Making yoghurt in 4 easy steps

Yoghurt: a fermented milk product produced by the bacterial fermentation of milk using a culture of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria (also simply called cultures or starters). Fermentation of lactose by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yoghurt its texture and its characteristic tang.

If you like dairy as much as we do, buying yoghurt can eat into your weekly pocket money quickly, so making it yourself not only saves you some pennies, it’s also super satisfying, fun and easy. Here are our 4 quick and easy steps to making your own…

Things you need…

  • Milk: Ideally full fat, however you can make it out of ‘skinny milk’ if you like, I believe it just want set as well (I’ve never tried as I always head straight for the full fat option).
  • A starter culture, i.e. a tablespoon of existing yoghurt – this is enough for 1 – 2 litres of milk.
  • Saucepan and stove/heat source
  • Jar/s
  • Thermometer (designed for cooking, brewing or canning) for people starting out this is super helpful.
  • A system to keep your yoghurt warm for 6-12 hours, we use a thermos (more on that below) but I’m also a fan of the hot box.

salathiso-hot-box

The hot box is an insulated space where you can put in food in pots/jars to continue cooking or fermenting. This example is a purpose built system, these days I just use a cardboard box (or esky) and a sleeping bag – it’s that easy. Image from here.

Step 1: Heating & Cooling

Heat the milk on your stove to JUST before boiling point, do not let it boil (this is approximately 80 degrees) and then turn the stove off. Apparently if you want super thick yoghurt, i.e. you don’t want the whey (the watery liquid) to separate form the curd, you can keep it at 80 degrees for around 20-30 minutes and then take it off the heat. Let the milk cool down to 40 degrees by either putting the pot in a sink full of cold water or just wait for it to get there naturally. If you haven’t got a thermometer, drop some milk onto your wrist to check it, once it feels warm (but not too hot) it’s ready. Someone once described that it should be the temperature of milk you’d feed to a baby – so that’s how I currently test it.

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 Step 2: Adding the good guys

Once your milk is at 40 degrees, stir in your starter culture of existing yoghurt – I like to choose the thickest and most natural yoghurt (sugar/flavour free) I can find as my starter. We call this ‘adding in the good guys’ as your starter culture is ALIVE with a few million/trillion bacteria who are beneficial to your gut and general health, cool hey!

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Step 3

Pour the mixture into your vessel of choice, these days we use fowler jars as we happen to have a lot of them. However you can use any vessel, glass is my personal favourite. Make sure it’s been well cleaned before you use it, I don’t do a formal sterilisation process anymore as I’ve found it’s not necessary.

Once the lid is on, put the jar into a system which will keep it warm for 6-12 hours. I usually make it in the evening so it’s ready first thing in the morning for breakfast. Currently we’re using a thermos with luke warm water (not boiling!) to keep the mixture warm, however a simply hot box system is also more than adequate.

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Anton found this amazing thermos at the op shop around 12 years ago. We haven’t actually used it (as it’s just so big) until we realised it’s perfect for yoghurt ‘brewing’. It’s now found its true purpose in life and lives permanently on our kitchen bench.

IMG_0613Step 4: Eat and enjoy!

After 6 – 12 hours your yoghurt should be ready to go. First thing I do when I get it out of the thermos is put the jar on its side and see whether it can hold its shape (as below). I’ll eat yoghurt mostly for breakfast with muslie and fruit, however it’s also one of my top snack foods at the moment, so it doesn’t last long :-).

Make sure you keep a small amount as your culture for your next batch so you can keep making it without having to buy new starter culture each time. I’ve found that after 3 – 6 batches it can start to go a bit slimey so will sporadically buy a new culture to ‘re-boot’ it.

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The more you look online and in various food books, the more recipes and advice you’ll find about different yoghurt techniques. Years ago, I started off following very strict rules which have all now faded into the background as I realised our culture (not the bacteria, but us) is super paranoid about sterilisation, germs and that we really like gimmicks (utensils and equipment) which you simply don’t need. But find what works for you best and give it a go – this is simply the right way for us.

Interested in all things fermented?

  • Come along to our Fermentation Fest this December 6th in Hobart town to make yoghurt and SO MUCH MORE!
  • Track down a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz for a wealth of insight and recipes.

* Your blogger is Hannah Moloney, co-director of Good Life and lover of all things fun and garden-esk.

5 Responses to “Making yoghurt in 4 easy steps”

  1. Alexis, Baron von Harlot

    Yay, yoghurt! We got hold of a villi yoghurt culture, which has two advantages over using starter from a yoghurt you bought at the shops:

    1. it’s a mesophilic culture, which means (unlike most thermophilic yoghurt cultures) that it ferments at room temperature — no need to heat the milk or keep it warm (though in Winter the temperature of our room isn’t room temperature (25º) so we do put our culturing jar into a pot of warm water or take it to bed with us or whatever.

    2. it’s an heirloom culture, with lots of strains of bacteria etc in it, and it doesn’t conk out after 3 generations; in fact, we’ve recultured from it more than a hundred times.

    We need to reculture it once a week or so, but if for some reason we’re not getting through that much yoghurt, we pour some of it into the ice-cube tray and freeze it. It can be thawed and revived after being frozen for up to a month (possibly longer, but we haven’t done that experiment).

    It’s also a good cheese-starting culture. We’ve made caerphilly, cheddar, mozzarella, haloumi and Wensleydale by substituting a dollop of our yoghurt for the starter powder recommended in the cheese recipes.

    Reply
  2. Alexis, Baron von Harlot

    I would love to be living in Tasmania, but alas am in outer northern Melbourne (and happy to share spoonfuls of yoghurt sstarter with anyone reading this who’s in the vicinity). I bought the culture a few years ago here. (They ship it as a dried powder.) It’s a bit spendy, but once you have it you have it forever, and you can share it with fellow Tasmaniacs (good strategy, actually, so that if anyone happens to your culture, you can get a sample back from a friend).

    Reply

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