Skip to content

Reliable Simple Homemade Yoghurt

In the last couple years, H and I have gotten interested in trying to incorporate homesteading activities into our lives wherever possible. As part of that, I’ve been making my own yoghurt (or yogurt, if you prefer). To get started, I did a bit of googling but the blogs I found that talk about yoghurt make it sound very hard, using a lot of specialized equipment in a process that is fickle at best and often yields milky goo.

After some experimenting, I’ve come up with a system that is simple, uses no special equipment and makes some of the best yoghurt I’ve ever had. Every time.

When I say simple, I don’t mean quick. There are a lot of steps and you have to enjoy the process or it’s not worth it. I mean simple because nothing is carefully measured, carefully set, or carefully timed. I don’t even have a food thermometer. Every instruction here is approximate but the recipe has never failed.

Ingredients:

1 quart + 2 tbs milk. I use whole milk because I doubt there’s much benefit to low-fat and  if you’re going to the trouble of making your own yoghurt, you may as well make the best you can.

2 tbs plain yoghurt with live culture. Whatever brand you like best—my source yoghurt (probably 10 generations ago) was Fage, a Greek yoghurt. It’s expensive, but that just adds to the satisfaction–I make great yoghurt for one-third the price of store bought.

Equipment you might not already have around the kitchen:

  1. Glass jar with a top, at least 1 quart size (larger would be better).
  2. Warming pad. We had one in the closet from when H threw her back out. I set it on medium, you may have to experiment to find the right setting on yours. It should be comfortably warm to the touch.
  3. A cooler. Big enough to close with the glass jar and warming pad inside.
  4. Cheesecloth.

Directions:

Cliff’s Notes (to visualize the process):

  1. Sterilize the milk
  2. Let it cool and mix with small amount of yoghurt
  3. Incubate overnight
  4. Strain out the whey

Full Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 quart of milk on the stove to somewhere just short of boiling.
  2. While the milk is heating, pre-heat the oven to 170-180 degrees (as hot as you can get while being certain the milk will not boil, leaving a safety margin to allow for oven imprecision).
  3. When the milk is steaming but not boiling, transfer it from the burner to the oven and leave it there for 30 minutes.  I use an all metal pot so I can just move it directly without the trouble of pouring it or  dirtying another utensil.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove the milk and transfer it to the glass jar, skin and all.
  5. Cool the milk down until the sides of the jar are comfortably warm to the touch (no more than 110 degrees or so). Since this step can take hours without assistance, I place the jar in a large bowl of ice water. If you use the ice water method, keep in mind when you test it that the outside may be a lot cooler than the middle, so let it sit on the counter a bit or swirl it around to try and equalize the temperature before testing. If in doubt, err on the side of too cool because it can heat up again during the incubation period with no harm done, whereas if it is too hot, it will kill the bacteria and the yoghurt will not form.
  6. While this milk is cooling, mix the additional 2 tbs of milk (from the fridge, not from the hot milk in the jar) with 2 tbs of your source yoghurt in a cup. Stir and set aside.
  7. Plug in the heating pad and place it inside the cooler with the top on to pre-heat while the milk is still cooling. (Again, I set mine to medium, your pad may be different—shoot for comfortably warm).
  8. When the milk has cooled, add the milk/yoghurt mix, close the top of the jar and place it in the cooler. To avoid a too-hot spot, try to keep the heating pad from directly touching the jar. I place a dishtowel between them. With most coolers, you can close the top with the power cord for the heating pad sticking out.
  9. Wait 10-12 hours. Much less and the yoghurt won’t be finished forming, much more and it will start turn sour.
  10. Remove the jar from the cooler. You can call it done right now, but I prefer to strain out the whey to make a nice thick better-tasting yoghurt.
  11. To strain the whey, get a largish bowl and place a colander on top. Line the colander with the cheesecloth. You want the cheesecloth folded so it is at least 2 layers thick, but 4 or more layers is better because less yoghurt will push through and you will end up with purer whey.
  12. Pour the yoghurt in and scoop out whatever sticks to the bottom of the jar.
  13. Place the contraption in the refrigerator. The longer you leave it, the more whey will drain off and the thicker the yoghurt will get. I leave it about four hours, but you will get most of the benefit in the first hour.
  14. Whey is a clear viscous liquid that is a good source of protein and can be a partial substitute for water in pancakes, biscuits, etc., but since I make a lot more than I use, I throw most of it away.

Voices

I have a voice that I generally use to talk to Jane, my Jane voice. I have a different voice I generally use to talk to Maggie the Dog, my Maggie voice. But sometimes I use my Jane voice to talk to Maggie or my Maggie voice to talk to Jane.

No big deal, neither one insists on exclusive rights to the voice.

But how about this? When I talk to Jane in the Maggie voice, I often slip up and call her Maggie. It works the other way too, I call Maggie Jane when talking to her in my Jane voice.

Maybe someday I will have a neuroscientist reader and he can explain this.

A couple times I’ve called Jane “Frank”, which is my little brother’s name. I probably need a psychiatrist to explain that one.

Catching Up Post III

H and I were once laughing about memory and how mistaken we can be about what sticks and what doesn’t. When Jane was about 6 months old, we took her to visit her grandparents. And of course lots of notes were compared, Jane’s babyhood versus H’s.

 We couldn’t believe the things Jane’s grandmother couldn’t remember about raising her own babies, we’d never forget these magic moments. They are seared SEARED into our memories. At least I think they were, I can’t remember the specifics.

Looking through old notes to make these catch up posts, I see extended periods where I didn’t record much, which I expect means the things I recorded were important at the time. So what am I to do with this?

 7/17/10 Very intense baby, observant. Remember where she was when Kennedy was shot—the lettuce was slightly wilted.

I even remember the observation and thinking there was something quite clever about it. No, I wasn’t stoned.

This one seems more straightforward.

7/4/10 TV and cookies is all she says. Speech isn’t always better, sometimes crying impotently is preferable.

I can easily picture her “Want TV!’ “Want cookies!” How many times can you say that? She can say it more. At least when she couldn’t talk, everything was supposed to sound the same. Now it sounds the same because it is.

Here’s some undated stuff that looks quite old:

Her teeth are coming in, one at a time with no concern for artistic balance or aesthetics, her smile leaves her looking like a retarded Dracula.

And then, apparently three months later:

She’ll sit and grind her teeth as a hobby, not absentmindedly, but consciously, determinedly, with satisfaction. Like she’s still pleased to have teeth at all.

Obscure Cargo Cult Reference, Geek Edition

Welcome Wil Wheaton readers! Welcome! Don’t be shy, take a look around, kick your feet up, stay a while. Wow, I’m honored.

What’s the Point? I Mean, Really?

We have some friends who are trying to adopt a baby. We recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend with them at their cabin and they had the opportunity to spend a weekend with a three year old girl. On some level, it felt like a sales job because they are working very hard to get a child, a newer model than ours, but roughly the same make.

We must have been poor salespeople for The Joy of Parenting because as we were discussing sleep arrangements, feeding arrangements, etc., the woman, apparently momentarily nervous about what a child does to your life, asked, “so what’s the payoff?”

We were stumped. Is it possible we never thought about it in quite those terms? We thought the weekend itself was part of the payoff, our lovely and charming child being lovely and charming all over the place for two days. The payoff?

How to put this into words?

The payoff comes when she marries a banker and buys me a house on the beach where I can play checkers in the afternoon. It comes when she absolutely refuses to let me go destitute when I retire without retirement savings. Whenever I say that, H rolls her eyes thinking I’m kidding and stop with the stale joke already.

At birth, Jane knew two things: when uncomfortable, cry; when something’s in her mouth, suck on it. That’s it, the sum total of a baby’s knowledge of the world.

Jane at a farm

A baby doesn’t know that the restless achy feeling is tiredness and the cure is to relax and close its eyes. It doesn’t know that the pain in its eyes is the sun and the cure is to close them or turn the head. It doesn’t know you bundle up in the cold, or that fire is hot. It has no knowledge of gravity or that those lines and light and dark shadows is a stairway and if you crawl out onto the dark part, you will take an unpleasant tumble. Cry, suck. Repeat. That’s what you get.

But they take this nothing and, using time, experience, and inquisitiveness, build a world. They learn to walk, to talk, to be careful on the stairs. All too soon they wear real people clothes, run around with their friends and scream happily. They tackle new challenges and skin their knees and cry and go to school and date and one day go off on their own without you.

Buying me stuff when I‘m old would be nice, but that’s not really the payoff. Watching it all happen, front row seats to the creation of a person. That’s the payoff.

Too bad we didn’t say that.

Catching Up Post II

Looking over my old notes, it’s a shame I let this blog lay dormant for so long. I’ve come to realize that this is how I’m going to remember many of the details I don’t want to forget, so I can’t just skip all that time. But it seems strange and nonsensical to write present tense essays about things Jane did a year or more ago, when she was a very different little girl than she is today. And there’s no catching up, condensing each month into a week so that a couple months from now we’re in real time again, with her childhood development strangely telescoped.

I hope to go back to work soon, my 18 months of stay-at-home dadhood drawing to a close. A wonderful opportunity to be intimately involved in my daughter’s life is nearly over. It’s a shame, but the reality is that with so much going on, I’ve been too stressed, strained, depressed and pressed on all sides to sit down, contemplate, and write. My hope is that employment will bring back the preciousness of the moments I do get and I start writing about them again.

So for now, I’ll just continue with the listing.

1/21/10 Jane, on a play date at age 18 months held up a stuffed animal to another parent and said “pink puppy.” It was, indeed, a pink puppy. I think this was her first two-word phrase that wasn’t an obscenity (we’ve since begun monitoring our language more carefully for fear of being shunned by the other horrified parents in playgroup), she knows her colors, but what pleased me most is that she knows there is more than one way to refer to something—it’s pink and it’s a puppy.

I’d always worried that the animals in her stories that have names with pother meanings (a bunny named “carrots” for instance) might be confusing to her, but this showed that she has some understanding of descriptors. One word can refer to multiple things, multiple words can refer to one thing.

1/21/10 In her nap and bedtime tantrums, she throws everything she can out of her crib except bunny. So she has some self-control there. She knows once it’s gone she can’t get it back, her anger is not general or absolute (usually—sometimes bunny goes too).

Three Years Ago Today

From: Timothy Maguire
Sent: Jul 9, 2008 4:21 AM
To: strungout2l@yahoo.com
Subject: Jane’s a Cancer!

To all Singers, Maguires, and Friends:

It looks like this is it. It’s now about 4:20 AM. Heidi went in to labor around 2:30 this morning. We just called the doctor and he said to come to the hospital. I think he’s a bit of a quack, but we’re getting ready to go. Jane is early, but only by a few days so there is no concern there.

Will follow up with details.

From:“Timothy Maguire”
Sent:07/09/2008 09:22 PM
To:strungout2l@yahoo.com
Subject:Follow up on Baby Jane

When we last left you, it was 4:20 this morning and we were heading to the hospital. We showed up sometime after 5:00 AM (not sure exactly when because I was using my watch to time contractions, resetting it every time a new one started) and Heidi’s water broke on the sidewalk right in front of the hospital. Perfect timing! I dropped her off in the maternity ward and they sent me downstairs to do some paperwork. When I got back, Heidi was in triage, her doctor was in surgery and the resident was doing a cesarean, so no doctor had examined her yet and we had to wait for one to come free and look in on her before they could give her any painkillers.

Very quickly, the contractions got painful and she said she needed to push so I ran out to get the nurse, grab a doctor, get somebody in there and as I was heading out the door, a doctor was heading in Perfect timing! He examined her and said “you’re fully dilated and the baby is crowning.” No time for an epidural or any other painkiller, she was giving birth right then! They wheeled her down the hall to a birthing room and her doctor showed up as we got there. 10 minutes of extreme unpleasantness later, Jane popped out about an hour after we walked in the door and 3:50 after contractions started. Maybe not a record, but close. I really think that if we were running five minutes later, I would have had to do the delivery in the backseat of the car.

So Jane Astrid Wednesday Singer Maguire was born at 6:20 this morning, 5 lbs 14 ozs, 19 inches. Since it went so quickly and Heidi felt better immediately (still very sore, but all things considered…), we hope to bring her and Jane home tomorrow. We’ll find out in the morning if the doctor clears them.

Attached are pictures. Thanks to Tracey, Sara, Allison and Joe for coming out to the hospital to visit and help keep Heidi company!

Tim

Then:

Three Years Ago Today

And now, today: