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!