How To Make Homemade Yogurt

The wind whipped through the city last night. I only know this from the clanking sound made by the bathroom vent as the building slowly inhaled and exhaled, as though being resuscitated by the wind outside.

Around 1am the incessant clanking noise woke me, I threw off the overly hot duvet and stumbled into the living room. I glanced out the window at a row of trees dancing next to the sidewalk.

Except for a few lit windows in the building next door, the city slept while I could not. I curled up on the couch listening to Joe lightly snored from the bedroom. Bobby (my beloved dog) moved from the floor near the TV and plopped down on his bed across the room, apparently annoyed I interrupted his sleep.

Although Bobby would likely disagree if he could speak, the truth is … he had it coming. Maybe now, my pup can relate to my frustration when he inconsiderately munches on kibble at 3am. Caesar Milan would scold me for this humanizing rationalization, of course.

I imagine Caesar heavily dosed with Polo or Drakkar cologne, the knit fibers in his tightly worn shirt effusing the overly sweet scent to anyone within eye shot … yes, these are the thoughts that keep me from sleep.


Aside from the growing sound of wind running into the sharp corners of our building, the city remained silent. Only hours before, Joe turned on the Vancouver Canucks playoff game and we witnessed the final goal which clinched their seat in the next round. I’m learning there are a few distinct things which define Canadians. Most importantly, they are fiercely passionate about hockey.

As the game winning puck flew into the goal, car horns spontaneously honked in celebration in the street below. Joe and I turned and looked at one another in amazement. The honking, shouts of joy, and general merriment continued … and continued, for well over the next hour.

Staring out the window didn’t feel productive, so I opened my laptop and decided to spend my late night / early morning time catching up on feed reading. I’m not sure how or from whose site, but I found myself reading a recent New York Times article on making yogurt. It reminded me how my mother would make tart jars of yogurt when I was young.

It’s amazing how the past is never really in the past. The 70s (yes, my childhood) seemed to be about food co-ops, raising foods organically, making our own soaps – cheeses – yogurts – ice creams, eating healthy amounts of whole grain, replacing chocolate with carob, and brewing rose hip tea. It reminds me so much of the modern day slow food movement, all-natural, eat local, prepare-it-yourself mentality.

Although I miss my bleached hair tremendously, I blame the 80s for ushering in a change to our food and diets (not to mention many hideous fashion mistakes). Goodbye were the days of homespun honey and baked granola. Madonna, Flock of Seagulls and the Culture Club brought with them a decade of opposition. Men became androgynous, women bathed themselves in layers of bracelets, and natural foods became replaced with Cherry Coke and Chicken McNuggets. My mother bought a bread machine.

I yawned a little as I skimmed the yogurt making instructions. I felt an instant familiarity with the culture. No honking horns or glam-rock hair, just the simplicity of natural fermentation innocently learned before I craved my first body piercing. Is it possible we’re looping back once again?

A small amount of yogurt is added to warmed milk, the active bacteria in the yogurt feeds on the milk sugars. The bacteria eats and eats, increasing in number, all the while slowly curdling the milk into a divine custard-like texture. And brilliantly, you use the remaining few tablespoons of your homemade yogurt as the starter for the next batch. An infinite repetition.

This batch is followed by the next batch, this culture will usher in the next culture. Nothing remains constant but instead is on an infinite loop. It will happen again.

So, it was in the early morning hours that I decided to make yogurt today, to pay homage to my mother and a simpler time. At least, that’s how I wish to remember it, simpler – natural – homemade – pure – fresh – -whatever you want to term it.

Around 3am, my computer battery gave out and the screen dimmed. My eyes grew heavy and the wind seemed to cease. I turned on the television and laid down on the couch. Withing minutes, my eyes closed and my mind raced with thoughts of tangy yogurt, milk cultures, food cultures, the Culture Club, Canadian culture and my longing for a little piece of home.

Forgive me for the self-indulgent writing – some days it flows out more than others. The recipe you’re all anxiously awaiting is as follows:

1 quart fresh milk
2 T plain yogurt (room temp.)

In a small pot, add the milk and place over medium heat. Using a thermometer, bring the milk up to 180F, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 110F.

While heating the milk, turn on your oven to the lowest possible setting. For me, this was about 150F. Let it heat up for a few minutes, then turn it off. You will use it later to keep the milk mixture warm.

I also allow the plain yogurt to sit out at room temperature so it isn’t cold when used. Add 2 T plain yogurt to the 110F milk. Stir until smooth and fully combined.

Pour milk mixture into a jar and wrap in a towel. I find that alligator clips (used to clip bundles of papers) are a perfect kitchen device for tasks such as this (also perfect for sealing bags of chips). Place the wrapped jar into the warm oven and close the door. Allow it to set for 4 hours. You can check it at this point to determine if the texture and flavor are to your liking. The longer it sets both the thicker and more tart it will become.

I peeked at around the 2 hour mark and the yogurt was already a thin custard texture. I allowed it to set for an additional 3.5 hours before refrigerating. The consistency is a bit thinner than store-bought so next time I may let it sit for an additional hour or two.

The yogurt will last for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. Make sure to save a few tablespoons to make the next batch.

From a cost perspective – a 3/4 cup container of organic plain yogurt cost me $1.89. This batch will make about five 3/4 cup servings for the cost of the milk, which was just under $3. A total savings of $6 – AND – the yogurt tastes better and is without sweeteners, colorings or flavorings. Add your own fruit, nuts, and spices for a naturally delicious and healthy treat, just like mom used to make.


Further reading/viewing from other blogs:
Homemade Yogurt Video – Chez Us
You Can Make Yogurt in Your Crockpot! – A Year of CrockPotting
Homemade Yogurt Recipe – 101cookbooks
Why You Should Make Yogurt – Sidewalk Shoes
Make Your Own Yogurt! – Eggs on Sunday

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  1. I was also inspired by memories of my mother making yoghurt to go ahead and make my own. I’ve been doing so for several years now and I find the whole process of making yoghurt somehow deeply satisfying (not to mention cheaper!).

    I think it’s because there’s a kind of rhythm to it. I don’t use a thermometer but know that the milk is heated enough when the first small bubbles appear at the side of the pot. I also know that it is cooled enough when it’s lukewarm to the touch (and, yes, I did have some dud batches before I got to know what felt right!). I do have a yoghurt maker (well, incubator, really) to keep it slightly warm while the culture develops, though my mum would sometimes use a thermos flask to achieve the same results. And best of all is that I get to eat it every day, which is good news for me, because I’m a bit of a yoghurt fiend!

  2. Allen, welcome to my world of sleepless nights! I had a good laugh at reading this post. And I didn’t find it at all self indulgent…just honest with a touch of comedy (bleached hair, chocolate and carob and Culture Club!). Great effort with the yoghurt. When I have a little more time I’d love to try this.

  3. Allen, if you think this is self-indulgent, then you might say 90% of my posts are basically textual *unprintable!*. I loved reading this, but you gotta take it easy on Bobby, ha ha ha :) He can only understand so much!
    Do you discard anything from the yogurt? I would guess not. (Unless you were trying to achieve the texture of Greek yogurt.) I estimate the savings would be 50% for here if I made my own. Now I don’t have yogurt all the time but it’s something to think about when I need a ton, like to make frozen yogurt. Thanks so much for the recipe and tips! :)

  4. I remember my mum making yoghurt in special tupperware yoghurt making containers. This seems like such a simple good thing to make.

  5. My mom used to make yogurt with that white bacteria that you have to “milk” every morning. Heheh, that is the most delicious yogurt I’ve ever had in my life. And I like your writing! It’s so literary :)

  6. I really enjoy your writing style. There have been so many late nights where I couldn’t sleep. I then turn to catching up on my feeds and being inspired by something to cook the next day. Bravo on the story.

  7. Wow, we have yogurt every morning in our smoothie so I should really try making our own. It doesn’t look any harder than making your ricotta which I’ve been doing lately. Question: do you add the yogurt when the milk is at 110 F or 100 F?

  8. Christie: Thank you – give it a try sometime. You’ll like it, I’m sure.

    Daily Spud: Next time I’ll be adventurous and try it without a thermometer.

    Christina: Thank you!

    FoodieInDisguise: Thank you!

    Peter G: For a thicker Greek-style yogurt, you can strain the resulting yogurt in cheesecloth so the excess moisture drains out. It should reduce in volume and become much thicker. Glad you enjoyed it and the writing :-)

    Manggy: Hmm, are you the king of self-indulgent posts? I learn from the best! You do not discard anything from the process. You may find a bit of yellowish liquid form on top — this is just whey, which you can pour off or stir into the yogurt.

    Sylvie: It looks like many of us have the same memory of our mothers :-)

    Culinary Cory: Thank you – I appreciate the kind words. I enjoy being more creative in my writing and tend to hold back when blogging.

    Kat: Hmmm, I’ve never made ricotta :-) The yogurt is added when the milk reaches 110F. I corrected the typo in the post — sorry about that!

  9. Ben: Whoops – you were stuck in the moderation queue when I was responding to everyone else. Farm fresh milk would be wonderful to make this with — sadly, there’s nothing to milk here in the city. And, thank you for the writing compliment ‘literary’ … I was supposed to have been a writer many years ago but became sidetracked. :-)

  10. I think Allen was being nice and omitted a few details in his post. I was apparently snoring rather soundly and was pushed / silenced a few times :)

  11. I read the same article and was very intrigued. For farm fresh milk, trek out to Avalon Dairy on the south side of Vancouver. No cows there, but you can buy unpasteurized milk and European style (read: higher fat content) butter.

    Welcome to Canada. It’s going to be fun.

  12. Wow Allen problems to sleep I’ve had the same very often generally at 4AM for me little daughter crying…I know the feeling.

    This is a nice recipe very similar to my grandmother-yogurt recipe that she made almost every week.
    The difference is the lactic ferment purchased (one time), more milk and done! If you leave some of the yogurt recent done you use it for other batches!
    Btw I’ll use the retweet button. :)

    Have a great weekend!

  13. Wow, Allen, this is AWESOME!! I can’t wait to try it! Thank you for the recipe!

    Your writing wasn’t the least bit self-indulgent, btw – I thought it was beautifully written and meditative…

  14. sounds easy – another recipe to try from you! J’s into eating yoghurt again – she goes through phases…..and you must write more!

  15. Wow, you did that… made yogurt?? When I was little my aunt got this really expensive yogurt-making machine lol. I remember how excited we were to make it and swirl in some jam. Funny to see how easy it is to just make it yourself!

    Your 80’s talk cracked me up :)

  16. It was a pleasure reading this. Although the economy is horrible, I think it is a beautiful thing that it is encouraging people to cook at home. We are returning to more rustic, wholesome food, and it’s always more delicious than store bought.

    I had no idea that yogurt could be so easy, thanks for the enlightenment.

  17. Great post! I am also one of the legions of homemade yogurt fans. I’ve found that you can get a firmer, richer-tasting yogurt by adding ~1/4-1/3 cup of dry milk powder during the milk heating stage. The length of incubation time also varies widely depending on the type of bacteria in the starter culture that is used, but I usually like to keep it fermenting for 10-12 hours for a super tart product.

  18. sorry Allen, that was me, my husband and our girls screaming our heads off after the Canucks game…I don’t live downtown, but I can imagine our joyous shouts carried that far. If you begin to embrace your new-found “Canuck-ness”, you will be richly rewarded. It’s better than religion and binds Vancouverites together!

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