All you need is a dollop of yogurt starter and milk to create and enjoy creamy Homemade Yogurt all the time.
I have been having constipation on regular basis and eating Napa Cabbage Kimchi has been a great way to significantly improve my bowel movement. However, making kimchi can be pretty strenuous from all of the chopping and waiting. I am thinking to go back and forth eating kimchi with other probiotic foods, such as yogurt.
Considering I usually eat a lot of yogurt in one sitting, it can get very expensive. The best solution I have is to make my own yogurt at home. The great news is that making Homemade Yogurt is incredibly easy and simple. Homemade Yogurt is one of the best and easiest ways to eat probiotics to keep your gut happy and healthy. After eating yogurt with muesli for breakfast for a few days, the result has been tremendously great to my body, especially for my digestion.
Benefits of Eating Yogurt
Yogurt has been consumed for hundreds of years. It is very nutritious and eating it regularly may boost several aspects of your health. For sure, yogurt is the best source of probiotics, which are friendly bacteria that can improve your digestion and gut health. In fact, research suggests that probiotics in yogurt can reduce the risk of colon cancer, improve immune system function, and aid in alleviating constipation. Yogurt is also rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin. The protein can help you feel full longer and eat fewer calories. Meanwhile, the calcium can boost your bone health and ward off osteoporosis.
Why You Should Make Homemade Yogurt
You might be asking why you should start making yogurt. The best answer is because it is incredibly easy. If that is not enough to convince you, let me tell you some benefits of making yogurt at home.
1. Making yogurt is easy
Making yogurt is one of the easiest fermenting foods in your own kitchen. It only needs 2 ingredients; a dollop of yogurt starter and milk. With those ingredients, you can keep enjoying Homemade Yogurt for the long run. To produce yogurt, milk is heated, allowed to cool, mixed with yogurt starter, and maintained the warm environment to allow fermentation to occur. As long as you have a saucepan, you can make yogurt at home.
If you start eating yogurt routinely like me, buying commercial yogurt on regular basis can take a toll on your wallet. So, when I learned that I could make yogurt at home, I immediately did the quick math in my mind. For 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt and a quart of milk, you can gain about a quart of yogurt. After that, you just need more milk to make more yogurt because you can use the starter from the previous Homemade Yogurt.
Personally, I feel that Homemade Yogurt is about on par with average store-bought yogurt in both taste and quality. Lots of commercial yogurts have added ingredients such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, and artificial dyes. The next time you are in the dairy section of your grocery store, read the labels of the various commercial yogurts before purchasing. All these ingredients are not exactly good for your body. Fortunately, you can make Homemade Yogurt to control what goes into it.
Another reason to make Homemade Yogurt is because commercial yogurts do not have fresh active bacteria after sitting on the store shelves for days. That is because some bacteria grow and feed on the lactose in milk to process into yogurt. Eventually, as nutrients run out, the friendly bacteria would stop growing or even die.
Homemade Yogurt means the yogurt is made with natural ingredients with no gum, no coloring, no thickener, and no preservatives. In addition, you can choose what type and brand of milk you start with, which yogurt cultures, and store-bought yogurt to use as a starter. My suggestion is to start by making plain yogurt without sugar because it is healthier. You can also decide if you want to use it for sweet or savory purposes.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt
Making your own yogurt at home is relatively easy as long as you follow these steps:
1. Choose a yogurt starter and milk
Before we dig into the actual how-to make Homemade Yogurt, I want to talk a bit about the two ingredients you will need; milk and yogurt starter.
Milk: For the milk, I recommend using fresh whole full cream milk because it will make the thickest, creamiest yogurt. The greater the fat content in the milk, the thicker the yogurt. Pasteurized fresh milk is the best for making yogurt. You can make yogurt with UHT milk, but it makes thinner and blander yogurt in general because it is ultra-pasteurized and that process usually breaks down the proteins that the lactic bacteria needs in order to produce a nice thick yogurt. I do not recommend using raw milk because this type of milk is not heated and contains its own set of original microorganisms. Therefore, it is unsafe to consume and difficult to culture.
Starter Culture: For the starter bacteria to get the yogurt making process going, there are two ways of going about this. You can either use store-bought plain yogurt with active cultures or you can use a powdered yogurt starter culture. I usually use store-bought plain yogurt as my yogurt starter because of its availability.
When you are using store-bought plain yogurt, check that it lists “live active yogurt cultures” in the ingredients. Many different bacteria can be found in yogurt, but all yogurts have to contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Pick a plain and unsweetened yogurt you like the taste of because the cultures that evolved in different places gave different microbial communities, which can contribute unique aspects to the flavor.
2. Heat the milk
You need to heat the milk close to boiling up to 180F/82°C until it becomes foamy. The biggest reason to heat milk to almost boiling before fermenting is that it improves the texture of the yogurt. Heating changes the structure of proteins in milk. Skipping this step will make a very profound difference as the yogurt will be thinner and much more fragile. The other reason is to kill any bacteria present and eliminate the competition for the yogurt bacteria. For notes, do not boil the milk because it will change its taste.
3. Cool the milk
Adding your culture to hot milk will kill your bacteria. Once you have heated the milk to 180F/82°C, turn off the heat and let the temperature drop to 110F /43°C. If you do not have a thermometer, simply cool until the pot is warm to the touch but not hot. Do not hurry this step. To cool it faster, take the pot in a basin of cold water or ice water.
4. Add the starter culture
Once the milk’s temperature is warm enough, it is time to add your starter. If using the powdered starter, simply whisk in the amount specified on the packaging. If using store-bought yogurt as a starter, stir together the starter yogurt and a small amount of warm milk, then pour the mixture into the rest of the milk.
How much starter should you use for making yogurt? Too little and too much starter will make runny yogurt. Using too much starter can crowd the bacteria, causing the bacteria to run out of food before the yogurt completely ferments the milk. The result is often a thinner, sometimes a bitter yogurt.
On the left picture below is my first batch of Homemade Yogurt. I made it with 1/4 cup of commercial yogurt for a quart of milk because I wanted to finish the small tube of the starter immediately. The result was pretty thin to my liking, but thankfully it still tasted tasty. Meanwhile, you can see on the right picture that the yogurt is much thicker than the one on the left. It was made with 2 tbsp of starter for a quart of milk. In summary, do not use more starter than recommended. Use no more than 2 tablespoons of yogurt starter for a quart of milk.
Once the culture has been added, it is ready to go to incubate. The yogurt needs to incubate for up to 24 hours in consistent warm temperature. During the incubation period, do not move or jostle the mixture. The reason is moving the yogurt can cause the curd to break, and you will not get a good set properly. How long yogurt needs to incubate depends on some factors, including the incubation temperature, how many active cultures in your starter, and your personal preference.
Firstly, the higher temperatures make faster incubation but do not take it too high because the cultures will die. Secondly, the longer it is incubated, the more lactose is consumed by bacteria, and the tangier the finished yogurt will be. For standard yogurt, set the time to 8-10 hours. If you prefer a milder and thinner yogurt, you can incubate for as little as 5 hours. Meanwhile, incubate up to 12-16 hours for a more tart and thicker yogurt. I love tart yogurt, so I usually incubate my yogurt for 16 hours.
There are many different methods for incubating milk into yogurt. The goal is to keep a constant temperature at 110F /43°C. Below are some methods you can try at home;
- Yogurt Maker: There are dozens of yogurt makers to choose from and they all work the same. The primary difference is the configuration of the containers. Many yogurt makers come with six or eight individual containers or quart size containers. The device will keep the mixture at the correct temperature, and a timer that can be set for the desired yogurt incubation time.
- Oven Light: Switch on the oven light one (do not turn on the oven) and put your pot or jars in with lids on. Close the oven door to hold the warmth in.
- Microwave: Put the pot or jars in the microwave and cover them with towels to help retain heat.
- Thermos: Using thermos is also a great way to keep the mixture warm and safe during incubation. Preheat the inside of the thermos first by pouring hot water into the thermos, then empty the water out of the thermos.
- Cooler: Place your pot or jars in a small cooler, then fill it with warm water to the neck of the pot or jars.
- Blanket: If your kitchen is quite warm, you can wrap the tightly closed jars in a blanket and let them sit on the counter to incubate. The blanket does a good job of keeping the yogurt at a steady warm temperature.
I incubate my yogurt in a thermos-like yogurt maker. I put the milk-starter mixture into a quart-sized canister which then placed into a giant thermos whereby warm water was poured in, screwed on, and then left to ferment.
After fermenting, yogurt may begin to separate into curds (solids) and whey (liquid). If the yogurt you make has a bit of watery liquid at the top, that is the whey. Whey is the yellowish liquid remaining after milk has been curdled. Separation during fermenting is usually an indication of over-culturing or culturing at a too warm temperature.
It may look disgusting, but it is quite nutritious and has the same probiotics that yogurt does. It can be strained off to use in cooking or it can be stirred back into the yogurt.
Once your yogurt is done incubating, refrigerate it immediately to ensure fermentation stops. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving to set. If more whey separates out of the yogurt while it’s in the fridge, just stir the whey back in before serving.
7. Add flavor
I love eating plain unsweetened yogurt because it is healthier. However, if you can simply add honey, jam, flavor extracts, or some fresh fruits to replicate commercial yogurts.
Save Some Homemade Yogurt to Make More Yogurt
The yogurt should last for approximately two weeks, though it will have the best flavor during the first week and will become more tart as it ages. Be sure to save one or two tablespoons of fresh homemade yogurt for your next batch. So, you can re-culture it several times before needing a new starter. It happens when your yogurt becomes thin and excessively sour.
Always keep the yogurt covered. If the yogurt smells or tastes funny, get rid of it immediately because that is a sign of contamination.
Recipes with Homemade Yogurt
Take a look at the recipes below if you don’t know what to do with 1 quart of Homemade Yogurt.
- Mini Chocolate Yogurt Loaf Cakes
- Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberry Jam
- Lemon and Thyme Yogurt Bundt Cake
- Lemon Yogurt Cake with Lemon Simple Syrup