How to Make Yogurt from Scratch

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on February 11, 2014

I am so proud–I finally made yogurt from scratch!  I’ve been meaning to try this for a couple of years, but finding a “Thriftee-Yogurt Maker” circa 1974 or so at the Salvation Army last week ($4.99!) finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed!

How to make Yogurt at home

The basic process of making yogurt is this.  You take milk.  You heat it up to just below boiling to kill off any naturally occurring bacteria, then you cool it down to lukewarm and add a little bit of the “good” yogurt bacteria.  You keep it at the right temperature (about 110) long enough for the good bacteria to multiply and take over your milk.  Then you have yogurt.

Now on to exactly how I made it!  I used the recipe that came with my yogurt maker.  I took 5 cups of whole milk, added 1/3 cup of dry milk (which was recommended for a thicker final product) and then put it on medium high heat on my stove, stirring occasionally, until wisps of steam started coming off the milk  (to be specific it should reach 190-200 degrees).

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I let the milk cool down to what my old cookbooks would call “blood warm”–a drop on my wrist felt like it was the same temp as my skin-not warm, not cold.  Meanwhile I had plugged in the base of my yogurt maker to warm up.  I tucked a meat thermometer into one of the cells so I could make sure the vintage yet new to me maker actually worked and heated up!

For my starter culture I used a container of Chobani plain yogurt.  Any unflavored yogurt that says “live cultures” on it somewhere will work as a yogurt starter culture.  Again following the directions that came with my yogurt maker I put 2/3 of a TBS of yogurt in each cup.  Well, since I don’t have a 2/3 TBS measure I just used a heaping 1/2 TBS.

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Then I poured the milk in and gently stirred the yogurt in.  Note: all of the tutorials I’ve seen always say to not stir or move the yogurt while it’s culturing after that initial mixing.

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My kitchen is always cold in the winter–and it’s been super cold here lately–so according to my thermometer the yogurt wasn’t getting up above 90.  110 was the target goal for culturing yogurt so I covered the whole shebang with several towels.  After that it quickly increased to the 110 range.

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The directions said 5-10 hours for the yogurt to culture and set.  I was heading up to bed at about the 7 hour range, so I checked at that point.  The yogurt seemed thick, so I unplugged the unit, removed the yogurt and moved it to the fridge.  (again–the directions stated to refrigerate for at least 3 hours)

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This morning I had nice, thick yogurt that was very mild–just a bit tangy.  I enjoyed it and the kids LOVED it.  They’ve already gone through half of it, mixed with some of my homemade jams.

This was super simple, and I’ll be making it again soon.  If you don’t have a yogurt maker, you don’t have to run out and buy one (although there are ones available brand new for about $25 and much nicer looking than my 70’s model).  They key is the temperature.   You need 11o degrees for 5-10 hours.  You can do this in a dehydrator with a thermostat (like my Excalibur which can be set to specific temperatures), in a plastic picnic cooler (set your jars inside and pour boiling water around them then close the lid), in an oven with a pilot light, in a regular oven preheated, turned off, and wrapped in towels or even on an old fashioned heating pad.

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