Homemade Low-Fat Yogurt (Plain or Lightly Sweetened Vanilla)

A while back I posted a recipe for homemade vanilla yogurt with cherries, pistachio, and a balsamic-honey glaze, a recipe I hijacked from Kate over at Cookie + Kate.  I believe at that time I promised to show you all how to make homemade yogurt.  Whoops!  How time flies!  Well, better late than never, right?  Here goes…

First, I wanted to point out a few benefits of making your own yogurt because y’all might need some convincing.  I bet you are thinking only hippies make their own yogurt…not true!  If I, Aura, who wears Uggs and has a Coach purse (they were unrequested gifts, okay?!?) makes her own yogurt then it is decidedly a non-hippie thing to do.  Maybe more like a foodie thing to do.  Okay…I digress…on to the benefits…!  First, making your own yogurt is easy.  All you need to do is heat up some milk, stir in some store bought yogurt (once you make your own you will use your own to culture the next batch, not store bought), and let it sit.  That’s it!  Second, making your own yogurt is about half the price of buying it when you compare the cost of a half gallon of organic milk to a half gallon of organic yogurt.  I spent $3.79 for a half gallon of organic milk, the same amount I would spend on one quart of organic yogurt.  Third, you get to determine the level of flavor/sweetener you add to the yogurt if you plan to sweeten it.  I like to add some vanilla extract and a little touch of maple syrup to mine so that it is lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt.

Convinced?  Good.  Now, here’s how you do it.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon of 2% organic milk
  • 1/2 cup plain commercial yogurt (with live/active cultures)
  1. Heat the milk:  In a heavy saucepan (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven/soup pot), heat the milk until just before it boils.  As it heats, stir gently to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  I use a candy thermometer to check the temperature but really you just need to heat it until just before boiling and you will be fine.
  2. Cool the milk.  Let the milk cool until it is 115 degrees or so, just hot to the touch.  If you want the milk to cool faster, stir it or set it over an ice water bath.  I just let it sit for a bit while I do other stuff in the kitchen.
  3. Inoculate the milk.  Ladle about one cup of the warm milk into a bowl and whisk it with your store bought yogurt (once you have made your own yogurt, you will use 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt to incubate the next batch).  Once you have a smooth consistency, pour it back into your pot of milk.
  4. Incubate.  You can do this a number of ways.  All I do is cover the pot with the lid and set it into an oven that has been heated to about 115 degrees.  I shut the oven off and let the yogurt sit overnight (7-8 hours) in the oven with the oven light on.
  5. When you get up, put the pot of yogurt into the refrigerator and let cool for a couple of hours.  Once it has chilled, transfer the yogurt to air tight containers (jars or Pyrex containers with rubber lids work well).
  6. If you want lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt, stir in a few drops of vanilla extract and maple syrup to sweeten.  Taste and add more of either if you want a stronger vanilla flavor or more sweetness.
  7. Your yogurt will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
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