5 Reasons to Make Your Own Yogurt (+Recipe)

Making your own yogurt is easier than you think and well worth the effort. Here's everything you need to know to get started.
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Making your own yogurt is easier than you think and well worth the effort. Here's everything you need to know to get started.
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I love yogurt. I've eaten and made it all over the Western world: Thick, fresh-made yogurt in the mountains of northern Greece; rich, creamy yogurt from the milk of British Jersey cows; and delicious yogurt on a farm in southern France. So this week, in celebration of yogurt, I thought I'd share some simple instructions for making your own. Now, you may be thinking, "Why would I make yogurt when I can buy it just about anywhere?"

5 Reasons to Make Your Own Yogurt

1. For starters, it's easy to do. 2. It's fun! 3. Making your own is generally cheaper than buying good yogurt at the store. 4. You also have control over exactly what ingredients are in it (no gums, stabilizers, fillers, sugary syrups). 5. But most important, you can be sure that the bacterial cultures in your homemade yogurt are alive and well and ready to contribute to the health of your intestinal tract. Research has shown that consuming yogurt with active cultures may help with certain gastrointestinal problems such as lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, H. pylori (the bacteria believed to cause ulcers), and most interesting, colon cancer. There's even some evidence that live cultures may boost the immune system.

Everything You Need to Make Your Own Yogurt

Now that you're excited to make your own yogurt, here are a few key steps and ingredients.

Good-quality organic milk.

Conventional milk comes from cows that are given regular doses of antibiotics to prevent disease and stimulate growth and milk production. Traces of those antibiotics are generally present in the milk and make it difficult, if not impossible, for your yogurt cultures to take hold and multiply.

Starter yogurt.

OK, it might seem odd to start your own yogurt with store-bought yogurt, but in my experience, this is the best way get the good-quality cultures you need. (It is possible to buy dried starter cultures, but I've found them unreliable.) And after this one time, you can use your own yogurt as a starter for future batches. You'll want plain organic yogurt that specifies that it contains live cultures. Go to a health-food store for this. Yogurt sold in regular grocery stores often contain artificial colors, sweeteners, gums, and artificial thickeners, which may interfere with your yogurt culture.

Impeccably clean jars and equipment.

The next step is to make sure that your jars and any equipment you'll be using to make your yogurt is impeccably clean! This means washing with hot, hot water and soap. You want only healthy bacteria growing in your yogurt, and nothing else!

Heat source.

Only other thing you'll need is a heat source that can maintain temperatures between 95° and 105° over a number of hours. This can be an oven that can be set on a low setting (mine can be set at 100°) or a heating pad covered with a towel and set on medium. I once cultured milk for yogurt in England by putting the jars in socks and sticking them next to a heater!

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Makes 1 quart 1 quart organic milk ¼ cup nonfat dry milk ½ cup plain organic yogurt with live cultures Heat the milk over a low heat until it reaches 185°F, about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the nonfat dry milk. Allow the milk to cool to 110°F, about 20-30 minutes, then whisk in the yogurt. Pour this into your cleaned jars and place somewhere where it can incubate at temps between 95° and 105° for an extended period of time. Basically, you let it stew until it is no longer runny and has become like, well, yogurt. Depending upon the strength of the culture in your starter yogurt, this may happen in anywhere from 3-8 hours! The longer the yogurt incubates, the more tart it becomes. When your yogurt is firm, put in in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before eating. Then, dig in! You can eat it plain, add chives and sea salt and add it to baked potatoes. Mix in fresh fruit. Add vanilla and honey process in your ice cream maker for a frozen yogurt treat. The possibilities are endless! Just make sure that you save some for your next batch!