite Greek yogurt, bleh. Gelatin, gum seeds, cornstarch, chemicals…where’s the “natural” ? BTW, what’s the processing to get 12 grams protein in the Greek yogurt? Thx for posting! Carol M.

    • says

      Hi Carol. What a great question! Now I’m wishing I had measured the results. Next time I make yogurt I’ll have to do this calculation. From what I see online, whey has about 2g protein per cup. Milk has 8g. My rough estimate is that half the milk went to whey and the other half went to the yogurt. So 2 cups of milk which has 16g of protein becomes 1 cup of whey with 2g and 1 cup of yogurt with 14g.

    • says

      From what I’ve seen on the internet, it’s a very similar process to make yogurt from soy milk. According to this guy you don’t even have to heat the soy milk before adding in your starter. Just bring it to a warm temperature that will make your cultures happy. You can get your cultures from yogurt as your starter, but it wouldn’t really be vegan so he suggests using acidopholus. (Lactobacillus) acidopholus is a common bacterium used to ferment yogurt so it would be pretty much equivalent, although the two most used strains are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

      I’m not really into soy milk myself, but I’ll probably try making almond yogurt one of these days. Maybe it will find its way into a post.

    • says

      Most often I use Karoun. But I have used many different brands before without trouble. If you are having trouble, I would look for problems in procedure first, since anything sold as “yogurt” legally has to have live cultures in it and should work. Try to use as fresh a starter as possible since it can get weaker as it gets older.

      Are you letting the milk cool enough before mixing in the yogurt? It should be around 100° to 110° F, cool enough to touch but hot enough that you don’t want to keep your finger in it. If it is too hot, the liquid will kill the bacteria that you need for fermentation.

      Ideally you would keep it pretty warm, by the oven or refrigerator is a good place. Try wrapping it in towels to keep the heat in as long as possible. If it doesn’t set in a day, you can let it go up to two or three. The more milk you are using or the cooler the room it sits in, the longer it will take.

      Hope this helps!

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