making homemade yogurt

Most of my life, I have thought, “I’m just not crafty.” I watch other women knit sweaters while talking with friends, or see the dramatic swirls of art projects other moms have done with their kids, or look at the clothes that dear Amanda Soule makes for her kids, and I think, “Well. That’s just not me.” I feel a little sad.

Whenever I think of my brief history of trying to be crafty, I remember the terrible placemat I made in 7th-grade home economics. The edges were puckered and rolled in strange, unattractive bulges. Nothing was straight. We had to embroider our names on the monstrosities and my attempt was entirely crooked, like I had finished it on a roller coaster. I took one look at the final project and declared myself done. I would never be any good in these crafty things. Done.

Now I wonder where I formed such a solid impression that my first attempt had to be perfect or I would never try again. I don’t remember my home economics’ teacher’s face, but I remember the feeling of disapprobation coming from her general direction. Who is good at making placemats at 12?

I’m lucky enough to have made a life that means writing and taking photographs every day. I can’t promise they’re any good on most days, but those putting words on a page and looking through a lens are as daily to me as brushing my teeth. I don’t think about it. I just do.

It just occurs to me that I have crafted that life over time. It looks better than the placemat did.

Recently, I realized, “Wait a second. I am crafty! I make food.”

I took it for granted.

Whenever I make some food from scratch, like homemade potato chips, or mayonnaise, or granola, my first thought has always been: “Man, that’s good!”And my second thought has been, “Wow, that’s a lot easier to do than I thought.”

It’s not hard to make homemade yogurt. In fact, it’s mostly made of a little heat, a little stirring, then a lot of waiting. The taste? Oh, the taste.

Most of us think we don’t have time to make homemade yogurt. It may not be true, but with great yogurts on the market these days, it’s easy to turn our attention elsewhere. We have a yogurt maker, which we found on Freecycle, and we love it. The yogurt we make with whole, non-homogenized milk (made at a local dairy) comes out tangy and thick, bright with taste that makes us eat it all up the first day.

And yet, somehow, I forget.

Reading this piece by the eternally brilliant Francis Lam about making homemade yogurt made me drag out the yogurt maker and let a batch steep, then thicken, overnight. (And as Francis explains, you don’t need a plug-in yogurt maker to do this. A pilot light will do. Or a jar on a heating pad, covered with a towel. You can do this too.) Now that we’re going to be home more during the winter, I want to pull creamy whole-milk yogurt out of the refrigerator more often.

You know, if it were hard to make yogurt, we wouldn’t be eating it now. It would never have lasted through the centuries. Pretty much everything I make from scratch is easier than I thought. And whenever I finally flail over my fear of making something for the first time, I find I’m pleasantly surprised.

(And once you start, you won’t want to stop. Feel like learning how to make cured meat from scratch? Join Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Yummy Mummy, along with hundreds of us, at Charcutepalooza. February is salt-cured pork, after this month’s duck prosciutto. If you eat meat, you want to make it to experience it more fully. Come on over.)

So we’re going to start doing something new here: one new from-scratch food per month. Frankly, Danny has made almost every food, but there is still much left to learn. And me? I’ve never made paneer or kombucha or a sourdough starter or seaweed salt or banana chips in the dehydrator. I want to keep learning, every day. Maybe you’d like to join us.

After all, a bowl of homemade yogurt is bound to look better than that crappy placemat.

42 comments on “making homemade yogurt

  1. Janet NZ

    Oh Shauna – I would LOVE to write and take photos as well as you do! (I made great placemats at 12 – for all the good it did me!)
    Just keep on doing what you are doing so well! xox

  2. cari

    I love this idea, all for less packaged food coming into my house. I have tried paneer and tomato paste which was a blast! I think you can do homemade yogurt in a crockpot! I know doing all of this is really easy, but I also know it is very time consuming, o.k. maybe not yogurt but my tomato paste project took the better part of a day. I am grateful that I have the time to do these kinds of cooking projects. Oh and since your video on homemade stock – nothing else coming out of this kitchen.

  3. MrsWheelbarrow

    So agree that everything I’ve decided to learn to make from scratch has been 1) worth it and 2) remarkably easy, in most cases. (Mincemeat might be the exception.) Somehow, I’ve let my yogurt maker gather dust. Today, it’s coming out to play. Thanks for the reminder! xoCathy

  4. Denise Rivers

    I love the feeling of connection to the past whenever i make something from scratch. My grandmother Kate was brilliant but illiterate. And the best cook I will ever know. When I build something “from the bones up” I feel more connected to her. She is long long gone. She also bought me my first yogurt maker when I was 12! So thanks for helping me remember Kate. Also, thank you for all you do. I had no idea I was gluten intolerant because my symptoms were so bizarre! I began reading your blog from the beginning and felt better almost immediately. Keep doing your good work and I am planning on your cookbook for my birthday!

  5. Mary

    I’m so glad to see someone encouraging yogurt making! Yay Shauna! It is dead easy. It is actually easier than the article you linked to. After living in India for more than a year and making yogurt every single night for the next day’s meals — I can tell you it is not all that fussy. First, if your milk is on a medium flame, you don’t have to stir it — not at all. Just wash your dinner dishes and keep an eye on it to turn it off when it starts to rise up in boil. Then let it cool while you prepare for bed until it is simply warm. Stir in a spoonful of yogurt, put on a lid, and go to bed. Done. In winter I pour the simply-warm milk into a wide thermos, stir in a spoonful of yogurt, and put on the lid. Done. The homes in India are not heated and in winter the temp gets down around 0º at night. And no, I never wrap in blankets or heating pads — and neither does any one I know in India. Yet fantastic yogurt is there waiting every morning. One thing I do know, in America the commercial yogurt rarely works as starter. You usually have to buy the powdered yogurt culture for the first batch, then use from there. Happy yogurt making. Seriously not fussy. Dead easy.

  6. lauren

    I love making yogurt, especially from goat’s milk with some ginger mixed in. So yummy. I’m looking forward to your new homemade posts…especially the kombucha (ginger with kombucha is divine, as well!) And if you can make yogurt, paneer should be easy!
    Cheers! Happy eating 🙂

  7. Kate

    I was unfamiliar with this Amanda person…imagine my surprise when I learned that she lives half an hour from me! Maine is a magical place…come visit 🙂

  8. Diane

    I’ve always wanted to make yogurt from scratch. But to date I haven’t bothered, as “Mountain Home,” that I get in the big 4# tubs, is soooooo good.

    I did however make tofu from scratch yesterday. Not much different from making paneer, really, and radically better-tasting than store-bought. I felt very “crafty” doing so.

  9. Baking 'n' Books

    Interesting. I’ve never made yogurt before – I’m always intimidated by it. But I really should find the “time” that I never seem to have for it…

    I imagine it would be much cheaper than my love for Greek Yogurt!

    🙂

    1. Becca

      If you do make yogurt, you can “Greekify” it by straining in a colander it over several layers of cheesecloth or a layer of old-but-clean t-shirt cloth. I buy the big tubs of yogurt and do this often.

      I’m about to try it with my own homemade yogurt too! (after it sets up tonight)

  10. Jean Ann

    You make me long to start up a batch of yogurt myself! There is truly nothing like homemade. A recommendation: If you are forced to use milk that does not have a great deal of fat content (or cream on top), add in a can of evaporated milk (or 2 depending on the size of your batch). This will result in a thicker and more luscious final product.

  11. joanne

    I love it. It makes winter seem exciting. Being able to take the time to turn out indoor projects. Since eliminating gluten from my diet I’m trying hard to consume the proper fiber and I begin most days with gluten free oatmeal. Now I look forward to a big steaming bowl of creamy oats spooned up in my Rose Portmerion bowl. A pile of wild blueberries served on top ( unfortunately frozen this time of year). And a big dollop of velvety homemade yogurt drizzled with honey. Yum! What a beautiful photo that would be too. Something you’d see on a great January or February calendar. I’m going to do it. How cool.

  12. Beth

    I got really excited when I saw this because I had already decided to make yogurt at home for the first time tonight! I go through one of those big containers at least every week, so I think I’m the perfect candidate to give it a go as well.

  13. Jammy Chick

    I find that I can only use homemade yogurt as a starter for another batch through 2 or 3 cycles before the flavor starts to veer toward too tart – maybe the bad bacteria take over after a while. I usually go buy a small single-serving size container of something I like (a different brand of Greek-style) and reboot with that. When I want something thicker, I put some into a drip coffee cone lined with filter paper (unbleached!) and let it strain for a few hours or up to overnight for a very thick consistency (like soft cheese). When it is done you can just peel the paper off the outside. Mix in some herbs and garlic and this makes a great tangy spread for crackers.

  14. Susan Weiss

    Making paneer is very easy. It takes about 10 minutes altogther. It is so tasty. I have yet to make yogurt though, but it looks good!

  15. Cindy Baugh

    Hey! I am crafty in every possible way, and I have ALWAYS considered cooking as one of them. So yes! You are crafty. Not only with your cooking but with your word craft. You leave me swooning sometimes over your discriptions of food you and Danny have made. Yes Mam! You crafty girl you.

    PS I love Soule Mama too. I homeschooled my own brood and every single day she brings back my own good memories of those days. Sometimes she even makes me want to do it all over again.Best days of my life.

  16. Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day

    It’s funny because I have no crafty bone in my body either.. but I had the same realization about food.. it is my canvas!..

    I love making homemade yogurt.. I have a salton yogurt maker and use it to culture all kinds of things. Almond Cream is my favorite thing ever.

  17. Caneel

    I don’t consider myself very crafty either, except maybe in cooking. And I also love to make my own yogurt. It’s so worth it! And you … you are crafty. Very. All of your posts, photos, ideas … yes, I consider you to be very good at crafts!

  18. Jill

    My method is the simplest I’ve ever heard…no yogurt maker, no pilot light…I make it in 2-cup and 4-cup mason jars (or smaller for bringing in lunches). Here’s what I do:

    Heat milk until it foams up (stir often; if the bottom cooks, your yogurt will get a grainy layer in the bottom). Remove from heat, let cook to about 100 degrees. Pour into mason jars with about a tablespoon of already-made yogurt per 2 cups of milk. Put in a cooler with hot water for about 8 hours. Don’t disturb it while it’s culturing–if you must check it after several hours, do so very gingerly.

    Longer incubation (or too much starter) will make a more sour yogurt; shorter incubation will be rather flavorless. Some brands of yogurt work better than others, but they all work. I reuse my homemade yogurt as a starter a couple times before starting fresh with store yogurt as the starter (I’m sure it could be pushed for more reuse, though).

    Culturing heavy cream just like I described above and then draining it makes a lovely sour cream. Whipping this into butter makes cultured butter.

  19. Tara

    If Tom Colicchio can apply ‘craft’ to food and cooking, then you, dear Shauna, are certainly more than entitled to think of yourself as crafty! When I think of all the creative energy you pour into every day . . .

    I love making homemade yogurt, but have gotten lazy and have fallen out of the habit this year. Which means I’m REALLY lazy, because my oven’s pilot light is the perfect temperature for fermentation, and I use the no-stir method, so making yogurt literally takes no effort in this house! Thanks for the gentle encouragement to get back on the from-scratch wagon. 🙂

  20. Maria

    If you want to make a sweet yogurt, you can add sugar, unflavored gelatin and dried milk while the milk is still hot. This makes a creamy solid product like you get in stores, which is the only kind my husband will eat.

    However, I just found out the dried milk I’ve been using has gluten in it, so I’ve been glutening myself for the past couple of months. No wonder my tummy was unhappy. My box of dried milk predated the labeling requirments, I guess. (I don’t use dried milk very fast) I didn’t find out about the possibility of wheat contamination until I bought a new box. 🙁

  21. Brenda

    You know every bad phobia/fear/flashback can be traced back to middle school Home-Ec. class?! I hated sewing for years because of some horrendous shirt we had to make…I almost failed the dumb class because of that shirt! But (all these) years later I make custom drapes for a living! If we could erase those middle school years, I wonder what all of us could have done with ourselves! Thanks for the post, I’ll try a dairy free version, but now I’m not afraid to try. 🙂

  22. Anna

    Yay for making things from scratch! I hope everyone has some opportunity to realize that they can make things, even if they don’t think they are crafty. In the past few years I have become really fascinated with making things from scratch in the kitchen and elsewhere. Creating is so important and I hope that everyone can find things they truly enjoy creating.

    Your post has reminded me that I intended to do more cheese making this year. Glad to hear about all the others who make yogurt!

  23. Cindy

    Perfect timing. I’m making almond milk yogurt right now. I found out this past year that I’m allergic to dairy and gluten intolerant. It has been a big change, but your blog has been a life saver. Thank you!

  24. Cris

    A lovely post, Shauna! I’m right there with you. My mother and sister are incredibly crafty (knitting, embroidery, quilting, you name it). It has been said among the three of us that I didn’t get the “crafty gene”, but now I feel vilified because I can see how my cooking is just as crafty as making a blanket. Also, I’ve been making my own yogurt for years and it’s FABULOUS. People think I’m crazy, then I give them some yogurt to try and the next question is “where did you get that yogurt machine?”

  25. MrsWheelbarrow

    Dearest Shauna, Thank you for the lovely post. Not only am I delighted you’ve mentioned our little meat thing, but you gave me a good healthy push back to the yogurt maker. How did I get lazy and stop doing this? Today, this morning, because of you, I have the most delicious, creamy, beautiful yogurt for breakfast. xo

  26. Sabrina Sasser

    Soule Mamma makes me feel hopelessly inadeqate, yet I insist on reading that darn blog every single day. I did, however, decide to learn to knit because of her, despite the fact that it always looked to be completely out of my brain’s realm of comprehension, and I now have a lovely half-finished scarf for my husband that just may get finished by spring. I also love her soup recipes, and have been relying on them heavily during these wintry days, while I have to cook with a newborn strapped to by body and a 4 year old begging to help. Also: I found this recipe for an amazing focaccia/pizza crust that can be adapted with add-ins to fit the meal at hand, and it’s the easiest thing ever. I wanted to recommend it to you, since it’s almond flour and no gums; I figure you of all people could do creative things with it. I made it one night with cheddar to go with broccoli soup, and I made it last night with rosemary, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and parm to go with a minestrone. http://comfybelly.com/2010/08/cheese-bread-and-pie-crust/

  27. Brooke@foodwoolf

    It’s funny how we close up the doors to our own “crafty-ness” and forget about the things we really do. As far as I’m concerned, making food from scratch and writing is just about as cool as it gets in the world of craft. So you’re batting a 1000. Love this story and this reminder to celebrate the simple crafts we actually do. xoxox

  28. Lauren

    There is a deep-seeded connection when we make foods that have been for years and years. I love it. Plus, it makes me feel so alive to make my food from scratch, especially if I grew the food from seed too. It’s a beautiful thing. Thanks for sharing. We’ve been making our own yogurt for a while, even homemade coconut yogurt though it isn’t nearly as thick.

  29. Michelle

    Shauna,
    Stephanie over at crockpot365@blogspot.com came up with a way to make yogurt in her crockpot. Super easy, and it makes great yogurt! Basically you heat the milk on low for 3 hrs, let it cool for 3 hrs, stir in the starter, wrap it in a towel, and let it sit 8hrs or overnight. I have not had a batch fail yet with her method.

  30. Gluten Free Diva

    I love the idea of challenging yourself with new cooking endeavors. Just last week, I made goats milk kefir for the first time. It’s so darn easy and makes the greatest smoothies! My next attempt will be kombucha – I have the “baby scoby” in my frig and will be trying my hand at it very soon. Thanks for reminding me about freecycle – in fact, the kefir came from kefir grains that a friend got from freecycle!

  31. Beatrix

    Hmm..I love homemade yogourt…I should pull out my maker again. And I completely agree. There is something so satisfying about making it from scratch..I rarely buy premade or processed foods and will always try to remake something at home. Love it.

  32. Sarah-Wynne

    Mum and I really enjoy making yogurt. Two ounces of plain, probiotic yogurt from the store, half an hour on the stove, and six hours in a crockpot water bath turns out a lovely, gently tangy yogurt. We’ve found the less time we warm it (6 instead of 8 hours), the creamier the taste; also, I got hooked on Greek-style in Crete last summer, so I usually strain mine to make it thicker. Although whole-fat homogenised milk seems to work quite well–Mum even uses store-bought milk for cheese–we’d love a source of fresh milk.

  33. Heather (Gluten-Free Cat)

    I went through a “trying-to-be-crafty” phase in the 80’s, and that just resulted in my poor family members enduring tacky Christmas sweatshirts and lacy fabric-covered photo albums, and it left me with glue gun burns and the realization that I need to stick to writing! Shauna, you are more than just crafty with your food creations and essays. You are an inspiring artist!

  34. Vicky

    I bought a yogurt maker five years ago when my son started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. We have been enjoying fresh luscious thick wholemilk yogurt ever since. I incubate it for 24 hours in order to kill off the lactose since people with Crohns Disease are also lactose intolerant. When he comes home I make 3 or 4 litres a week and it’s used in most of the cakes and breads I make as well as the almond flour pizza crust I have developed. Yogurt cream makes the most delicious ice cream and yogurt cheese is wonderful!! Thank you for the post Shauna!

  35. Geri Gregory

    does anyone know how to make yogurt with no casein and no almond milk I am very intolerant to both and miss my yogurt and keifer so much I don’t know what to use as my starter in the past I had made homemade yogurt when I could tolerate milk

  36. victoria rowan

    I cant make yogurt!!! I am really crafty I knit and cook and make stuff but all of my yogurt attempt have resulted in milk with bits in (yuck!) I bought a thermometer and everything but no joy, what am I doing wrong?

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