This is a yoghurt recipe that I have evolved over the last 5 years, with inspiration from some of my favourite authors including Jude Blereau, Sandor Katz and Elaine Gottschall. I don't like feeling obligated to my kitchen, and prefer my ferments not to be too needy. If you have ever tried to keep kefir grains, kombucha or a sourdough starter alive then you may be familiar with this feeling too. I do believe that these types of fermentation have great benefits to health, but above all I believe that you should be healthy to the point that is not stress producing in your life.
This is why I ferment vegetables in my kitchen, and occasionally yoghurt too. These can be done when the need or mood arises. This way I never feel like I have a kitchen full of 'pets' to feed. Some people thrive on the routine and structure of this approach... me not so much. Occasionally I will keep some transient fermenting 'pets', but when I start to resent them, I thank them for their time and happily let them go.I alternate between buying commercial yoghurt and making my own, and I find that the starter remains nice and strong this way and I don't get sick of the process. There is certainly health benefits to making your own yoghurt, which I will outline in a future post that discusses types of dairy intolerance. Subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of my homepage to ensure you don't miss it if you are interested, click here.
As always I have made the process of this recipe as simple and streamlined as possible. As with all forms of fermentation, it is possible to get some unpredictable outcomes. My advice is to hold your head high and carry on. It will become easier after a couple of attempts, and then you will hardly have to think about it.
1 litre of dairy milk
1 Tbsp of live yoghurt
- Place the milk in a saucepan
- Heat over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally
- Meanwhile, pour boiling water into a large glass jar and lid, then drain
- Bring the milk to just before the boil (a few bubbles will do)
- Remove the saucepan and place in an empty sink
- Run cold water around the saucepan, filling the sink to cool the milk
- Allow the milk to cool until you can just put your finger in it and leave it
- Place 1 Tbsp of yoghurt (commercial or from a previous batch) in the bottom of your clean jar
- When the milk has cooled, pour a small amount into the jar with the yoghurt and stir
- Add remaining milk and stir again
- Place lid on tight, and place in a warm spot for at least 8 hours. See suggestions below.
What milk should I use to make my yoghurt?
Any cow's milk will work with this recipe. I choose local, organic, unhomogensied milk from Highland Organics if i'm organised. UHT milk or other heated milks produce a nice thick yoghurt and can be used, although fresh whole-milk fits in better with my real food philosophy. I have never had success using goats milk with this recipe, even when using goat's milk yoghurt as a starter. I happily use any short-dated milk for this purpose also. It is a great way to reduce waste of good quality milk about to sour, or milk marked down by retailers.
Where should I leave my yoghurt to ferment?
Yoghurt needs a warm temperature to ferment. I choose not to use a thermometer and experiment with what produces the best result in my home. Currently I use the empty outer shell of an Easiyo container to place my glass jar full of yoghurt directly in. It acts as a mini-insulator, and a similar effect can be achieved through using a small esky. At other times I have wrapped my jar in a towel and placed it near the oven or fireplace overnight. I also went through a stage of leaving it in the oven with the oven light on (no heat), which produced just enough warmth in a closed oven. Then my oven light bulb blew and I moved on to other methods until it was replaced.
How long should I ferment my yoghurt for?
I generally ferment my yoghurt for around 8-10 hours. For longer fermentation times it is better to have more consistent heat sources, such as the oven-method mentioned above, an electric yoghurt maker with a temperature setting or a dehydrator suited to this purpose. Yoghurt can be fermented for up to 24 hours this way, and doing so produces a yoghurt that is virtually lactose free and concentrated in good bacteria. This outcome is of course dependent on the specific temperatures required being maintained.
What if my yoghurt is not very thick?
This is an ongoing battle for every home yoghurt maker. Often milk powders or gelatine are added in an attempt to thicken homemade yoghurt. I make my yoghurt as outlined in my recipe and then leave it in the fridge undisturbed for at least 12 hours before use. This seems to thicken it enough for me. Yoghurt that is not very thick is still great for smoothies or baking with. There is also the option of straining more whey (the liquid) from your yoghurt using a fine mesh strainer. You can line this with cheesecloth if you are very particular. If you tie the cheesecloth tight around your yoghurt you can leave it to drip until you have made a ball of Labne (yoghurt cheese). Remember to retain the liquid drained off, which is whey. It can be added to smoothies as extra protein, put into the soaking water of your whole grains or added to your fermented vegetables. I find that my yoghurt seems thin when I have made a few batches in a row with my homemade yoghurt as a starter. That is when I take a break and buy a commercial container, then start again.
Can I make a double batch?
Yes, as long as the ratio stays the same. I recommend a standard or flat tablespoon of yoghurt, as this is an instance where more is not necessarily better for the outcome. You can even experiment with less. A large batch can be used to experiment with different locations and insulating methods, by splitting it up into multiple jars.
What if my yoghurt seems bad?
My advice is to trust your senses and if your yoghurt seems bad discard it. Yoghurt is a familiar taste to most of us, and we are generally acclimatised to what it's sour taste should be like. Yoghurt made correctly is very unlikely to have an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. This is due to the lactic acid produced by the good bacteria inhibiting their growth. I have never had an outcome that seemed bad while using the above method, but anything is possible so use your personal judgment at all times.