I remember my mom making yogurt when I was a teenager. She was very excited about her new yogurt maker and couldn’t wait to try it out. As I watched her, it made me uncomfortable to think about that milk sitting in those little cups all night and I made the decision right then and there to never eat her homemade yogurt. She laughed at me and said that I had been eating her homemade yogurt my whole life. I just wasn’t aware of it because I had never watched her make it before. She explained that she used to make it after dinner and slide it into the oven just before she went to bed and it would be ready to chill in the morning. Needless to say, I changed my mind and continued to enjoy her fresh yogurt.
However, as an adult, I just couldn’t fathom going to all the trouble of making something that I could just buy. I also did not care for non-fat plain yogurt, so I always just bought any number of brands of flavored yogurt. When the greek yogurt craze started up, I was in love with all of the fancy, schmancy varieties and flavors of the thick creamy greek yogurt I could find in every grocery store and supermarket I walked into.
About eight years ago, I started thinking about my yogurt consumption. I started reading the ingredients list. I saw that the lower the fat content, the higher the sugar content. I was having a hard time finding any yogurt that actually sounded healthy. There were sugars, corn syrup, soy, gums, preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors. This concerned me. I also started looking at the number of little plastic cups I was adding to the landfills. I fed a family of five for almost thirty years. We ate yogurt for breakfast and for snacks. We probably ate more than a thousand individual cups of yogurt each year. So, for over thirty years, by feeding a family of five, I literally bought and threw away over 30,000 little yogurt cups.
Something had to be done. My family didn’t need to give up their yogurt, but I could learn to make it and store it in reusable glass jars or bowls. And that is exactly what I did. I was surprised at how very simple it is to make. When I started, I didn’t have a yogurt maker or an instant pot. So I made it like my mom did, in the oven. But now, with both a yogurt maker and an instant pot, I use those instead.
When selecting ingredients, select the highest quality that you can afford. I use a half-&-half that is organic from a local dairy. Half-&-half is half whole milk and half cream. In the UK it is known as half-cream. I do not use 100% cream because there is not enough natural sugar in straight cream to get a good ferment. Any grocery store brand half-&-half should work just fine. Whole milk also works, although you may get a lesser amount of final product if you strain it. I also select the nicest yogurt I can find for a starter. It is important to use plain, whole-fat yogurt with no additives. I use Fage 5% for my first batch, then for the remaining batches, I use my own yogurt that I reserved from the previous batch.
You can eat this yogurt, chilled, just like it is as it comes out of the maker, or you can strain it for 45 -60 minutes to make a greek style yogurt. It is poured into a strainer that is lined with a thin mesh cloth. I leave it on the counter at room temp to strain. The warm yogurt strains easily. If it is chilled before straining, it takes longer. The whey is strained out and the yogurt gets very thick and sweet. Beat it, or whisk it to get the lumps out, and pour it into storage containers. Chill. Eat!
- 2-4 TBLSP Full fat starter yogurt (I use Fage 5% yogurt for my first batch)
- 2 quarts/2 liters half-&-half
- 1 TBLSP inulin (i use Now brand)
- In a small dish, stir2 TBLSP yogurt into inulin until smooth. I use my fingers to do this. It is like a paste. Set aside.
- Heat half-&-half for over low heat or in the instant pot on saute setting. Stir constantly until it reaches 175 F ( 79 C) This changes the structure of the half-&-half and it needs to get this warm for best results.
- Cool to 100 -110 F (38 – 43 C) If the half-&-half is too hot when the starter is added it might kill the bacteria. So make sure you cool it all the way down.
- Stir the starter into the half-&-half completely.
- Pour inoculated half-&-half into Instant Pot, cover and process using the yogurt setting, or use a yogurt maker and follow instructions.
- Ferment for 8-14 hours.
If you are using an oven…
- Preheat oven to 300 F (148 C).
- Turn it off.
- Leave oven light on for warmth.
- Keep the warm inoculated half-&-half in the same pot you heated it up in.
- Put a lid on it and wrap the whole thing up in a towel to hold in the heat.
- Place in the preheated oven. It is important that the oven doesn’t cool off too low, below 100 F (38 C), or get too hot over 110 F (43 C). Usually, the light being on keeps the oven warm enough.
- Check the heat in it every few hours. If it cools off too low, just preheat it again. Or if you have a low/warm setting that keeps it between 100-110 F (38 – 43 C), use that.
Reserve 1/4 cup yogurt from each batch to use to create a starter for the next batch
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