Make Yogurt for Pennies
I hate paying two bucks for over-sweetened yogurt that tastes like guar gum. I also hate getting three bites of yogurt and ending up with a recycle bin full of plastic containers that will fill up the landfill. Many kids’ yogurts come in colors not found in nature, too.
I started to make my own.
The two types of yogurt
There are two types of yogurt–mesophyllic and thermophilic. Mesophillic cultures can be cultured at room temp. Thermophilic needs a little more heat–a warm oven, a heating pad, or a yogurt maker. Those are the yogurts you’re familiar with–Greek yogurt and “regular” yogurt–but they take an extra step to make, so I make “countertop” (mesophyllic) yogurt.
All I do is take a little bit of the culture and leave it on the counter. Even people who can’t cook can do this! It’s a great science lesson if you have kids–milk magically turning into yogurt’s got a lot going on. It’s turning sugars into lactic acid and magically making probiotics that are good for your soul–I mean gut.
I used this culture from Cultures for Heath. I bought the assortment and make one type at at time. I’ve made the filmjolk, piima, and Matsoni. Each has a slightly different flavor. All are on the thin side, so you can use them for a smoothie. Filmjolk has a tangy taste–makes a perfect ranch dressing (see below). Matsoni has a sweeter taste you might be used to. Piima is somewhere in the middle.
These are smoothie-ready from the get go. To make it thicker, strain out some liquid (using a nut bag or yogurt strainer) or use some heavy cream with the milk. You can make a “sour cream” or zero-carb yogurt by using all cream. [Note: this is technically not sour cream since sour cream has its own specific culture. But unless Gordon Ramsey’s raiding your fridge to cook you dinner, no one cares. This is so close I challenge you to tell the difference… you’ll save cash and containers by not buying sour cream any more, too. ]
You only have to get the cultures once. The batch you make today provides cultures for the next batch. Take a spoonful from today’s batch and put it in tomorrow’s milk or cream. Or, make it once a week and the culture will still be going strong–refrigerate it in between batches. Eat some, culture the rest.
Yogurt is versatile and tasty. It keeps you healthy. It has protein and probiotics. You can use it in cooking and baking. You can make it into a refreshing drink or save yourself from “This milk is about to expire, what do I do now?” by making it into cheese.
How to make the simplest yogurt in the world
- Servings: flexible
- Difficulty: easy
- any mesophillic yogurt culture
- milk or cream
- Take milk, milk and cream, or just cream and put it in a clean jar on the counter.
- Stir in a spoon of the culture. A couple tablespoons in a quart jar will do. If you use too little, it’ll take longer to culture. If you use too much, it’ll cut the culturing time down. Remember: this is live stuff doing its job.
- Let it sit for a day–12 or 24 hours should do depending on the temperature in the room. When it feels like yogurt, you’re good to go! Put it in the fridge or eat it.
- Remember: take a spoon from the first batch first, though, and either put it in milk or cream for tomorrow’s batch, or label it and put it in the fridge and do within a week. If you keep doing this, it’ll live on forever. People pass cultures down for generations.
COST: $ Nearly free–the cost of the leftover milk you’re using. Even less if you can share one culture around the community.
- Keep your yogurt at room temperature. Ideal temp is between 78-80 but there’s a range. If it’s too hot it’ll culture too fast. Too cold, and it’ll slow down the culturing.
- To make your yogurt in about 12 hours instead of 24, preheat the milk into the 70-78 degree range on the stove. It won’t need the extra time to warm to temp–it’ll start culturing right away. This cuts my time from about 18-24 hours to the overnight range.
If you make yogurt this way, it takes twenty seconds (the time it takes to pour the milk or cream) and you pay for the culture once. Mine cost about $10 or $11 bucks for a sampler of the four cultures I linked to. To maintain your yogurt you have to make it about once a week. If you don’t want to make it right away, reserve a spoon or two of your yogurt in a jar marked “booger snot” or “science experiment” so nobody will eat it on you. Then, don’t forget about it in the mold section of the refrigerator–put it on your weekly calendar. If you want to take a break from yogurt, you can make a minimal amount weekly to keep the culture going.
Ideas for flavoring yogurt:
- Fruit, jam, spread
- Make into a smoothie with anything you love. Use a high-speed blender.
- Vanilla, almond extract
- instant coffee granules and a bit of sugar.
- Lemon and honey
- Vanilla and brown sugar
Using yogurt as an ingredient
Yogurt is a great substitute for milk or buttermilk in biscuits, cakes, pancakes, or waffles. It makes a fantastic ranch dressing, too. Here are a few recipes–I’ll keep adding to this. Use the yogurt in place of milk, butter, and sour cream.
Yogurt cheese (coming soon!)
Blueberry muffins (coming soon!)
If your yogurt separates, you left it out too long or it was too warm. Remember, these little guys are living things. They need the right conditions
If your yogurt isn’t culturing, you may have dead cultures or it could be too cold.
If your yogurt tastes off, check the date on the milk–you can use milk that’s about to go, but there are limits!