When I was a child my mother used to teach us how to make yogurt. My siblings were never much into the cool creamy tang of yogurt but my father and I ate it up like nobody's business. We would twist open a jar of freezer jam that my mother kept constantly in stock, usually strawberry or peach, and dollop its sweet goo on top. Sometimes, if we had the patience, granola or a banana would adorn our bowl of yogurt. Occasionally we would swirl in sticky sweet honey to make a fabulous dessert. Either way yogurt, for me, was an any-time meal.
My mother, at the time, had a small disc shaped appliance that fit about 6-8 (6oz) glass jars with plastic lids. You warmed up some milk, added a heaping tablespoon of store-bought plain yogurt for your culture and spooned it into these jars. Placed the jars into the plugged in "incubator" and let set for several hours. I recall thinking with annoyance how tiny these little jars were and how I needed at least two of them to make a substantial yogurt snack. Yogurt making was a constant activity in our household.
Now, many years later I have discarded the old yogurt maker with flimsy split lids and learned how to make yogurt with wide mouthed canning jars, heavy duty plastic screw on lids, and my Excalibur food dehydrator. Still using the basic fundamentals of yogurt making, however now I can make mass quantities and never have to deal with infant portioned jars again.
How does one make yogurt you may ask?
Well, I'm about to show you...follow me:
First determine how much yogurt you consume. One gallon of milk will produce approximately four quarts of delicious yogurt. During the winter I make one gallon batches, however once summer hits along with glorious protein smoothies and hot temperatures I move on to two gallon batches to supply my addiction.
Next, grab yourself an appropriately sized stock pot for the quantity of milk you will be using. I find an 8qt pot works well for one gallon.
1 Gallon of milk (I prefer skim or 1% but you can make whatever you'd like!)
1/2 - 2c. powdered nonfat milk (*optional*)
1/4 tsp culture (or several heaping Tbs. store bought plain yogurt- make sure it has live cultures in it)
*Optional powdered milk: I tend to add this to increase the creaminess of my yogurt. You don't have to and might find that it is perfect to your taste without it; experiment with and without it to see.
*Cultures: I purchase my cultures from Dairy Connection Inc. They offer two different types, both are delicious. You can also follow their great recipe link here to get a more thorough description of yogurt making. The site also instructs you on heating the milk using a microwave but I don't use this method so won't go into detail here.
Pour milk into stock pot and whisk in powdered milk if desired. Attach a cooking thermometer to the side of the pot making sure the tip of the thermometer does not touch the sides or the bottom of the pot. It should be "floating"about half-way down the milk to get the most accurate reading.
Heat milk on medium while stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. I usually allow it to start warming up a little before I begin stirring. You want to make sure the milk does not scald on the bottom of the pot. Grab a stool- you will be here awhile and need to keep a close eye on the milk while stirring constantly.
Your goal temperature is approximately 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to pull the milk off the heat right before it comes to a boil. It will get creamy and frothy looking.
When you reach temperature, turn off heat and remove from the burner. Allow milk to cool to 110 degrees. During this time you should turn on your dehydrator to 110-115 degrees to preheat.
Once the milk has reached 110, remove the skin that has developed on the milk's surface and prepare to add your cultures.
Spoon your culture into one of the clean mason jars and ladle in a little milk. Place the lid on your jar and shake well to distribute the culture into the milk. Add in a little more milk to near full and shake again. Pour the cultured milk back into the pot and stir well, then ladle back into four quart jars and screw on lids.
If you are left with a little extra milk in the pot you can either grab a jelly jar for incubation OR (my favorite) pour it in a mug and drink it straight or with a tiny scoop of hot chocolate mix. The "yogurt milk" is deliciously sweet and creamy. Try it!
Place jars into your dehydrator, close the lid, and allow to incubate 4-6 hrs. You may need to go as high as 8hrs but know that the longer it is in the dehydrator the greater "tang" you will get but it won't necessarily make it any creamier. Best advice is to set timer to 4 hours and check the jars at that time. Very gently pick one up and tilt slightly. If it is still runny, set back down and recheck in an hour. As soon as the yogurt is firm and set, immediately place in the refrigerator.