Yogurt is one of my favorite foods- great source of calcium and protein, lots of good healthy bacteria for healthy digestion, and a much better fuel for starting your day than a lot of other breakfast foods (i.e. cereal, bagels, etc).

When I was visiting my parents last weekend, I remembered that my mom used to make yogurt for us as kids. That was back when I thought plain yogurt was gross- too tart and flavorless. Oh, 10 year old Amy..... how little you knew. I ADORE plain yogurt now. You can add jam, fruit, granola, honey, etc, and you get to control the ingredient list, thereby controlling the sugar content. Plus you get that nice tart flavor that I hated as a 10 year old, but can't get enough of now.

So when I remembered that my mom at one time owned a yogurt maker, I asked her if she still had it. After a little digging, she pulled it out, complete with owners manual! Hooray!

I was SO excited to start whipping up a batch. After getting all my ingredients, I started my first batch. The instruction manual had this recipe:

4 c milk
2 T powdered milk
1/4 plain yogurt (which acts as the bacterial starter)

I bought some greek yogurt and 1% milk for the first batch. I didn't want to bother with the powdered milk because it's kinda weird to me, and I figure it's just a thickening agent.

The instructions tell you to heat the milk to 110 degrees and then cool it before adding the yogurt. I turned the milk on in a pan and then started washing some dishes. Oops! When I came back it was definitely too hot. I took it off the burner to cool and then finished my dishes. Sarah and Deb came over just then, and as I added my yogurt starter and began stirring, Sarah observed that is smelled like burned milk in my house. I looked at the bottom of the pot and, double oops, I had actually burned the milk. The bottom of the pot was nicely charred.

Yogurt attempt #1: SINK.

So that batch went down the drain. There goes a quart of milk and most of my yogurt starter. Determined, I scoured the pot and started from square one. I poured more milk in (only used 2 cups since I only had enough yogurt left for a half batch) and began heating it, determined to keep an eye on it this time. Started talking to Deb and Sarah. The milk got pretty warm, but not burned, and I let it cool, then added the rest of my yogurt, stirred, poured it into the pre-warmed yogurt maker, and let it do its thing.

The instructions in the owner's manual said to leave it in for 4-10 hours, depending on desired tartness. SIX HOURS!? That's a HUGE time variation. I was glad Sarah was there. I explained the time variation to her and said "how am I supposed to know how tart I want it!? I just want it normal tartness. Like, as tart as yogurt normally is!" She talked me off a cliff and suggested I try 6 hours, which is a good middle ground. This meant that I had to get up at 1:30 to turn it off. So I sent my alarm, stumbled out of bed later that night, unplugged the yogurt maker, and threw it in the fridge. I woke up the next morning, excited to eat my yogurt for breakfast, and saw that I had this:

Yogurt attempt #2: SINK (I know it's hard to tell, but this is a bowl of MILK!)

I have no idea what happened. Sarah suggested that milk may have still been too hot, which killed the bacteria. Well....that went down the drain too. By now I was pretty disappointed, still determined, and out of ingredients. A couple nights later, I swung by the store to pick up fresh ingredents and start attempt number 3. This time I got 2% milk (maybe it would help with thickness?) and regular organic yogurt instead of greek.

I heated the milk this time, trying to feel the temperature with my finger as I went. I was determined not to over-heat the milk. (I really need to buy a cooking thermometer.) I knew from my coffee shop days that milk in a latte shouldn't be heated past 160 or 180 (I can't remember which), so I knew that in order to get to 110 it had to be significantly cooler than a cup of Starbucks. I tried to think baby-bottle warm. The milk has to be warm enough to FEED the bacteria, not scald it. Think night-time, sleep-inducing warm milk.

Once the milk felt right(ish), I added my yogurt starter. This time I tried a ratio my friend Sarah Mones (who makes yogurt for her baby Eli!) suggested via facebook: 3 c milk/ 2 T yogurt. I used probably closer to 3 T, because I was afraid I wouldn't get enough bacteria in there to start with. Put it in the yogurt maker for 8 hours this time, and woke up the next morning to PERFECT YOGURT! (Which I unfortunately, in my excitement, forgot to take a picture of.)

Attempt #3: SWIM!

It was SO yummy. Seriously. I didn't need to add ANYTHING to it. I could have sat down with a spoon and eaten the entire thing right then. Unfortunately it was still hot, so I couldn't have any for breakfast, but the next day I had some for breakfast, and I couldn't get enough.

I'm going to keep experimenting with it to try to make it even thicker (like greek yogurt), but the good thing is now that I have my own starter, all I really need is milk. How cheap is that??? I can make it every weekend and have my week's worth of breakfast for the cost of a half gallon of milk. Woo hoo!

I made some blueberry compote to go with (you know how much I <3>
Here's some photos of my end product. Hopefully I can keep you updated as the process continues. I'm excited to have my homemade yogurt for breakfasts.

I really thought it was SO much better than store-bought yogurt. I asked Deb to sample it and tell me if it really was better than the store brand or if it just tasted that way to me because I made it. She said it tasted the same as store-bought to her. So take that for what you will. At least it wasn't WORSE than store brand. And if you do choose to make your own yogurt, you too might think it tastes better because you made it with your own blood, sweat, and tears. =)


Amy said...

Testing, 123?

sarah beth hawk said...

yay, working now! i must say that i am very intrigued by this information that you have shared and i have a few questions.
a). where does one purchase a yogurt maker
b). what does a yogurt maker look like?
c). i do not like yogurt that tastes like sour cream (most greek yogurts), would i like this?
d). can you flavor it in the maker (vanilla bean or honey)?

Amy said...

Well, I'm pretty sure you can get a yogurt maker from Amazon. Mine looks like this- http://www.amazon.com/Yogourmet-104-Electric-Yogurt-Maker/dp/B000N25AGO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1268103756&sr=8-3

The yogurt goes in the inside part and then the inside part goes in the outer part, which warms it.

My yogurt is about the thickness of normal yogurt (non-greek). I don't think it tastes like sour cream, but I guess you'd have to try it. It is tart??? That's the best way I know to explain it.

You can't flavor it in the yogurt maker, but you can flavor it after you've made it by adding fruit, honey, vanilla, or anything you want. If you were to just add it in to the whole tub and stir, you'd be set.

You should try it- it's SO yummy and healthy!

sarah beth hawk said...

fantastic! thanks!

Greggy-D said...

Way to be Amy! :-)

I've made yogurt a few different ways but both involved my crockpot. Nary a yogurt maker in sight. Powdered milk is added for the extra protein and does help it to thicken as you mention. Sometimes even gelatin is used.

I've tried both of these, but I prefer Alton's method. (Using a heating pad as the warmer) Also the recipe just tasted amazing!

Alton Brown's Recipe:

Stephanie O'Dea's recipe: