I love being in the kitchen, cooking something from scratch. As far back as scratch will go. My friends find it curious as to why I like to make my own butter, especially given the effort to produce it.

Homemade yogurt is truly a treasure once you get the hang of it. Honestly, yogurt has been one of those unusual recipes that took me a long time to hack. My first yogurt attempt in my early 20’s went just fine. A little runny maybe, but okay otherwise.

The second and third and fourth times it was always a disaster. I knew I was missing something. I recently bought a box with a powdered starter and was anxious to try. I had been making Keifer, but having to use a new starter each time didn’t feel very cyclical to me. I wanted something I could re-feed, like my sourdough. 

I attempt the directions on the yogurt box and my head is stumped on the word “incubate”. There’s no specified temperature or further information. Flummoxed, I google for the information and fall short. All the blogs just say “incubate”. 

Somehow, a magical yogurt dimension opened up in the wormhole of my web browser and I ascended on the ultimate secret hack of yogurt interviews.

After reading this blog I had all the tools I needed to make yogurt. Not only make yogurt but to understand yogurt. How to manipulate it into exactly the result I want. 

It’s a lot easier than any other recipe I have used, and if you just follow the directions, you’ll be golden!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs Yogurt, with probiotics in it
  • 1 liter/ 1 quart of Whole milk
  • ⅛ – ¼ cup Heavy cream, optional

Tools Needed:

  • Thermometer
  • An incubator of sorts (see explanation below)

Directions:

  • In a small pot bring your milk and heavy cream to a boil at 180℉. The key here is to slowly bring your milk to a boil. This helps keep your yogurt smooth and creamy. Bringing the milk to a boil quickly will make your finished product grainy and gritty.
  • Once the milk reaches 180℉ remove the pot from heat and cool to 115℉. 
  • At 115℉ you can add your tablespoon of yogurt. I like to use a small bowl and thin out the yogurt with the cooled milk and then add it into the big milk pot. This temperature of 115℉ is important because it is cool enough that your good gut probiotics and cultures survive, but warm enough to turn into yogurt.
  • Place your milk mixture into a quart-sized mason jar, I like to give it an extra shake for good luck. Put that love into an incubator at:
    • 115℉ for 3-4 hours
      • This is risky because if the temperature goes above 115℉ at all it could curdle and become a mess.
    • 110℉ for 5-8 hours
      • I use this option every time. I pull mine out at 6 hours and always get thick, and creamy yogurt that tastes sweet. Its a forgivable temperature and the long time to incubate allows you to forget and do other things.
    • 100℉ for 8-12 hours
      • This method is very forgiving, but results will be a runnier yogurt. If you like that, use this temp/time. I personally prefer thicker yogurt 🙂

Incubator Options:

It would be a rare gift if you have a proofer or some perfect food incubator for this project. From my bakery, I kept a mini proofer and that is what I use to incubate my yogurt (and my bread!).

Here are some homemade options and quirky things I’ve done in the past for a proofer/ incubator. Keep in mind… test your method FIRST to make sure it’s temperature-controlled enough. If your incubator can rise or fall dramatically in temperature it could mean no yogurt for you. In your testing, use a jar filled with water and periodically check the temperature inside the jar. TEST FIRST! Okay, done demanding.

  • Bed Incubator: used often for bread making growing up. Place your container under the comforter of your bed. 
    • Not warm enough? Consider a heating pad near your jar, not on it. 
  • Heating pad in a box incubator: in a Tupperware place a heating pad at the bottom, layer on a thick or folded towel, then place your yogurt jar on top. Close the lid to create a controlled environment.
  • Oven incubator: Some ovens won’t go this low… but if yours does, yay! 
  • Use your imagination! You will probably come up with the best solution for your own home. Be creative, and remember, don’t cry over milk!