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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Make It Yourself: Yogurt

For a long time, we resisted making our own yogurt. True, we ate it every morning of our lives, and those quart containers added up, both in cost and in recycling waste. But we didn't want to invest in a machine. We were loath to accumulate any more large kitchen gadgets, and we'd heard that homemade yogurt could never match the creaminess of its supermarket or health-food-store counterpart.

Then milk prices shot up, taking yogurt prices with them, and we began to experiment.

First we tried making yogurt without a machine, because so many people swore we could do it using nothing more than a deep dish, a dishtowel, and a warm counter. We just ended up with big bowls of spoiled milk.

Then we borrowed a friend's machine, with almost equally unsatisfying results. It only held six-ounce containers, which hardly justified the effort of homemade yogurt. And the machine didn't work that great.

Then we discovered the Waring Professional Yogurt Maker, which allowed us to make four 16-ounce containers at a time. We bought one a couple of years ago and have not looked back. Not only is our homemade yogurt much cheaper than the store's, it tastes much better, being almost as creamy as super-rich and super-expensive Greek yogurt.

Once you've bought the right machine, the trick to homemade yogurt is boosting the creaminess of the milk you use. We do this by adding a cup of nonfat dry milk to every half-gallon batch we make. Also, we use 1 or 2 percent milk; although you can use skim milk, we're happy to trade taste for extra fat. 

The other tricky part is finding the dry yogurt culture you need to turn hot milk into yogurt. You can find it at health-food stores; Whole Foods also carries it for a good price (in startling contrast to everything else Whole Foods sells).

Once you've got your machine, your dry milk, your yogurt culture, and a candy thermometer, all you need is an hour to get everything going.

All of this may seem complicated, but it doesn't take that long to master.  For anyone who eats a lot of yogurt, it will quickly pay off.

Homemade Yogurt

1/2 gallon milk
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1 packet yogurt starter

1. Add the milk to a nonstick pot and whisk in the dry milk. Heat until the milk is almost boiling, then remove from heat and let cool.

2. When the milk has cooled to a temperature of between 110 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit, whisk a few tablespoons of it into the yogurt starter (we use a custard cup for this). Then whisk this mixture into the warm milk. Be sure to work quickly, because you don't want the milk to cool down much.

3. Pour the yogurt-cultured milk into your containers, place in your machine, and set it for nine to ten hours.

4. When the time is up, refrigerate the yogurt, and bask in the pleasure of knowing you've saved a whole lot of money.


  1. What a neat machine! I have heard it's not that difficult to make...thanks for the information.

  2. I just got a yogurt maker too! I had to fiddle with it a few times to get it to work right but now I've got it figured out!