How yogurt saves us $416 per year

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:


  1. says

    Lonnie and Dave,

    If you can find raw milk you will be amazed. I used to buy raw milk from Twin Oaks in Truxton but Kathie stopped selling it. Her insurance company would no longer write the policy. (Big Brother found another way to stop us from choosing our food!)

    Kathie’s farm was immaculate and I trusted her and the cows to be safe. However, the problem with raw milk bacteria is not the milk but the environment in which the milk is gathered. Clean udders and barn = great milk. So be careful and visit the dairy. If you aren’t comfortable with the cleanliness of the facility walk away.

    If you are comfortable be prepared for the treat of your life. Raw milk tastes incredibly better…and I lost 12 pounds in three months to which I credit the good bacteria in the raw milk. Plus, I just felt better physically. I was also amazed that my 2 gallons of raw milk could last up to two weeks in the fridge…though rarely was any left after one week.

    If you are using raw milk for yogurt you will find that heating to 165f and cooling to 115f will give you a better set. I never got it to set properly at lower temps.

    Good luck!


  2. says

    Dave (ya can’t have too many Daves!), you’re absolutely right about the taste of raw milk. Sadly, my source, too, dried up. Literally. This summer’s drought got the better of the cows and the farmer felt he couldn’t sell so much because the calves needed it. It will come back, and then I’m going to start enjoying drinking it again.

  3. Lonne says

    It’s 2014 and for over a year I’ve been making raw milk yogurt 4 gallons at a time. I can do this because I bought a twin of that cooler on eBay and I do two 45-minute marathon sessions to get it all done. Then we have about a month’s worth of delicious yogurt sitting in the fridge. We eat it every morning and could never go back to the commercial stuff. With the raw milk yogurt, you want to bring it carefully just up to but not beyond 110 degrees before inoculating it and setting it in its water bath of 110 degrees. Otherwise you might as well not bother with raw, and lose out on the extra friendly bacteria that raw provides. Because I use mason jars, they do actually seal themselves but of course I keep them in the fridge and they last beautifully. Since we have to drive about 40 minutes round trip to get our raw milk, “storing” it this way means we don’t have to make that trip very often.

  4. Frank HD says

    Just checked back in and saw that you blogged on where to get raw milk back on March 29th. Not sure why I didn’t see it before, but glad I looked!

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