I’ve been eating a lot of yogurt – specifically Greek – recently and had the thought of making my own. It’s easy, said the recipes I read online and in my cookbook. It’s satisfying, thrifty and domestic-goddess-like, said my head. So, off I went.
There are lots of different ways to make yogurt. With a yogurt maker like the EasyYo you can start with water, but you need bespoke powders. That’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to make Greek-style yogurt using only what I could find in the supermarket and tools I have at home. I have a sous vide (‘water oven’) but I assume the first makers of yogurt didn’t (and not all of them lived in a warm climate. My ancestors cultured milk and it get very cold in the north of Sweden*). So I don’t want to use a new-fangled tool. Nor do I want to buy a specific yogurt maker, a machine that heats a batch or a number of jars while the yogurt does its thing. Not yet, anyway.
If at first you don’t quite succeed…
My first attempt use a recipe I found online: How to make yoghurt at home in 5 easy steps. It really is easy: pick a starter, heat milk, cool milk, mix with starter, keep warm and let sit for up to eight hours to coagulate.
Starting with goat
I used 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt and 1 litre full-fat goat milk to make my first batch. It is easy, but it takes time. Heating the milk up is no problem: it’s cooling it down again that’s tedious. I recommend dunking the saucepan into a basin of cold water – it speeds up the cooling a lot!
After whisking in the starter, I put the milk in a yoghurt container and wrapped it in towels and bubble-wrap, then left it on the side in the kitchen overnight. The result was mild in flavour and long in texture.
Long, you say, what do I mean? Think jelly – if I dipped a spoon in it, a long string of yogurt would stick to it. It reminded me of an ancient Swedish cultured milk called ‘långfil’. (Translation: long soured milk. Behold the glory on YouTube.) I like the flavour of goat products and love how clean and white they are. It was tasty, but not quite what I’d wanted.
For my second experiment, I did the same thing using 1 litre soy milk (3% protein) with 2 tablespoons soy yogurt for the starter. I put the container in 40 degree water and wrapped the whole shebang in towels. It yielded a somewhat thin and mild result. Not bad, not great. Not something I cared to try again.
I wanted something thick. I returned to my books and decided to add milk powder to the milk to add protein and thus thickness. I also thought I needed a different way to keep the yogurt warm while it coagulates.
I believe one of the problems is that I don’t have a yogurt-maker or even a thermos but have instead kept the yogurt warm using whatever is at hand. I think it cools too quickly.
- 1 litre Graham's Jersey Gold milk, or similar, full-fat milk
- 25 grams skimmed milk powder
- 2 teaspoons yogurt
- In a saucepan, heat the milk to lukewarm and stir in the milk powder.
- Bring up to 90°C (almost a boil) stirring constantly so the powder doesn't catch on the bottom.
- Take the milk off the hob and let cool to about 42°C (or when you can comfortably keep a - clean - finger submerged for 10 seconds).
- Whisk in the starter yogurt.
- Pour the cultured milk into a clean container (ideally earthenware or glass) and keep somewhere warm-ish for 8-12 hours. The ideal temp is 40°C.
My third batch used 1 litre Jersey Gold milk, 25 grams skimmed milk powder and two teaspoons Greek yoghurt as a starter. I put the milk in a glass container, wrapped it in the fibre insulation from my AllPlants delivery and put it in the boiler cupboard which is a little warmer than the kitchen. 11 hours later I had a litre of thick, creamy yogurt with a pleasant, light flavour. It’s still a tiny bit long in structure, but it’s a huge improvement on my previous attempts.
Once you’ve worked out the kinks, making yogurt is really easy, and it is cheaper than buying yogurt. It’s satisfying to make your own but it is also a faff. If I had cows, it’d make more sense to me – fresher milk, better outcome – but since I don’t, I have to go to the shop and get the ingredients. From a cost perspective, it makes sense:
- 1 kg Greek yogurt £3.50 and gives me 5 servings of yogurt.
- 1 kg home-made yogurt takes 1 litre milk (£1.00) and 25 grams milk powder (£0.15) and also gives me 5 servings of yogurt.
Making your own is cheaper (not counting electricity or time). I’ve had fun, making yogurt, but I prefer the bought kind. I’ll make more but I’m not going to become a dedicated, life-long yogurt-maker.
* I looked that up. Filmjölk – not the long version but the standard Swedish cultured breakfast milk – is made with milk cooled to about 20C and is fermented for 20 hours at room temperature.