Updated: October 21, 2011 with more yogurt cultures including Kosher and vegan options.
I adore yogurt. It is great to marinade meat with like in my tandoori chicken or just as an easy and quick snack. I even use homemade yogurt in place of sour cream in recipes or to make creamy soups. Buying yogurt in the grocery store can be expensive especially when you have multiple members of the family who all enjoy yogurt on a daily basis.
To combat the cost of organic yogurt, I make my own. I do not use a specialized yogurt maker because I don’t need any more clutter in my kitchen especially when I can make yogurt with supplies that I already have in my kitchen. It is really easy to do. The basic premise is to heat the milk to kill any other bacteria, bring the temperature down to a good incubation temperature, add the culture, and hold the temperature until the reaction is complete. The other nice thing about yogurt is that you can take your homemade yogurt and keep making new yogurt from the supply that you already have so there is no need to keep buying new cultures.
There are many different cultures that you can use to make yogurt. I started my yogurt with a container of store bought organic Greek yogurt that contained active live cultures (you must start with active live cultures) that contained Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Streptococcus thermophiles. You can also purchase cultures from an on-line vendor. Different cultures will give you different flavors of yogurt. Listed below are some different yogurt cultures with links of where to buy them:
1. Traditional Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: This yogurt tastes similar to the yogurts found in the grocery store with a firm texture contains Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifdobacterium longum, Bifdobacterium infanti.
2. Mild Flavor Yogurt for Yogurt Makers from Cultures for Health: mild with a heavy body contains Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus
3. Greek Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: thick, rich, and slightly tangy contains L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus
4. Bulgarian Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: rich and creamy contains L. Bulgaricum, S. Thermophilus
5. Viili Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: This unique yogurt can be made at room temperature making this one of the easiest yogurts to culture. This is a very thick and mild yogurt containing Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris.
6. Piima Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: Another yogurt that can be made at room temperature! I wish these yogurt starters were available when I started making yogurt. This would have made the culturing process so much easier. This is very thin yogurt that can be used as a beverage contains S. lactis var. bollandicus and S. taette.
7. Matsoni Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: Yet another room temperature yogurt. This is thick and tart yogurt containing L. lactis subsp. Cremoris and Acetobacter orientalis.
8. Filmjolk Yogurt Starter from Cultures for Health: Cultured at room temperature this yogurt does not have a sour flavor instead this soft custard style yogurt has cheesey flavor containing Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides
9. Bulgarian yogurt from New England Cheesemaking: rich, creamy, and tangy contains Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus
10. Tangy yogurt from New England Cheesemaking: tangy yogurt that contains Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Streptococcus lactis
11. Sweet yogurt from New England Cheesemaking: creamy, rich, and sweet yogurt that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, Steptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus delbrueckii
12. ABY 612 from Dairy Connection: full flavor and medium body containing Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis
13. ABY-2C from Dairy Connection: mild flavor and thick body yogurt containing Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis
14. Yoghurt Type I from Glengarry Cheesemaking in Canada: contains Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactococcus bulgaricus
15. Yogurt Type IV from Glengarry Cheesemaking in Canada: Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactococcus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus
1. Kosher Yogurt Starter Traditional Flavor from Cultures for Health: This is the first company that I have seen that offers Kosher yogurt starters. This yogurt starter is tangy with a texture similar to grocery store yogurt contains Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilu and Bifidobacterium lactis.
2. Kosher Yogurt Starter Mild Flavor from Cultures for Health: Mild flavor with a thick consistency contains Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilu and Bifidobacterium lactis.
There are also some dairy free options available for people who lactose intolerant. Dairy Connection sells a vegetal dairy-free yogurt culture that has a mild flavor and smooth texture that can be made with soy or rice milk. The culture contains Bifidobacterium bifidum , Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Streptococcus thermophiles, and Rice maltodextrin. Cultures for Health has also started carring a vegan yogurt starter culture with a mild flavor and smooth texture contains Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Streptococcus thermophilus. To make dairy free yogurt, follow the same procedure outlined in the rest of this post substituting your dairy free culture for the yogurt culture and rice or soy milk in place of dairy milk.
The concept of making yogurt is simple just heat the milk to 185⁰F to kill any other competing bacteria in your milk, add the Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Streptococcus thermophiles (and possibly other bacteria depending upon your started culture) and hold the temperature at 110⁰F for 6 to 8 hours. This sounds simple enough.
1. Heat the milk to 185⁰F in a double boiler or in a heat proof bowl that snugly fits on top of pot of simmering water.
2. Remove the milk from the heat and let it cool to 105⁰-122⁰F. Placing your culture in milk that is too hot will kill the culture and milk that is too cool will not allow the reaction to occur.
3. Stir in the culture and place the yogurt into a glass container that has a tight fitting lid (I use pyrex dishes but I know others who use baby food jars). For store bought yogurt or homemade yogurt add ½ cup yogurt per 1 gallon of milk. If you are using cultures purchased from a cheese making supplier then follow the package instructions.
4. Incubate the yogurt for 6-8 hours.
However, holding a constant temperature in a kitchen without an incubator can be a challenge. Richard Helweg gives several ideas on how to hold yogurt temperature steady in the book,The Complete Guide to Making Cheese, Butter, and Yogurt at Home: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply. He recommends:
“1. If you have a slow cooker with a “warm” setting, you can fill it with water and set your jars of yogurt in a slow cooker. Be sure to keep a close eye on the temperature of the water.
2. You can fill a cooler with water and place your jars or yogurt in the water at the preferred temperature. Make sure the cooler stays closed for the required time to incubate. You can provide additional insulation by placing a towel over the cooler.
3. You can wrap the jars in a personal heating pad. Again, check the temperature of the pad to make sure it does not get too hot.
4. You can pour yogurt into a thermos. The best kind of thermos for this operation is one with a wide mouth; a small mouthed thermos can be problematic when it comes to removing thickened yogurt.
5. Preheat your oven to 150⁰ or its lowest possible setting, then turn it off. Use an oven thermometer to monitor its temperature. Place your yogurt in the oven after it has reached 120⁰. You can turn your oven on and off to keep it at the ideal temperature. Watch it closely.
6. If you have a home appliance that runs hot or produces a good deal of heat, you can wrap your jar in a towel and place it on the appliance. People have been known to incubate their yogurt on televisions, personal computers, and audio equipment. This works, but it is not recommended.
7. If you live in a warm climate, you can simply wrap your jar of yogurt in a towel and put it in a warm part of the house.” pp94-5
The trick is to keep the temperature of your yogurt between 98⁰ and 130⁰F. I have tried the crockpot method written above, but my “warm” setting was too hot. My solution was to turn the crockpot on low for 15 minutes. Then I turn the crockpot off and wrap in a towel and place it in a warm oven (preheated the oven to the lowest setting then turned it off and let it cool for 10 minutes before placing the yogurt in the oven). This method seems to give me the best results. You will have to play with the settings in your own home to come up with a solution that works best for you.
To stop the reaction, place your yogurt in the refrigerator. You can now flavor your yogurt with anything that you want. I like to add fruit and honey or fruit and maple syrup to mine. To make a Greek yogurt:
1. Line a mesh strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth.
2. Place the fresh yogurt in the strainer over a bowl.
3. Place the strainer and yogurt in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.
4. Remove the yogurt from the cheese cloth and place in clean bowls and cover until ready to use. The whey can be used in bread recipes in place of water.
If your yogurt does not turn out correctly or tastes bad, thenRichard Helweg gives the following troubleshooting tips:
“If your yogurt is too thin after six to eight hours of incubation:
You may have allowed your milk to cool too much before you added your starter. Try to add starter when the milk temperature is between 105⁰ and 120⁰.
You may not have kept your yogurt warm enough during the six to eight-hour incubation period. Remember, yogurt will not ripen at temperatures below 98⁰.
If you used farm-fresh milk, there may have been antibiotics present in the milk that killed the starter. If you use farm-fresh milk, let it sit in your refrigerator for at least 48 hours before you use it to make yogurt.
You may have used a weak starter. If you use yogurt as a starter, make sure it is as fresh as possible. If you use store-bought yogurt, check the expiration date. Also, it is good to date the yogurt you make and keep in your refrigerator so you know that you are using the freshest possible starter.
You may not have properly rinsed your equipment before making yogurt. Detergent can have an ill effect on the starter, not to mention give it is a bad taste.
If you have cultured yogurt after the six- to eight-hour incubation period:
You may have heated the milk too high before adding your starter.
Your milk may have been too hot when you added your starter.
If your yogurt has a bad taste:
You may have scorched the milk while heating it. If you do not use a double boiler, be sure that you constantly stir the milk and monitor its temperature.
The jars or containers that you incubate your yogurt in may not have been clean. It is vital that everything is clean and free of detergent.
You may have allowed your yogurt to incubator too long. The long incubation period will give your yogurt a tart flavor. Six to eight hours is usually a long enough period to incubate yogurt.
Your milk, milk powder, or starter may have been spoiled. Make sure everything you use is fresh.” p 96
Now that you have homemade yogurt you can use it marinade chicken, make cheesecake, top it on chili, or eat it as a snack. The Balkans claim that many of their people live to be over 100 due to a diet based largely on yogurt (Toussaint-Samat, 2009, p108). Perhaps it is time that you took up this healthy food.
Helweg, R. (2010). The Complete Guide to Making Cheese, Butter, and Yogurt at Home: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply. Olcala, FL: Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
Toussaint-Samat, M. (2009). A History of Food. United Kingdom: Blackwell Publisher.
This post was submitted to Simple Lives Thursday.
Note: I do get a very small commission if you buy from Cultures for Health. I signed up to be a promoter of thier products because I love the breath of their products, and their quality.