Everyone has their favorite store bought yogurt. Mine is Australian Wallaby Vanilla Bean Yogurt. It’s smooth and creamy with tiny flecks of vanilla bean, not too sweet and with a hint of tangyiness. Since its getting more common to make yogurt at home I wanted to try it out but I wanted to try a version that could compete with my favorite vanilla bean yogurt.
Making your own yogurt is actually quite easy. I learned this with my friend Julia, who let me come and watch her go through the process, which really meant we got to hang out and chat for a few hours while the yogurt did it’s ‘thing.’ After you heat up the milk to scalding or boiling, you must then let it cool to a warm bath-water temperature (about 1 hour). In the meanwhile, you can catch up on the last 3 month of a good friend’s life, get some work done, or walk the dog before the next step in the process.
As our yogurt was cooling, Julia told me the methods behind yogurt making. You basically need a bacteria starter to add to milk, which can be 1/4 cup of yogurt or a packet of yogurt starter, which is a powder. Their are brands of yogurt starters like Yogourmet that you can buy at Whole Foods or other natural food stores. Julia’s recommendation is to start with a starter then save 1/4 cup of that yogurt batch for the 2nd batch and continue to alternate using yogurt and the powder for every other batch you make. The yogurt will get less firm if you use the yogurt itself as a starter too many times.
Our first batch we made plain yogurt which is quite tangy. I like tangy yogurt but usually end up adding some preserves, fruit, or granola to sweeten it up a bit. You have to be careful to mix in additives right before eating or the yogurt will lose it’s consistency and become runny if you stir it. You also have to be careful of adding ingredients as the milk is cultivating so as not to mess up the good bacterias forming.
On my second batch I added in a small amount of sugar, vanilla bean, and extract, just as the milk was cooling down. This was an experiment because I didn’t know if the milk would still be able to cultivate into yogurt with the added sugar and vanilla. Luckily, it did and it was still firm in the end. So, after a few experiments I had found my equal to Wallaby’s Vanilla Bean yogurt, which is much less expensive and so satisfying knowing you can easily make high quality yogurt at home.
Here's an easy recipe for homemade vanilla bean yogurt without a yogurt maker.
- 1 quart organic whole milk, 4 cups
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla beans scrapped from 1 pod
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 yogurt starter packet, or 1/4 cup yogurt with active cultures
Bring the milk to a boil (180 degrees).
Remove pot from the heat and add in the sugar, vanilla bean paste, and vanilla extract.
Let the milk cool until luke warm (112 degrees). Stir in the yogurt starter, mixing well.
Pour yogurt into 4 individual jars.
Set the jars in a warm spot for about 7 hours, or overnight, to cultivate and set (time depends on desired firmness). Here are some ideas of how to keep the yogurt at the right temp: set in your oven with just the oven light on, set in a crockpot (turned off) covered with a towel by a sunny window, or use a heating pad on low.
After the yogurt is set, place yogurt in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before eating.
Serve with preserves, granola, or by itself... it's that good!
Tips for making yogurt at home:
• Use organic whole milk (you could also try a high quality goat’s milk).
• Because the milk sticks to the side of the pot during the heating process, use an easy pot to clean or you can use a glass bowl or large pyrex measuring cup and heat the milk up in the microwave until it’s scalding (about 15-18 minutes)
• You don’t need a yogurt maker (save the space in your kitchen for other appliances), all you need is milk, a yogurt starter, and a slightly warm place for the yogurt to cultivate
• You can use your oven to cultivate your yogurt but just turning the oven light on (don’t actually turn the oven on but the light itself will give off enough heat
• You can use a crock pot to cultivate your yogurt by placing the filled yogurt jars into a crock pot, then cover the pot, wrap with towels or with a crock pot cover if you have one and set it in a warm place in the house.
• Start with a yogurt starter then save 1/4 cup of that yogurt batch for the 2nd batch and continue to alternate using yogurt and the powder for every other batch you make. The yogurt will get less firm if you use the yogurt itself as a starter too many times.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding making homemade yogurt.