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Without Yogurt, What Blog Would It Be?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Homemade Yogurt

I know that yogurt has been featured over a thousand times on food blogs from the whole planet, with lactobacilli fermenting from here to Byelorussia, but I felt somewhat compelled to write a post about it myself.
Yogurt has always been welcomed in my fridge, ever since I remember being tall enough to open its door and take a peak of what was inside. During college, when finals were getting close and all of a sudden we were forced to study like crazy to make up for all the months we had wasted lazing around, me and my friend Michela used to eat yogurt with granola and a sliced banana for lunch or dinner. When we reached the point where we only had little time left but the pages to read were still endless, two things always came to rescue, the big coffee mug with chocolate chip cookies and the yogurt on sale with Buy 2, Get 1 Free type of deal.
Since I moved to the U.S, I couldn't’t find anything similar to European yogurt, not even when the labels clearly stated so, seducing me with their European Style illusion. I kept searching for months, trying every new product that I found on the supermarket’s shelves, and every time it was a disappointment. Until I discovered the way to make it myself.

The process itself is quite simple; the tricky part is finding the way to keep the bacteria at the same temperature for few hours, until yogurt is set. A little imagination in this case comes in handy. I personally wrap the big jar in a towel and I put it in the oven, turned on at the lowest setting, but everyone can find their own strategy, like placing it inside a wooden trunk or on a shelf next to the heater. Obviously, you can always cheat and buy the proper tool, (to which, I have to admit, I also gave in for few months), but I think that making it all by yourself gives a lot more satisfaction, other than being way more romantic : )
Homemade yogurt? Yes, you can!

Homemade Yogurt
for approximately 8 8oz. jars

milk 1 gallon
plain yogurt 3 and a half tablespoons
(this will be your starter; use a store-bought yogurt the first time, then you can start using some yogurt from your own batch)

Put milk in a large pan and bring it almost to the boiling point. Let it cool off, stirring it every once in a while, until it reaches 104F (between 40C and 42C). It will take approximately one hour and I recommend using a food thermometer to check the temperature.
In the meantime, take the starter yogurt out of the fridge and let it get approximately to room temperature. Turn the oven on to low/warm setting or prepare whatever “bed” you decided to use. Place 3 and a 1/2 spoons of yogurt in a large jar with lid (which should be room temperature as well; otherwise you'll kill the poor bacteria because of thermal shock!).
When milk has reached more or less 104F, put about a cup of it in the container with the starter and mix well. Add remaining milk, stir, and close the jar. Wrap it with a blanket, place it in the warm oven and leave it there for 4-5 hours. At this point yogurt should be set (don’t worry, I promise you’ll understand right away whether the bacteria did their work or not).
Place it in the refrigerator until cold. You can eat it as it is or, if you like it firmer, you can let it drip on a fine sieve.
I personally like it very firm, Greek style, and I let it strain for two hours or more. And it comes out so dense that if you serve it topped with a couple of spoons of honey and some chopped walnuts, you can even pass it as an excellent dessert : )
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