Let’s Make Yogurt!

Let's make yogurt! It's delicious, fun, super easy with only two ingredients, wonderfully smooth, fresh and healthy! You don't have to make it all the time, but you should make it just to see if you like it better than store-bought yogurt. You might find that you prefer the taste, like the control over the end result, enjoy the ease of preparation, and of course want to save money. You can control the sourness, texture, and exactly what goes into it, skipping the major amounts of sugar and fillers found in commercial yogurt. You can add healthy sweeteners like fruit, pure maple syrup, juice-sweetened jam, fruit, granola, raw honey (although don't give raw honey to babies) or add a little bit of a healthy purchased yogurt to sweeten it. Try adding some freshly ground peanut butter, a little real maple syrup and a cut-up banana for an exquisite breakfast, snack or dessert. Or, for the kids (or you!) try a peanut butter and fruit preserves or jam combo. It's a simple, but intriguing science experiment for kids who are more likely to eat food they help make. Encourage them eat yogurt, especially this healthier, fresher, less expensive, and better tasting homemade one!
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Ingredients

4 cups (32 oz) organic 2% or whole milk thermometer (optional) 2 Tbsp plain yogurt made with live bacteria and milk (do not use yogurt containing filler, thickeners or sweeteners) 1 quart mason jar with lid

Directions

1) Place the 2% milk in a pot and heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until you start seeing some bubbles and the top is steaming noticeably, or until the temperature reaches 180 degrees F. If you have a thermometer, use it because it's easier, but if you don't have one, don't worry about it unless you are doing this as a science experiment for the kids. Yogurt is very forgiving, but the milk must be cooled sufficiently to not kill the bacteria added to the homemade yogurt from the commercial yogurt. The other temperatures used in these instructions are more flexible. The milk can go higher than 180 degrees F initially, but must be cooled to 115 degrees F before the plain yogurt can be added.
2) Take the milk off of the heat and let it cool until you can hold your washed finger in it for 10 seconds without it becoming too uncomfortable, or to a temperature of 110-115 F. It cools quickly in my very cold garage. Mix the plain yogurt with a little bit of the heated milk in a separate bowl. When it’s smooth, add the mixture back to the pot of warm milk and combine well. Pour the cooled, inoculated milk into a mason jar or bowl, cover it with a lid, and place it in a snug warm place. Ideally it should sit undisturbed for at least 5 hours at a temperature of around 110 degrees F, but don't worry about the temperature being that exact as long as the place where you're storing the yogurt is warm. If the temperature drops below 110, it's no problem, as it just takes the yogurt a little longer to set, which is good for making yogurt overnight. I preheat my oven to low, turn it off, and then place the jar or jars wrapped in a towel in the oven overnight. Another method is to put the jars wrapped in a warm towel inside of an insulated bag. You can also use a heating pad on the lowest setting placed in the side of the bag between the bag and towel; the heating pad helps everything to stay warm. The longer the yogurt sits and the closer it stays to 110 degrees, the more sour it becomes. In the morning, it's perfect and ready to be refrigerated.
3) Pour off the separated whey and cool in refrigerator. It will set up a little more during storage. I like strained or Greek yogurt, so I put a piece of cheesecloth over the top of my jar and screw on the lid ring. Then I turn it upside-down in a glass measuring cup or in a mug with a wide mouth and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours until the yogurt's consistency is to my liking. I then replace the cheese cloth with a lid and store the yogurt in the refrigerator.
4) Use this yogurt for savory foods instead of sour cream and mayo. It makes great Middle Eastern or Indian cucumber yogurt. If you want to make a sweet version, sweeten the yogurt with fruit, fruit juice-sweetened jam, raw honey (not for babies), pure maple syrup, nuts, and/or granola. Since you can control the sourness when you make homemade yogurt, you don't need to add as much sweetener as you do with plain purchased yogurt. Enjoy!