Yogurt seems to have gotten its start in the United States around the 1960’s with the Hippie movement, but, around the rest of the world, yogurt has been considered a main food staple from nomadic people to kings of countries. Yogurt was especially popular in Arab countries through the Middle East to Central Asia and Southern Europe.
It seems like, as usual, the commercial food industry with all of its added chemicals is now trying to make yogurt look bad, however, yogurt made in the right way is one of the best foods a person can eat. Yogurt was one of the first foods that I introduced to each of my children when they were babies. Instead of the cereal gruel that people gave their babies, I gave them yogurt. So, my children grew up with yogurt. However, I never buy yogurt and neither will you once you learn how to make it yourself. The tastes and texture is so different from store bought that once you start making your own yogurt, you will never be satisfied with the store stuff.
I first started making yogurt in the 1970’s and am still making it at least once a week. When my three children were growing up, each one of them knew how to make yogurt by the age of 8 years old. At any time, someone in our family was making yogurt. We all ate it for breakfast, lunch, snack, to go with salads (we made a nice fruit salad and mixed yogurt , honey and lemon and poured it over the fruit..Delicious!) Yogurt is easy to eat and is filling.
You need two ingredients to make yogurt and a casserole dish with its cover or a bowl (also with some type of cover be it plastic wrap or even just a plate will do). You also need some type of box (bread box maybe where you can put a 25 watt light bulb about 10 inches above, or an oven with a light ( you don’t turn on the oven, ever). You can even just seal the cover on the dish real well and put the dish up high. Basically what you need is 100 degrees with no drafts . I had my husband make a yogurt box for me, which consisted of a sturdy wood box 20 inches tall, 14 inches wide and 20 inches in depth from front to back, with a little door on it (11 inches by 14 inches).. Inside up on top is a simple light fixture with a 25 watt light bulb. It is quite simple. Since my yogurt box is in the kitchen and painted blue, I often get teased that I’m hatching chicks! J The temperature needs to stay at 100 degrees , the heat source is of course from the light bulb. I put a regular room thermometer inside the box on top of the casserole container that the yogurt is in to gauge the temperature. The temperature should never go below 100 degrees or above 115 degrees , 120 will kill the culture, so 100 is just about right.
Now for the ingredients and method:. 1) I use ½ and ½ for the milk. I have also been known to use canned milk ( not the sweeten condensed stuff), or goats milk. For those of you that are in other countries you could use reindeer and mare’s milk; cow, sheep,or goat’s milk; buffalo milk and even soybean can be used.
2) you can either : purchase a small container of plain yogurt ( I have found Stoneyfield, Dannon and even often times just the store brand to work best.) Get the smallest container of either plain yogurt or vanilla (French, ok) I use this method
OR: from a health food store: get pure lactic bacteria or yogurt culture.
You will see recipes calling for other ingredients such as powdered milk, but, it is not necessary. All you need is milk and a starter. (Once you make your first batch of yogurt, save at least one good size regular, not measuring, tablespoon of yogurt and simply mix it into your milk. You will not need to purchase a starter again.)
Ok, we got the box ready, turn light on. We got the milk and starter. Now, let’s start small, so, find a small casserole dish with a cover to it, or a glass bowl with a plastic wrap or simply a dish to set over the bowl. Get a sauce pan, not aluminum.
· Pour the milk into the casserole dish (this is what the amount of yogurt will be), pour that into your saucepan.
· Put the sauce pan over low to medium heat.
· Heat the milk til you start to see it ripple or till the pan is HOT to touch on the sides. You don’t want your milk to burn. If you have a candy thermometer place it inside the pan along the side. The temperature should be around 250 degrees.
· Then, turn off the heat source.
· Leave the pan ALONE!
· It needs to drop to 105 degrees.
· If you don’t have a thermometer, periodically put your hand on the outside of the pan and when it feels quite warm, but not hot, it is ready. This can take a good 30 to 45 minutes. Do not disturb the milk. LEAVE IT ALONE
and let it cool down to 105 to 100 degrees on
· Now, take a spoon and skim the milk. Discard the skin.
· Take at least 1 tablespoon ( or you can use the entire small container of yogurt) and about a ¼ of a teaspoon , not measuring, of sugar and stir it into the milk. Don’t go nuts, just stir a little to mix it.
· Pour into your casserole container, cover it.
· Put the casserole dish in the box and shut the door.
· Leave this alone, don’t stir, don’t jostle, just leave it alone!
· It will take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours in the box before the yogurt is ready. Don’t check the yogurt until about 4 hours,
· then, take a regular spoon that you use for stirring coffee or tea or eating your cereal with and put the spoon right in the middle of the yogurt. Don’t scoop, just put the spoon (even a table knife will work) in and out. What you are looking for is the yogurt being the consistency of sour cream or a pudding. You don't want the yogurt liquidy, it needs to solidify.
· Once your yogurt is the consistency of sour cream or pudding, it is ready.
· Very carefully take the casserole dish out of the box and
· put the dish in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. It is then ready to eat. ( The sugar that you added when you mixed the yogurt culture and milk should help the yogurt to lose its tartness, that is the only purpose of using the sugar. You DON'T have to use it if you don't want to)
You can then add to your individual servings whatever you want; peanut butter, honey, brown sugar, fruit, etc.
If your yogurt fails, don’t throw it out. Simply pour it back into the pan and begin over, using the steps above. Also, it won’t take as long in the box, so, check it after about 4 hours.
Each time you make more yogurt, you simply use a tablespoon of the previous yogurt as a starter.
This is a good, simple way to make your own yogurt, and, you know what is in it as well!