November 6, 2013

Homemade Yogurt: Good for your Gut & Budget.

Making yogurt is surprisingly easy and something Kristy and I have been making every 1-2 weeks for the past two years. This was one of our first forays into homesteading in the sense that we made something that we could have bought in the store but chose not to.

Yogurt is one type of fermented food that we eat to try almost every day to help support the health of our guts with beneficial probiotic bacteria. We go through a lot of yogurt between the two of us (about a gallon a week). At up to $4 a quart for the high quality yogurt it ends up being much more cost effective to buy the supplies and make our own than it is to buy it as a finished product. In addition, we can control the ingredients that we put into the yogurt. We like to make lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt, since much of the yogurt that you can buy if far too sweet for our taste (and our health...)!

After quite a bit of research and trial and error, here is the recipe and the method that we have developed.  Enjoy!

All the ingredients you need to make yogurt.


1 gallon of whole milk (whole milk will produce a thicker, creamier product).
1/3 cup of pre-made yogurt (used to inoculate the milk)
1/4-1/3 cup of sugar, honey, or maple syrup (optional)*
2 Tbs of vanilla extract (optional)*

*If you want to make plain yogurt you could just omit these ingredients. Though we have significantly reduced the amount of sugar we add to our yogurt recipe, we still can not bring ourselves to eat just plain yogurt. If you can, more power to you!



Large pot
Mixing bowl
Measuring cups and spoons
Cooking thermometer
Mason jars
An incubation system. (We use an old cardboard old solar oven that Kristy made with some of her kids at an afteschool program, lined with an electric blanket. You could also use a cooler, lined with blankets, a warm oven, or a warm place behind a stove. You just need to keep the milk warm for about 8 hours. Get creative!)



Before you start: Make sure that all of your equipment is clean. You do not need to sterilize them, but make sure to wash them with hot, soapy water.

1. In a large pot heat 1 gallon of milk to 180° F, stirring constantly and making sure to scrape the bottom to prevent burning.  (This recipe is for pasteurized milk. You would need to follow a different procedure if you wanted to use raw milk without destroying the beneficial enzymes and vitamins.)

2. Remove the milk from the stove and allow it to  cool to 115° F. We often fill the sink with cold water and submerge the pot to speed up the process.

3. In a separate bowl mix 1/4-1/3 cup of your sweetener with 1 cup of milk. Pour this mixture back into the large pot of milk and stir. Repeat this procedure with 1/3 cup of the starter yogurt, then with 2 Tbs of vanilla extract.

4. Pour into mason jars using a funnel to prevent spillage. We use 2 half gallon jars and 1 pint jar.

5. Incubate for 8 hours. Whatever system you use, sure to keep the milk between 105-115° F. We use an old solar oven and an electric blanket set to the lowest setting.

In this process, you are creating the conditions in the milk that allow the beneficial bacteria in the starter yogurt to colonize the milk and turn it into what we know as yogurt. In the process the bacteria digest much of the lactose in the milk and turn it into lactic acid (creating the characteristically sour flavor). These beneficial bacteria then help to support a healthy and diverse population of bacteria in your gut (which has a large list of benefits from helping to aid digestion to supporting your immune system).


  1. I love plain yoghurt and particularly like the Greek style - very thick (solid) and creamy, best of all with a thick skin on top. I get raw organic milk from next door's cow (yum) which is a good start. But how do I get that really thick consistency?

    1. You can follow the same steps, but at the end, you need to strain the yogurt to remove the extra whey. Pour the yogurt into a colander lined with a cheese-cloth. Let it sit for a few hours (or overnight) until the yogurt is a consistency that you like... and there you have it: Greek yogurt! Be sure to save the extra whey. I can make some pretty tasty pancakes.

  2. Strained yoghurt is different to their normal yoghurt, which is still thick and creamy, but has a more tangy flavour, and a thick skin. I'd love to know how they do it! I can certainly do as you suggest and strain the yoghurt to make it thick, but it's not the same thing... I used to eat yoghurt every day at a wonderful creamery & patisserie in Athens called Varsos - never tasted yoghurt like it. Came in shallow earthenware dishes (now they're plastic - sign of the times!) and along with proper feta out of wooden barrels, is the taste of Greece for me. I'll just have to go back and ask them....


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