There are many excellent yogurts on the market. So, why make your own?
One reason we started to make yogurt was to avoid all of the plastic containers. Though we live in a place that recycles more plastic than other places, recycling is costly and it uses energy. It is ultimately better to reduce consumption of plastic.
This is conventional approach that we have found very reliable. The key to reliability is temperature management. I heat milk up slowly to 180 degrees F, and then cool it to 100 degrees F. The culturing takes place between 90 and 100 degrees F.
1 cup of active culture yogurt, from a good quality store-bought yogurt or from your last batch of yogurt. It is better to have more than less. This does influence the flavor, so chose a yogurt you like.
1/2 gallon of milk. We like 2% best. This measurement is not exact, you can make a little more or a little less.
I use a heavy enameled iron Dutch oven (3.5 quart) and an induction burner. The induction burner allows accurate control of the heat and allows the temperature to be brought up slowly. Place milk in Dutch oven, and ring the milk to room temperature or place in a pan of tepid water. Place the Dutch oven on burner and set to 100 degrees for 10 minutes. Every 10 minutes raise temperature another 20 degrees, occasionally, stir the milk. When at 180 degrees, set the timer for about 20 minutes. We are at more than 5000 feet altitude, so the milk will boil if you make it much hotter. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool to about 100 degrees. You can put the pan in tepid water to cool it faster. It is important to get the temperature below 110 degrees, which is likely to ruin your culture. Stir the yogurt culture into the 100 degree milk. If you don’t have an induction burner, the message is, heat the milk slowly to 180 – 190 degrees and then let it cool to 100 degrees.
For the culturing, I place the pan on top of a heating pad and place the heating pad and pan in the oven with the light on. This gives a stable warm environment. Our heating pad keeps things at about 100 degrees on high, and it will get too hot if, you say, wrap the pad around the pan like a little nest. Many heating pads turn off after 2 hours. If you have it in the oven, it is not necessary to keep turning it back on. If I do turn it back on after the first two hours, I turn it on a lower setting. You have yogurt after about 6 hours, but our taste is to let it go for 10 hours. You do not have to baby this too much, you can just use the heating pad, or just use the oven with the light, but you will have more variation in the final product.
I take out a 1 cup ladle full to serve as the culture for the next batch. Covered in the fridge this needs to be used in 7 – 10 days.
We drain the yogurt to make it “Greek.” I use a stew pot, with a strainer, and place cheese cloth in the strainer. I stir it every now and then. The texture we like is to drain it for 45 minutes – 1 hour. It is better texture to drain it while it is still warm, but if you have to put it in the fridge, you can drain it later. If you drain longer and press it, then you get something more like labneh.
This yogurt has proved time after time to be reliable in culture, texture, and taste.