You Can Make Yogurt at Home

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Homemade yogurt is delicious, and it's surprisingly easy to make.

I love the tangy flavor of yogurt. I think it’s delicious both
sweetened and plain and use it all the time as a substitute for
sour cream. I would have guessed yogurt was hard to make, but I was
surprised ? there’s really not much to it.

If you read the recipes, making yogurt sounds complicated, but in
fact, all you have to do is combine milk with a starter culture and
keep it warm. Then, you cool the mixture in the refrigerator and
there it is: Homemade yogurt!

We made yogurt at my house this weekend following a very simple
recipe. Here’s how it works:

1. Start with milk.(We used a quart of organic

Yogurt is a fermented food thought to have originated in Turkey.
For centuries, people have made yogurt as a simple food
preservation technique. Yogurt contains bacteria that produce
lactic acid, which helps prevent milk from spoiling, makes it
thicker and produces the tangy taste.

Yogurt from cow’s milk is what most of us in the United States are
used to, but in other parts of the world it’s often made with goat
or sheep milk. The nice thing about making your own yogurt is that
you have complete control over what you use: goat’s milk, skim
milk, organic milk or even raw milk. It’s entirely up to you.

2.Control the Heat.(We put the milk in a pot on the stove,
and used a candy thermometer to monitor the

The idea is to bring the temperature of the milk to just below
boiling (about 200 degrees F) and keep it there for about 10
minutes. This kills any undesirable bacteria in the milk, and helps
it thicken. After it’s been cooking for 10 minutes, you need to
cool the milk to about 120 degrees F. We put our pot of milk in a
pan of cold water, using the candy thermometer to watch the

This is just one way to do it. Many yogurt recipes recommend using
a double boiler instead of a regular pot. You can also buy a yogurt
maker, which sounds like a simpler way to get the temperature
right. Yogurt makers range in cost from about $15 to $50.

3. Add the Bacteria. (We used one-quarter cup of plain

Now you need to add the starter culture, which has the bacteria
that turns the milk into yogurt. That sounds hard to find, but it’s
not. All you need is a little plain yogurt. Who knew? Yogurt
creates more yogurt.

You’ll need to choose a brand with live cultures. (If you’re not
sure check the label.) The specific bacteria that make yogurt are
Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus

4. Keep it Warm. (We put the warm mixture into a thermos to
let it incubate.)

Now you can sit back and let the bacteria work. The tricky part is
that the bacteria work best within a narrow range of temperatures ?
it has to be between 100 and 130 degrees F ? so you need to find a
way to maintain a temperature of about 115 degrees F for at least
four hours. Again, a yogurt maker might be handy because it would
allow you to set the temperature, but there are numerous other
methods people use to produce the right temperature.

Some recipes suggest putting the yogurt in the oven with the light
on, or putting the yogurt in an insulated cooler. We decided to try
a very simple method: Putting the yogurt in a thermos. We let it
sit overnight, and then refrigerated it. Success! It tasted just
like store-bought yogurt.

5. Refine your Technique. (It’s time to make more

Although making yogurt is a pretty simple process, there’s a lot of
room for experimentation. You can add flavorings, such as sugar or
vanilla; or thickeners, such as powdered milk or gelatin. If you
let it incubate longer, the flavor gets tangier.

Ready to try some yogurt on your own? Try these sites for
yogurt-making tips, techniques and troubleshooting. We’d also like
to hear your tips for making yogurt. You can post them in our
comments section.

University of Missouri Extension

National Center for Food Preservation

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .