One of my goals in 2014 was to learn how to make homemade yogurt. I tried a variety of heating methods and recipes and had reasonable successes. While all of those first methods worked, and we have really enjoyed the yogurt, I still feel like I haven’t quite “arrived”. 🙂 As I have been learning and testing all the recipe possibilities sous vide (say “sue veed”) cooking can offer, it occurred to me that the super consistent, long-term temperature regulation of this method of cooking would be PERFECT for culturing yogurt. I gave it a try this weekend and I am so excited about the results!
My SousVide Supreme water oven holds whatever temperature I set, for days at a time, and never varies more than one degree Fahrenheit, up or down. Consistency of temperature is so important in culturing yogurt, since having the milk too cool will not encourage the necessary bacterial growth for it to properly culture before the milk spoils; and having it too warm will simply kill the bacteria, and again, the culture is not possible. The optimum temperature of 110 degrees must be consistently held for anywhere from 5 to 12 hours, depending on the thickness and tartness of yogurt that you prefer. My SousVide Supreme accomplished this task without even a blink. The process was so simple, that I have already made a second batch! I can’t see a reason not to continue this money-saving and healthful practice. I’m guessing that you and your budget could benefit from making this tasty treat for your own family, too. So, today, I want to share how to make homemade yogurt with you. I even have some great ideas for different ways to use and serve it!
You only need two ingredients to make yogurt — milk and a live yogurt bacterial culture (starter). You can purchase a starter which can be propogated into perpetuity, after that one purchase, or buy plain yogurt with live bacterial cultures in it (that will be indicated on the label) and use that, instead. You may be able to propogate new yogurt from store-bought yogurt, a few times, but will end up needing to get more, every few batches. It made more sense to me to make the one-time active culture purchase and never have that expense, again. I love Cultures for Health when it comes to these types of products. I have had great success with the milk kefir starter I purchased from them, so I naturally sought them out, again, when looking for healthy, natural and non-GMO yogurt starters. (I think my next self-tutorial may be to use their cheese making products.) I was intrigued to find so many different varieties, but decided on the heirloom Bulgarian Yogurt starter, because of its texture, milder tanginess and the fact that it can be re-cultured, indefinitely, without ever making another purchase.
To get started, I filled up my SousVide Supreme water oven and set the temperature to 110 degrees, so it could heat up while I prepared my first batch of milk for becoming yogurt. I used one quart of milk for my first batch and heated the milk to 180 degrees. This scalds the milk without boiling it. You will want to use medium heat and let it come up to temperature slowly, so it doesn’t scorch. There are two reasons, really, for doing this initial pre-heat of your milk. The first one is to kill any “wild” bacteria that may be in your milk, so your yogurt bacteria isn’t competing for “food” – the natural sugars in your milk. Secondly, it is believed, this higher heat breaks down the lactoglobulin proteins in your milk and allows them to bind with caseins (another protein) to create thicker yogurt. There are varying schools of thought on the necessity of this pre-heat step, but I DO use the higher pre-heat method.
Once the milk reaches 180 degrees, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down to 110 degrees. Once the milk has cooled to 110 degrees, pour it into a glass container for culturing. I love Ball canning jars for this. (Don’t use metal containers or utensils once your culture has been added to the milk. Wooden or plastic spoons work great!)
Open the packet of yogurt starter and use a wooden or plastic spoon to stir it into the 110 degree milk, being sure it is completely dissolved and distributed. Cover the container and place into whatever heat source you will use to keep it at a constant 110 degrees for 5-12 hours. The SousVide Supreme water oven has been the simplest tool for me to be able to accomplish this, though there are various other methods that have been used successfully. I have heard of using the oven (though I have never had one that would go down to 110 degrees). Some say the heat from their oven light is enough. Others have used crockpots (again, I’m wary of the temperature consistency), heating pads, lunch coolers, or even thermoses. I have even used my portable induction cooktop, which worked pretty well, but could only be set for two hours at a time, so I had to keep watch very closely and reset it immediately to keep the temperature up. I have found no other method that is as consistent and simple as my SousVide Supreme. I simply place my covered jar into the water oven, making sure the water height comes up to the shoulder of the jar, but doesn’t go over the threads or lid. Then I put the lid on the sous vide cooker, set the timer and get on with my day. Perfect simplicity!
Once the jar comes out of the water oven, I let it cool on the counter for two hours, then refrigerate for at least six hours. At the end of that time, I have wonderfully creamy yogurt that can be used in smoothies and recipes, as well as just being topped with some fruit and honey for a delicious snack or breakfast. Homemade yogurt will usually not be as thick as commercial brands, because no additives and thickeners are used. If you make your yogurt with one of these commercially thickened yogurts, you may possibly get a thicker result, but it’s not certain. I prefer our yogurt to be natural and creamy, even if it is slightly thinner. Plus, I can strain it through cheesecloth or butter muslin and achieve thick, Greek-style yogurt by allowing the whey to drain off. The whey is great for baking bread or used in smoothies and other recipes, so nothing gets wasted.
This delicious, nutritious, homemade yogurt can be used to make pancakes, yogurt cheese, salad dressings, frozen yogurt pops, smoothies and many other delicious recipes. Tomorrow I’ll share how to make these great energy boosters for your busy mornings — Yogurt Chia Breakfast Pudding! In the meantime, get your own batch of homemade yogurt going. I can make a quart for about $1. I know exactly what’s in it – whole milk and active live yogurt cultures. No gums, preservatives, dyes or artificial anything. I use whole milk, because of the strong health benefits, but you could use 2% or skim if you prefer.
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 packet Bulgarian Yogurt Starter (or ¼ cup of previously homemade Bulgarian yogurt)
- Preheat SousVide Supreme water oven to 110 degrees.
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, slowly bring milk temperature up to 180 degrees. Watch it carefully, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
- When milk reaches 180 degrees, remove it from the heat and cool to 110 degrees.
- Pour cooled milk into a one-quart glass canning jar.
- Stir in the yogurt starter or reserved homemade yogurt. If you are culturing from your own homemade yogurt, be sure that you are making new batches within 7 days, so your yogurt cultures are still strong and active.
- Screw the lid onto the jar, loosely.
- Place jar into water oven, making sure the water level comes up to the shoulder of the jar but does not cover the threads or lid.
- Culture for 5 -12 hours, until tilting the jar will allow the yogurt inside to pull away from the sides of the jar in one solid mass. Longer culturing times result in thicker yogurt and tangier flavor.
- To serve, add favorite sweetners like honey, coconut sugar or real maple syrup. Top with fruit and/or nuts. Use your favorite mix-ins to create great breakfasts and snacks.
- Homemade plain yogurt can be used in recipes calling for plain yogurt, as well.