Homemade Yogurt, An Introduction

I have had a couple of epic fails in the kitchen the past couple weeks. Well each one wasn’t epic, but the trend has been.  I haven’t been in the kitchen as much as I should be (I’m blaming work!), and when I have things just haven’t turned out how I was expecting.  I had really high hopes for this pumpkin maple popcorn concoction, but alas it was just not up to par. I tried a “skinny” chicken and broccoli alfredo with yogurt, but it came out as a bad cousin of the real thing. BUT! My mom came for a visit last week and we! made! YOGURT! So much easier than I anticipated, I will definitely do it again.

I grew up eating yogurt. Barely a day passes when I don’t enjoy this microbiotic food wonder!  I am a yogurt elitist, I will confess…so here is my tirade–yogurt has fallen into the “health food” trap.  It got popular which is great, because it is so amazing for you. BUT the health benefits have been ripped away by all the added fruity sugar jelly in the bottom of individual containers.  27g! For real?! Even if you don’t make your own yogurt, I strongly recommend you start buying PLAIN YOGURT. Personalize it at home…a tad of honey, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and granola are all great options!  Yogurt is a blank slate and takes well to so many condiments.  OK that’s it. Tirade over.

Although this recipe is easy, it is imperative that temperatures are met and maintained for all those delicious bacteria to grow properly. So–don’t bypass the prep work! Sterilize containers and prepare “sterilized” space. Prep straw basket for passive heating of yogurt (aka cooler contraption). The straw basket is made by putting a smaller cooler with 120 degree water in a larger cooler, insulated around small cooler with blankets/towels/rugs.
 DSC02753DSC02773DSC02752Add 1/2 gallon milk and powdered milk to double boiler (you can just create your own double boiler with the bottom pan with a bit of water) on a cold stove top, whisk together until powdered milk is fully dissolved. Put lid on, turn stove top to high heat.  When water in the double boiler starts to boil, turn heat down to medium, check temperature of milk. Once the temperature reaches 180 degrees, turn heat down to low, replace lid, hold for 5 minutes. 

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While the milk is warming, fill your sink halfway with cold water.  Once the milk mixture heating is complete, place pan in the cold water bath. Monitor closely and stir with thermometer until mixture goes down to 120 degrees (about 5 minutes).


Now bring some culture into that milk! Pitch your old yogurt into the cooled milk. Aren’t I fancy using a yogurt making term like pitch (thank you internet!)?  We used a mixture of Fage Greek and homemade yogurt from a previous batch for our pitch. How many times can I say pitch in this instruction? In order to loosen up the pitch, add about a half cup of warm milk and stir to incorporate. Pour through strainer while whisking milk.

Pour yogurt into containers. Secure lids.

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Place containers in inner cooler with water at 120 degrees. Place inner cooler into larger cooler, insulate snugly with blankets/rugs/towels. Close outer cooler.

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Now tick, tock! Wait 9 or so hours…then enjoy your perfectly tangy homemade yogurt. There is so much to say about the details of yogurt making…in short the longer you let the yogurt incubate in the straw basket, the tangier it will become. So play with the straw basket time and make your favorite yogurt!


Homemade Yogurt:

Makes about 2 quarts of yogurt

Special Equipment:

  • 2 one quart mason jars with lid
  • 1 one pint mason jar with lid
  • candy thermometer
  • coolers (1 small, 1 large) + rugs/towels


  • 1/2 gallon organic whole milk
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (either all store purchased or a mixture of store bought + some from your previous homemade batch)


  • Sterilize your mason jars
  • Prep your “sterile” space with the following on a clean dishtowel: sterilized mason jars and lids, whisk, strainer, 1/2 cup of yogurt, empty 1 cup measuring cup.
  • Prep straw basket: Fill small cooler with about 120 degree water (could be warmer as it will lose some heat by the time you get to it), close lid to retain heat. Place small cooler in a larger cooler, insulate around with rugs/blankets/towels.
  • Using a double boiler on a cold stovetop, whisk together milk and powdered milk until powdered milk is fully dissolved, about 30 seconds
  • Turn stovetop to high heat, place lid.  While waiting for milk to boil, fill sink halfway with cold water. When the water in the double boiler boils, check temperature of milk mixture.  As soon as it reaches 180 degrees, replace lid, turn stove to medium, and hold for 5 minutes.
  • Place pan of milk into cold water bath.  Watch closely while stirring with thermometer, as soon as mixture temperature goes down to 120 degrees (about 5 minutes) remove from bath.
  • Take milk mixture to “sterile” space. Add about 1/2 cup of the warm milk to the yogurt to loosen it. Pour yogurt through strainer while whisking milk mixture.
  • Pour mixture into mason jars (do not fill to the tippy top!), place lids, and place in inner cooler with 120 degree water (check temp and adjust with boiling water as needed to get it back to 120 degrees).
  • Let sit for 8-12 hours depending on the level of tanginess you desire. Longer time = tangier yogurt
  • Don’t add anything to your yogurt (i.e. fruit or honey) during the making process.
  • Don’t forget to save a bit of your yogurt to use for your next batch!

10 thoughts on “Homemade Yogurt, An Introduction

  1. I applaud you making yogurt, but I’m sticking with fage for now. I have found that of all the greek yogurt, fage brand is the creamiest, and it is choc full of protein!

    I am with you on the tirade about how the health quality of yogurt has been ruined by all the sugar and syrups. (did you see my FB post earlier this week?)

    I have 1/4 cup plain fage for lunch every day. I make it in advance with my own fruit on the bottom, sans sugar or honey: 1/4 chopped apple, 1/4 chopped banana, 5 raisins (yes, i count them). but the best component of my yummy lunch treat is my 2 TBS sprinkle crunch.

    I mix 1/3 cup each flax seed meal & chia seeds and 2/3 cup ezekiel sprouted grain cereal into a glass bowl and pop a lid on it. Every night when i pack my lunch, i spoon 2TBS of my sprinkle crunch into my teeny tupperware, then at lunch I sprinkle it on my yogurt just before eating.

    Be warned, always reserve chia seeds from liquid until ready to eat. They PUFF up.

    btw: I may be turning into a chia pet with all the seeds i eat. next time I see you, can you check to see if I have a sprout in my ear? 🙂

    • …and i applaud you for sticking to fage yogurt if you’re not going to make your own. it is good yogurt and it comes with a dialogue box with food values indicated. i don’t know how much protein my yogurt has but it beats fage for creamy smoothness.

  2. hi this is “mom”.

    darn, i’m not even the first comment. oh well! i was otherwise occupied on tuesday when you posted, and didn’t even get on the computer at the library.

    i had great fun sharing the yogurt making process with you while visiting last week.
    Just a reminder to newby yogurt makers. yogurt making is an adventure with a living entity (well, really millions of living entities) have your own relationship with the little guys who are responsible for creating your yogurt. you will develop your own ways and means of making yogurt and you will become expert in due time. think of yourself as the “yogurt tech support person” just don’t give up when your yogurt doesnt turn out just the way you thought is should–as will likely sometimes happen. keep up with what other yogurt makers have to say about their success and their failures. share your process–what is working or not working to keep the feedback loop going. you will find that while the basics are–well, basically the same, there are lots of different ways to make the best ever yogurt with your own unique resources.

    I’ve been making yogurt for decades and my process has evolved from the salton electric yogurt maker ( not nearly enough yogurt at a timie), the gas oven pilot (when i had a gas stove & when it had a pilot).

    i went to the passive heat system because it occured to me that i could do it that way
    AND because i was stuck for any other way to maintain the correct temp. as ever necessity leads to invention.

    I started with just the little iglo cooler and wrapped it in a blanket to ensure heat retention. I graduated recently to the two cooler system by accident when i stored the little cooler in the bigger cooler for convenience. a light bulb moment that let me take the yogurt incubator off the washer (and let me do laundry even though i was also making yogurt.

    best of luck as you venture into the microbial world of yogurt culture.

    PS: less than stellar outcomes are still good for making pancakes (use a bit of baking soda to balance the acid) and in smoothies.

  3. Hi Abby! Mom pointed me in the direction of your blog for this post specifically. I am a fellow lover of yogurt….not sure i’m quite ready or equipped to attempt this yet, but maybe some day. Just wanted to share an LHS memory….Lily would bring home made yogurt in her lunches that Josie made. I still remember the little round yellow container. We would make a trade, which i think to both of us was heavenly. I would give up my pink strawberry milk (which i hated, she loved) for her smooth creamy yogurt. Don’t tell Josie!!


    • Thanks for sharing Bethany. Funny how these little snippets of memory come back to us eh? I would encourage you to try to the yogurt, once you have the setup it truly takes about 20 minutes (obviously not counting the hours it sits). I thought it would be so much more intensive but it really was quite simple. I feel pretty proud eating my homemade yogurt (I still buy yogurt too though, I don’t get around to making enough of it!)

      • well, i may take you up on it some weekend, because now i’m craving it. only thing i don’t have is a large cooler…just a smaller one, but a soft bag type cooler, not a hard one as shown. thoughts on one cooler only wrapped in towels?? otherwise, maybe the inlaws have something i could borrow.
        and one other thing (although i can look it up as well), what’s the best way to sterilize the containers and work space? i am not a canner…i’m sure that knowledge would be useful in that case too.

        thanks for the recipe.

      • I know what my Mom would say: Try it with what you have, but be willing for things not to work out on the first try 🙂 I think if you had one hard cooler wrapped in towels it could work. People use drink coolers too I have found. I have also read that people preheat their oven to 120 while they are doing the rest of the steps, then turn oven off and put containers in oven. I think this could work too, but I would wrap each container even in the oven to maintain the heat.

        To “sterilize” (in quotations because it is not TRUE sterilization but it is good enough, I think with canning things really have to be sterile? I am not a canner either), simply put a freshly washed towel on a clean counter, boil your containers and equipment (5-10 minutes) and then place on clean towel. You just want things to stay as clean as possible so funky things don’t have the chance to grow in your yogurt.

        When you do try it, let me know how it goes!!

    • bethany,
      do experiment with the process. the object of the insulated container is to KEEP an adequate temperature to maintain the growth of the yogurt culture. I think you might try wrapping your developing yogurt in something to keep in the heat that is present at the start…place it in the soft insulated container and stash it somewhere for 9 or so hours.
      it would be wise to experiment with smaller batches at first until you find a path that takes you to the goal.

      PS: I don’t think Josie would mind a bit that you negotiated with Lily for her delicious home made yogurt.

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