In between International Dinners, we make some yoghurt at home

Saturday, 27th October 2012

We’ve had a busy couple of weekends with birthday parties for Ryan and myself, so haven’t had time to do our next International Dinner yet, Papua New Guinea is on it’s way – but in the meantime I decided to show the boys how easy it is to turn milk into natural healthy yoghurt, without all that added sugar and stabilisers etc.

Ryan is a bit of a yoghurt connoisseur – I say connoisseur, but really I just mean particularly picky. He has one favourite yoghurt brand and only likes the vanilla bean flavour of that particular brand, one week the supermarket was totally out of this particular brand so we bought another thinking it wouldn’t be an issue… he never saw the carton, but after about two bites he asked if it was the purple (packaging color) yoghurt. “I don’t like it” And that was the end of that.

So here I am vainly hoping that if I show them the magic of turning milk into yoghurt in little over 5-6 hours, that’ll be enough for him to give it a chance…

Making yoghurt is easy…

Here’s the ingredient list…

• 1L (1 quart) full cream milk
• 2Tbsp plain unsweetened store bought yoghurt with live cultures
• Sterilised jar with airtight lid
• Sterilised spoon (straight from a just finished dishwasher cycle is  sufficient, or just boil them in water for a minute or so)
• Some sort of thermometer (I used the one we have for the kids when they get sick as it doesn’t require direct contact with the liquid, but a cooking/candy thermometer would be better, and the temperature range of the kid’s thermometer is not large)

You only need the store bought yoghurt as a starter the first time, after that you can simply use 2Tbsp of the yoghurt you’ve made again and again.


Bring your two tablespoons of starter yoghurt out to warm up to room temperature while you heat the milk.

Take your full cream milk and heat it in a saucepan on a low heat until tiny froth bubbles start to cover the surface, just until it is starting to boil. Heating the milk has two purposes, it kills any undesirable bacteria already present in the milk and also chemically changes the milk enabling it create stronger bonds and therefore a thicker yoghurt. Once the milk is heated fully remove from the heat and  pour into your sterilised jar and allow to cool until 45˚C (110˚F).

At that temperature you can safely stir in the starter yoghurt (2Tbsp) without killing the live bacteria. Make sure it’s mixed thoroughly into the warm milk.

That’s pretty much it for the preparation. Now you need to incubate your yoghurt at between 35˚C and 45˚C (90˚F – 110˚F) for 5-6 hours. There’s a few ways to do this.

The method I used was to preheat the oven to 45˚C (110˚F) and using a baking dish create a water bath at temperature from the kitchen hot tap.
Then each hour I just checked the temperature inside the oven, in a good well sealed oven the temperature only dropped to about 39˚C (102˚F) over the hour, then I just turned the oven on for about 30-45 seconds to bring it back to heat and closed it  again for an hour.

You can also leave it in the sun on a warm summer’s day – just keep your eye on the temperature. The previously mentioned temperature range is optimal for “culturing” the good yoghurt bacteria, any higher and you’ll kill the bacteria, any lower and undesirable bacteria will likely take over.

Heating mats and simple insulating-yoghurtmakers are also good. And I might try the warming cycle on the rice cooker, but as a cost exercise minimal use of electricity was the aim.

Once your yoghurt has a custard like thick texture it’s up to you how long you leave it incubating, the longer, the stronger the yoghurt “tang” will be.

Once you’ve got a good yoghurt texture simply remove from heat and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight – then you’re ready to enjoy your fresh, homemade unsweetened yoghurt.

Now, back to the boys – given that Ryan only likes his special vanilla yoghurt, i showed him that we could make it simply by adding some honey for sweetness and some vanilla extract (vanilla been juice – as I called it to help by reinforcing the idea that this was just like his normal vanilla bean yoghurt).
He was not keen to even taste it as first, but after Sam had a bowl he didn’t want to be left out so had a taste, decide he liked it and ordered a bowl as well… success… he did get me to add a little extra honey as well to it… He left a couple of spoonfuls behind, which I tried, that was a little too sweet for me… but all good… maybe we can wean him off his “purple yoghurt” (making it at home is 1/3 the cost of buying it!)

Next up Papua New Guinea… Ryan’s had friend’s birthday party’s this weekend so we haven’t really had a chance to go grocery shopping yet…

Just a final note on the yoghurt, when you first open it up just give it a sniff, if it’s really repugnant then something has gone wrong in the process (like bad bacteria sneaking in) and you’ll definitely be able to smell it a mile away…! Otherwise it should mildly yoghurty-smelling… 😀


2 thoughts on “In between International Dinners, we make some yoghurt at home

  1. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but hadn’t quite figured out how I was going to maintain the temperature while the yoghurt was “culturing”.. but this seems like a doable plan. Thanks. Will let you know how it goes.

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