Thursday, October 21, 2010


It seems somehow improbable that a person should be able to make yogurt. Shouldn't yogurt manufacturers have figured out how to hybridize their cultures by now, a la Monsanto, to create a product that can't be replicated by any fool with a pot and a thermometer?

Apparently not, because I am that fool. I made yogurt yesterday.

This is one of those things that I've been thinking for some time I should be doing. Unlike baking bread, which I know I WON'T do because I'm the only one who eats it and besides, I really, really hate kneading. It makes my hands and wrists ache.


Unlike the bread of which I am the sole consumer, we all eat yogurt. A LOT of yogurt. Including Cubby. And it's surprisingly difficult sometimes to find whole milk, plain yogurt. Low-fat plain yogurt seems much more common, for reasons I cannot fathom. So to get our whole milk, plain kind, we have to buy fancy name-brand stuff that costs about three bucks a quart. Know how much yogurt you can make with a three-dollar gallon of milk? Four quarts.

I think we can all see the cost advantages here.

Despite the overwhelming reasons making yogurt makes sense for me, I never did it because, in addition to kneading, I really, really hate messing around with thermometers in the kitchen. It's so boring, all this standing around watching the mercury rise and hovering until the correct temperature is reached, at which point I spring into action and rush to do whatever needs to be done before whatever it is cools off.


Plus, the prevalent method I was seeing for making yogurt without a purpose-made yogurt maker involved a slow cooker and took about 12 hours. Granted, the majority of that is not hands-on time, but I don't want to have to try to remember anything for twelve hours.

Which is why, when I happened upon this method that does indeed require the dreaded temperature gauging but only takes a few hours sitting around in a cooler after that, I decided to try it.

Fooling with the thermometer was as irritating as I expected it would be, but after that, I just stuck the jars of liquid hopefully-to-be-yogurt in the cooler with hot water. When I retrieved them three hours later, they had thickened up noticeably, and an hour in the refrigerator produced recognizable yogurt. Hooray! Take THAT, Dannon!

I didn't use particularly good milk--just the store milk we had around--and the yogurt I used for a starter was fairly mild, so the yogurt I made is correspondingly mild. In the future, I may try using some Greek yogurt as a starter to make tangier yogurt and then drain it to make it thick like Greek yogurt. But I'm happy with the results of my first yogurt-making attempt.

So it appears I'll be making our yogurt from now on. But bread? Forget about it. Pepperidge Farm works for me.


Alicia said...

I've tried baking bread. I'm not very good at it. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong.

We eat no yogurt. What exactly is Greek yogurt? How's it different from American?

Anonymous said...

That sounds very interesting. I have thought about making yogurt too. I eat a lot for one person. Now I just have to get off my rear and do make it sound so easy.
Don't give up on bread really don't have to knead it but just a few strokes , really. I have started not kneading mine as long and it has a very good texture and rises fine. Use the Mil recipe and just don't knead as much , see how it turns out. One tip ... rise it twice to doubled before you put it in the bread pans to makes a finer textured bread.
If you want my recipe I will send it to you. Good luck and do give bread a try . Beth

Haley said...

I like baking bread, but I often either knead it in a stand mixer or use that NY Times no-knead one everybody goes on about. No hand-kneading, either way.

I've been wanting to make my own yogurt because I like a mild yogurt and most store-bought ones are too tangy for me. I've heard you can achieve a less tangy yogurt when made on your own.

jive turkey said...

I am way impressed with your yogurt-making. Baking my own bread (which I haven't done in quite a while, if we're being honest) is about as far as I go. I have a no-knead recipe that is the tops.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned the other day that you were the only one who ate bread there. Since you mentioned it again, I am gonna ask...why ?

Terry said...

Not sure if I have ever commented on your blog before, but if not, hello! Congratulations on your yogurt success! This is similar to my method, but I only make 1 quart at a time. I use an insulated lunch bag which is big enough to hold 1 quart jar of yogurt and 1 quart jar of boiling hot water, and one tiny jar that I use as my next starter, which you can actually freeze if you like. I suspect if I filled an ice chest with water I would spill it all over me. I use a greek yogurt for my starter and it makes a nice mild yogurt. Also, I do not sterilize my jars and haven't gotten sick yet:) If it helps, you don't really have to use the thermometer to see when the milk has cooled enough, if it is cooled enough so you can stick a finger in it, it is cooled enough. Slightly above room temp is good.

rls said...

The way you bastardize recipes (and that's a compliment, BTW) you'll be off without the thermometer in no time.

Mayberry Magpie said...

I never cease to be amazed what one can MAKE ALL BY HERSELF if only she knows how. This process kicks ass. I have been tempted to buy a yougurt maker but I knew it would just sit in my pantry and gather dust next to the ice cream maker.

My kids eat gallons of yogurt. Wonder if I could add some jam or fruit to this and convince them it's better than Yoplait?

PS the one machine that doesn't gather dust and gets used every day practically? My Bosch Universal food processor, which kneads bread nicely.

Terry said...

Magpie yes you can add jam or fruit to your homemade yogurt. If your family is spoiled by having all those little containers of various flavors, you can divide your yogurt into a bunch of small containers and add different jams to each and they will be ready to grab. They may also prefer it if you add some honey or sugar because your homemade yogurt will not be as sweet as store bought. Then you can gradually reduce the sugar if you are concerned about that sort of thing.
Also, homemade plain yogurt can be used in many recipes that call for sour cream.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Alicia: Greek yogurt is much thicker, more like sour cream, and tangier in taste. It's YUMMY.

Beth: Both A. and the MiL have some kind of gluten intolerance. Not Celiac disease--they just don't digest gluten very well so they don't eat it much.

Terry: I would spill an ice chest full of water, too. Which is why I put the cooler on the floor and ferry the jars and hot water to it. I'm not about to try to carry something that heavy across the kitchen.

M.M.: It shouldn't be hard to convince them, since it IS better. SO MUCH BETTER. Especially if you happen to have five kinds of homemade jam to flavor it with. But that may just be us. :-)

Phoo-D said...

Totally cool. I've been thinking about trying to make yogurt for some time now but haven't given it a try yet. As for bread- there are dozens of gluten free baking books out there and a stand mixer does wonders for kneading (I don't have the patience for 10 minutes of kneading either). Not to enable more bread eating or anything...;)

FinnyKnits said...

While I can see the cost advantages, I can't ever see myself making yogurt in my kitchen.

THE MESS? I'd make a huge mess.

But I will bake bread. Maybe this weekend. But I really only make the no-knead kind because, you're right, kneading is a pain in the ass. And other things.