Foolproof Homemade Yogurt

yogurt maker

Our children seriously love yogurt. They will eat it every day, in a bowl by itself, with various toppings, in smoothies, right out of the container, you name it. I know it’s good for them. However — and I’m probably the last mom on the planet to notice this — most store-bought yogurt has an obscene amount of sugar in it. Also, yogurt is not cheap, especially the all-natural/organic varieties I like to buy. So, in order to save money, feed their (healthy) yogurt habit, but reduce the (not so healthy) sugar habit, I invested in a yogurt maker from Lehman’s – and I made my own!

Yes, I work for Lehman’s, purveyor of all things “simple living, old-fashioned and do-it-yourself.” Yes, I make my own bread and laundry soap. We use a clothesline, dabble in vegetable gardening and freeze sweet corn, blueberries and other foods each summer (this WILL BE my year to start canning!). But in general I’m a middle-of-the-road, “within reason” DIY-er.

However, I’ve been very interested in probiotics lately, and even ventured into the world of kombucha brewing. My health-conscious Dad regularly makes his own yogurt, and I wondered if I could too. I know there are many methods, from the oven to slow cooker to containers that simply sit on a countertop, but I wanted something more…foolproof. Yep, that’s me. I need foolproof. And here it is.

Back in January, the team asked me to test our new yogurt maker. We don’t offer many electric appliances (after all, we cater to the off-the-grid Amish and were known as the “non-electric catalog” for many years). So when we add an electric item, you’d better believe we test it out. Happily, this yogurt maker is compact, well-designed and very easy to use. Really … if I can do it, anyone can!

The first thing I did was wash the seven included jars and lids with hot, soapy water and dry them completely. (They’re fine in the dishwasher, too – but I wasn’t ready to run mine at that moment.)

ingredients

 

I assembled my ingredients – just milk and starter. For this first batch, I used plain store-bought yogurt as the starter. You can also use starter cultures, or one glass jar of yogurt from your previous batch. And milk – I used 2%, because it’s what we drink. You can use skim, 1%, 2%, whole, even soy. The fat content of the milk makes a little difference in the time it takes to make the yogurt, but this is all spelled out in the instructions.

stirring milk

Put your milk in a medium to large saucepan and heat until it boils and starts to “climb” the sides of the pan. Watch carefully – milk boils all at once. One second it’s just steaming, the next minute you are scrubbing your stove because it boiled over. This has happened to me twice – and now I know! Once it boils, remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.

pouring milk into jars

When the milk has cooled, you stir your starter into a portion of the milk and whisk or stir until it is all mixed and smooth. Then you add that back to the rest of the milk, mix again, and pour into the little jars. You can transfer the milk to a pitcher so it’s easier to pour. My saucepan has a spout so it pours easily (lucky me).

yogurt in maker

Then, place the glass jars, WITHOUT the lids on, into the yogurt maker, put on the lid, set the timer and press the button to turn it on. And then…you can walk away.

[Insert several hours here, where we all left the house, went sledding and had a fantastic time! This was in January, remember? Look at that snow!]

carsten sledding

 

carsten in snowbank

Several hours later … Beep, beep, beep – it’s finished. My batches, made with 2% milk, have taken around 9 hours. The best thing about this yogurt maker (and the foolproof factor) is the automatic shut off! When the yogurt is done, the timer switches off and the maker beeps to let you know. Take out the jars, put on the lids, place them in the fridge and you’re done.

jars on counter

Seven jars of homemade probiotic goodness!

 

jars in fridge

Here are the jars all nestled in my fridge. Don’t they look so cute and healthy? I really love these little jars — they’re the perfect size to grab in the morning and put in the kiddos’ lunches, or take for my lunch at Lehman’s, or make a quick breakfast. I like to open a jar and add a handful of granola, walnuts or almonds and a drizzle of honey. Protein, calcium and probiotics – not a bad start to the day, eh?

Important Update: I’ve made several more batches since the first, and I have discovered that I like making the plain version best, adding fruit, jam, syrup etc. AFTER the yogurt is made. The instructions say you can add these things to the milk mixture before you make the yogurt, but when I tried that (with raspberry jam) the results were less than great. The best method I’ve found for flavoring the yogurt after it’s been refrigerated is to open a jar, plop a spoonful of my favorite jam or jelly on the top of the plain yogurt, replace the lid and put it back in the fridge. Then just give it a little stir when you’re ready to eat it. Yummy!