Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I tend to think of making dairy products as something of an advanced sustainability skill.  I have made cheese, and it requires a fair amount of thought (and a good source of milk that has not been overly pasteurized, which is harder to obtain than you might think).  I have made sour cream, and it is fairly easy, but I have typically wound up with enough sour cream to stock a small Mexican restaurant.

However, I just made yogurt, and this project officially joins the DIY laundry detergent and making your own pesto as a superstar in both the budget and the end product.

It couldn't be easier.  Take your milk (I used a half gallon, but the recipe is totally scalable to the amount you need; there is no reason why you couldn't make anything from a pint to a gallon) and scald it, which means bringing it to a temperature of 180 to 190.  I have a dairy thermometer to measure this, but you could use a candy thermometer in a pinch.

Then, let the milk cool to between 110 and 120 degrees.  Stir in a couple of tablespoons of yogurt; I bought a container of organic vanilla yogurt to get my batch started, but future batches will be made from the last couple of spoons of the existing batch.  Put it in a covered container (I used a half gallon Mason jar), wrap with a towel, and let sit where it will drop no lower than 95 degrees.  This may take some doing in the winter, but right now I just tote it outside and sit it on a high plant shelf on the patio.

Don't disturb it; you are waiting for the good bacteria to grow to the point that they culture the entire batch, at which point it will be thick.  This takes about 4-5 hours.  Refrigerate.

DH notes that he likes this yogurt better than store-bought varieties.  I'm not much of a yogurt-eater, but I like this a lot.  It is milder than the store varieties.  And it is a yummy vehicle for some blackberry preserves.

(Note:  If you are packing a lunch, you could take a half pint Mason jar, add yogurt and preserves, and have your own little fruit and yogurt snack with very much the look and feel of a conventional yogurt container.)

The Analysis

Fast:  I'd say this batch took about 20 minutes of active scalding and cooling, plus the 4-5 hours of letting it sit.  And it is so easy to make, even a covert operative based in Afghanistan can probably still get his yogurt fix.  (Apologies if you aren't a Burn Notice fan and this makes no sense.)

Cheap:  I bought a half gallon of milk for $1.77; this is the only input you have to purchase if you use yogurt from the previous batch to start the new one.  This means $1.77 for 64 ounces.  By contrast, the cheapest store brand yogurt I saw on sale was $0.40 cents for one of those 6 ounce containers, which means you would pay $4.27 for just under 11 little containers of store yogurt.  That is a savings of $2.50 per batch!

Good:  Light, mild, and creamy, this may be my new favorite homemade food.
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  1. Okay, I think this post has finally convinced me this is something I should try making — thanks!

  2. It is MUCH, MUCH easier to make this in a crock pot. No having to watch what temp you bring it to, no having to make sure you leave it in an especially warm area...many recipes on line. We make it from 1/2 powdered non-fat powdered milk and while fresh milk---cheaper, more protein and you absolutely cannot taste the flavor of the powdered milk. This is also a great way to use up milk you think you won't get aroudn to using before it goes bad...

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