This is a family favorite here at the farm. It may take you a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but it’s so very worth it! And once you’ve got it, it’s as easy as pie. A very simple pie. Following the recipe will definitely help avoid any mishaps, and I strongly suggest taking a minute to read through the “Notes” section before beginning.
1 Gallon milk
1 & 1/4 cup sugar
2-3 Tbs pure vanilla extract
2-4 Tbs vanilla yogurt
Large pot with lid
Jars with lids
Several blankets, large enough to wrap around the pot
OPTIONAL (for thicker yogurt): Sieve bowl lined with cheesecloth, set into a slightly larger bowl
1.) In a large pot, bring milk to 180°F over LOW/MEDIUM heat. This will take about 15 minutes. Stir periodically, especially as the temperature rises to avoid skin formation.
2.) Once the milk has reached 180°F, turn off the heat source.
3.) While stirring, add sugar and vanilla. Mix well until dissolved.
4.) Place the pot into a sink bay that is filled part way with cold water. Stirring often, allow the milk to cool to 115°F. This will take about 10 minutes. To speed up the process, you can add ice to the water.
5.) Once the temperature reaches 115°F, remove the pot from the water immediately. Add the yogurt starter, stirring until well combined.
6.) Put a lid on the pot and wrap it in several blankets. The goal is to keep the temperature between 110°F and 115°F during incubation.
7.) Allow the yogurt to incubate for at least 4-5 hours. You can incubate many hours longer, up to 16, if you prefer a more tart taste.
8.) After incubation, you’ll see that the yogurt has formed into a wobbly, but solid form. When you tilt the pot, the yogurt will pull away from the sides as one single mass. You may also see a yellow liquid all around the yogurt (this is whey).
9.) To avoid the yogurt being too runny, drain as much liquid off as you can. To do this, place the lid on the pot so that it is off-set and there is a small gap on one side. Slowly tilt the pot over the edge of the sink so that the liquid runs off through the gap. When yogurt starts seeping through the gap, slowly stand the pot upright. Off-set the lid to the other side, and repeat, tilting the pot to the opposite side. Continue doing this until you don’t get much liquid coming out before you see yogurt seeping through.
10.) Remove the lid, and quickly whisk the yogurt until it’s smooth.
*If you prefer a thicker yogurt, allow it to drain in a sieve covered with cheesecloth for several hours in the fridge. This will give a greek-style consistency. If you prefer yogurt that isn’t very runny, but not quite as thick as greek-style, then only strain part of your yogurt. After it has strained, whisk the thickened yogurt into the original batch, and you will have a nice, middle-of-the-ground consistency.
11.) Pour the yogurt into jars. Be sure to separate a few tablespoons of your yogurt, as a reserve. This will be the yogurt you use to make your next batch.
11.) Refrigerate overnight. By the next morning, your yogurt will have thickened and it will be ready to eat!
*Using whole milk will give you the creamiest possible yogurt, but even skim milk will result in wonderfully creamy and tasty yogurt. If you’re using fresh milk, I would suggest using skimmed milk, because the cream will rise to the top during incubation and need to be removed before whisking.
*You can make different flavored yogurts by using different extracts/flavorings. We also enjoy Strawberry extract, Red Velvet flavoring, and Cream Cheese Flavoring (these can be found in the cake decorating isle).
*Other options for incubating your yogurt:
^If you have an electric oven, before beginning the recipe, preheat the oven to 350° Begin making your yogurt, and when the oven reaches 350°F, turn the oven off and keep the door closed while you continue making the yogurt. This will give you a great incubation environment inside the oven when the time comes.
^If you’re using a gas oven, it is always somewhat warm, so there’s no need to preheat. You may be fine to close the door all the way during incubation, but if it’s too hot, it will cause the yogurt to cook through or, at the very least, be grainy. If this is the case, leave the door slightly ajar. You may have to just plan on doing a couple test runs of yogurt to figure out if your oven needs to be cracked open or not.
^Wrap your pot of yogurt in a thick blanket, and place in a small cooler.
*For your yogurt starter, if this is your first batch, you can use store bought yogurt, as long as it has live cultures in it. I’ve used Stoneyfield Organic Vanilla Yogurt, and also Oui (Vanilla). You can use flavored yogurt, and your first batch will have a faint flavor to it, but any following batches will not have any of the flavor with it.
*During both the heating and cooling of the milk, stir often so that you avoid a film or skin forming on the top layer. If at any time a skin does form, DO NOT mix it into the milk. Use the ladle to remove it from the pot. If you don’t, you’ll have little bits of the film all throughout your finished yogurt. Still edible, but very aggravating.
*During any part of the heating and cooling, if you walk away and forget about the milk, all is not lost. So if your milk foams up from heat and starts rolling over the pot, don’t give up on it. Just turn off the heat, and allow it to cool as you continue to stir/remove any film that may form. If you let the milk cool way too much, just warm it back up to 115°F, and continue with the recipe.
*Graininess in your yogurt is a result off too much heat and/or heating too quickly. If you find this to be a problem for you, lower your temperatures.
*If your yogurt is not setting up, it is a result of one of these two things:
^You added your starter when the temperature of the milk was too high, thus killing the live bacteria. Be sure to only add your starter culture after the temperature has cooled to 115°F.
^Your incubation temperature was too cool. If the yogurt cools too much during the incubation phase, the bacteria will not multiply, which means your yogurt won’t set.
*Yogurt will last 4 or 5 days, at which point, a new batch will need to be made using your “STARTER.” You can definitely use the starter sooner than that if you run out within hours of it being ready to eat, like we sometimes do!