My toddlers devour yogurt. They always want yogurt. Every meal all day - could be yogurt. I still want my younger child on whole fat yogurt. Finding whole milk yogurt is a struggle! It's usually organic, but still full of sugar AND expensive. I prefer Greek yogurt, but finding full fat Greek yogurt is even more of a challenge, and sometimes even more expensive. Most often we buy this Whole Milk Stonyfield French Vanilla. While it is delicious, and easier to find, we go through two or more containers at week, at a minimum of $4 per container. Even on sale with coupons, I don't believe I've been able to purchase for less than $3.50. I can make it myself for half that or less!
Just over a month ago, I was eyeing the latest Instantpots. I LOVE my Instantpot - I even wrote an entire post about it, but the new ones are pretty fancy. They have a yogurt making function and even a blue tooth option! So I started looking into yogurt making. I was pretty sure I was losing my mind but the blogosphere insisted it was easy, healthy and financially beneficial. So I decided to give it a go....
... It's been quite an adventure, but I have successfully made batches and batches of delicious yogurt., both toddler and husband approved. It is cheaper and I now know exactly what goes into my yogurt. Homemade yogurt has probably been my best DIY project and it IS easy. You can't mess it up - believe me - I've tried. Ok - not really - but I've inadvertently messed up part of just about every batch and I have yet to throw a batch out. I mean just look at that delicious Greek vanilla bean yogurt!
Generally speaking. the yogurt making process is pretty simple. Heat milk to scalding, cool down, add starter yogurt or starter powder, keep warm for 4 to 10 hours. Done. You can add sugar, and flavoring early on, or later. You can heat the milk on a stove, or in a crockpot, or in your Instantpot if you've got one. You can keep the yogurt warm in a yogurt maker, an Instantpot, an oven or even a sealed cooler. To make Greek yogurt, you can take it one step further, and strain the excess whey out of the yogurt.
The very first batch of yogurt I made, I used a yogurt maker. I purchased the Eurocuisine YM80 (affiliate link) through Amazon. It is a best seller and reasonably priced and currently holds an orange Amazon best seller's tag. It comes with seven 6 oz jars so you can make multiple flavors, or for preset servings sizes - just cap when completed. After reading some reviews, and knowing I wanted to make Greek yogurt, I just chose to use a seven-cup pyrex dish in the place of the jars. I mostly make yogurt in the oven. I prefer to make a larger batch than the yogurt maker can hold. However, this means my oven is occupied all day or I have to start a batch before bed and leave it overnight. The yogurt maker does take up counter space, but leaves my oven free.
I also had to purchase a good thermometer, as ours had bit the dust. I got this digital thermometer from Amazon as well (affiliate link). I decided to go with a vanilla bean recipe from The Vintage Mixer. I keep vanilla beans on hand for other dishes, and vanilla extract, but in the past I have purchased them online. I have been using Grade A vanilla beans (affiliate link) from Amazon, but you should be able to find them in a local store, though it typical cost a tad more.
For my starter yogurt, I purchased Liberte yogurt. It's absolutely delicious, but cost far more than I'd like to pay on a regular basis. I had read that when choosing a starter yogurt you wanted to avoid a Greek yogurt, and avoid heavily processed yogurts. There was a list of good store-brand starter yogurts.
The first time I made yogurt, I followed The Vintage Mixer's vanilla bean yogurt recipe. Since then I have doubled it and modified it for my own, combining several other recipes. A half-gallon of milk will yield two nearly full large containers of regular yogurt, or one large container of Greek yogurt. You'll find the full recipe at the bottom of this post.
First, bring an entire half gallon of milk to 180 F, stirring occasionally. The milk tends to stick to the pot, so be sure to use one that is easy to clean. Once you hit 180 F, remove the milk from heat. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Then let the milk cool. You can let it cool on its own - This took over an hour last time! - or you can place in an ice bath. It cools rather quickly - so keep an eye out. You are waiting for the milk to cool to 110 F.
When milk has cooled, whisk in your starter yogurt (or packet). I have been able to successfully mix the yogurt directly into my cooling milk. However, some recipes recommend adding a bit of milk to the yogurt to water in down for a more even mix. I think the yogurt being room temperature is helpful in this process. I set the yogurt on the counter just before I start, before I even start the milk. It has usually thinned by the time I need to use it.
Pour the milk into the container(s) of your choice. At this point your yogurt will need to maintain a temp of 100-105 for approx 4 - 10 hours. I have been doing my yogurt for 8-10 hours. If you are using a yogurt maker, you can put the milk in the maker at this point. It will stay warm and maintain the proper temp. For larger batches, I have been putting in pryex dishes (up to 3 as needed) and "cooking" in the oven. Wrap the dishes in a towel and place in the oven (off) with the light on. I know - this sounds crazy, but it stays plenty warm. In the beginning, I often turned the oven on just long enough to take the chill. I think this kept the oven a tad warmer, but it is very easy to loose track of time, then the oven is too hot! Use your own discretion.
Remove yogurt from incubator. Yogurt should be firm. Place in refrigerator for approximately 4 hours, and you are ready to go. You can add additional flavors or toppings. I'll post a Part 2 with some suggestions. If you are interested in Greek yogurt, you'll have to strain the yogurt after cooling.
When I am done, I dump it back into an old yogurt container with a name and a date. My kiddos don't mind if it's in the same container. If it comes out of something different they aren't interested in trying it.
Homemade Vanilla Yogurt
- 1/2 Gallon Whole Milk
- 6 Tbls Sugar
- 1 Tbl Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 C starter yogurt
- Scald milk by heating to 180 degrees.
- Remove from heat. Add sugar and vanilla.
- Cool milk in an ice bath until 110 degrees.
- Add yogurt starter.
- Pour yogurt into containers. Wrap in a towel and place in oven with the light on
- Leave for 8-10 hours.
- Cover and refrigerate for 4+ hours.