Dave and I have a yogurt habit that easily costs us $16/week. We typically buy Stonyfield’s plain full-fat organic yogurt, and sometimes the French vanilla. It goes over whatever fruit is in season, preferably organic, then we add organic raw mixed nuts, some organic Ceylon (“true”) cinnamon, and a few craisins or goji berries. Utterly heavenly, but at around $4/quart, the yogurt gets to be expensive.
I’ve made yogurt over the years using a variety of methods, but my most recent batch turned out to be The most Perfect Yogurt I’ve ever made and, in fact, have ever eaten. It was smooth, creamy, not at all runny or lumpy, sat up firmly in the spoon when dished out and tasted like heaven. And it costs exactly half the price of store-bought yogurt. So here’s exactly what I did. You can make changes to it, such as which milk you use, but I’m sticking to my own method to guarantee success:
Place 1 gallon organic full-fat milk in a large slow cooker and heat on high. Check its temperature every 20 minutes or so until it gets to 185 degrees. While it’s heating, pass four quart mason jars and their lids through boiling water to sterilize. Once the milk has reached 185, remove the stoneware full of milk and set it in a sink that already has ice cold water in it, up to about the level of the milk. This will cool off the milk more quickly than just letting it sit out. Cool it to exactly 110 degrees and remove it from the water.
Place 1/3 cup plain organic yogurt in a measuring cup. Add about another 1/3 cup of the warm milk and mix thoroughly. Then pour this mixture into the warm milk and gently but thoroughly mix it throughout the milk. Pour or ladle the inoculated milk into your mason jars and put the lids on.
Into a clean picnic-size cooler, pour hot tap water that should be at around 110 degrees, more or less. Place the sealed mason jars into the water bath and add hot water (you may have to boil a little) or cold water, whatever is necessary to bring the temperature of the water to about 120 and the level up to the necks of the mason jars. (This extra heat compensates for the loss of heat to the cool jars and wee bit of cold yogurt.) Cover and let sit undisturbed for eight hours.
Once the eight hours is up, transfer the mason jars to the refrigerator and let them cool thoroughly. And that’s it!
Some of the recipes said that the longer you let them sit in the warm environment, the tangier it will be. This method produced yogurt almost completely free of tang, so I think next time I’ll try letting it sit a bit longer. I will also try it with raw milk, but in that case won’t bring it to 185 as it’s not necessary (to be explained in a later post). I’ll just bring it to 110 and refrain from killing off all the good bacteria that we look for in raw milk.
My wonderful cooler is a mid-century beauty we inherited from Dave’s parents:
And here’s a lovely jar of yogurt: