Thursday, February 19, 2009

You don't have to be a hippie to make your own yogurt

Yogurt is a favorite at our house, so it made my list of frequent purchases. It also made my list of extremely expensive organic food. I loved the yogurt we were buying It was made only a few miles away and was creamy and delicious. But it was crazy expensive. There had to be another way. I remember my own mother making yogurt when I was a child. It was sour and covered with a layer of clear liquid that I was sure would kill you. I hated it on principle. But yogurt makers have come a long way. They are relatively inexpensive (about $35) and very simple to use.

I got my yogurt maker online. It makes 7 six ounce jars of yogurt at a time. This is perfect for us because it is kid size and it keeps me from over doing it with my portions. All you need to start making yogurt is some good organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized and a small container of plain yogurt. I was surprised to discover how simple it is to make. The first step is to bring the appropriate amount of milk to room temperature. Next you separate out a cup or two of it and mix that with 6 oz of plain yogurt. Then you blend in any fruit or sweeteners you would like to use and put the whole mess back together. The only thing left to do is fill you jars and turn on the yogurt maker. Easy, huh? Takes about five minutes.

After you’ve made your first batch you can use your own yogurt as your starter culture, but you can’t do that with the next generation. I’m not sure why, but my yogurt maker directions were adamant about it and I haven’t challenged them. I simply buy a small container of plain yogurt for every other batch. There are yogurt cultures for sale at health food stores and online. You can buy them if it makes you happy, but you certainly don’t need them.

Maple syrup and agave necter both work very well as sweeteners. Any sweetener that will dissolve in liquid will work. My favorite flavor (and one the kids like too) uses maple syrup and vanilla extract. We’ve also had success adding maple syrup and applesauce. I make a less fattening yogurt by using nonfat milk and sweetening with stevia. The possibilities are endless and the yogurt is divine. Easily as good as the yogurt I was paying $5.95/quart for! I haven’t done the math, but I’d wager I’m saving at least half of that by making my own.

It takes 8-12 hours for the yogurt to be ready and then it needs to cool, so you do need to plan ahead. I purchased an extra set of jars for my yogurt maker so that I always have plenty of yogurt ready to go. We tend to eat it as fast as I make it, but I can attest to the yogurt keeping for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

If you’re making yogurt too, I’d love to hear your recipes! I’m not sure how frozen yogurt works. I’m going to study the directions for my ice cream maker and find out how to make the frozen version. If I meet with some success, I’ll let you know.


  1. I made my first batch of yogurt. It is very sour, kind of like the greek yogurt you buy in the store. I used 1% milk and flavored it with ~2 TBSP maple syrup and 1 TBSP vanilla. Any suggestions for sweetening up and souring down this recipe for 42 oz of yogurt? I probably need more syrup and vanilla and less "cook" time. Colynn

  2. You're right you need more sweetener. You need about 5 tablespoons if you're sweetening with maple syrup or agave nectar, which both dissolve well in liquids. I like to use Stevia - about 1/4 teaspoon or more, or 6 squirts of the liquid dropper. If you like your yogurt more firm, increase the cook time. As far as vanilla, I only use about 1 teaspoon for a 42 oz batch. Hope this helps.