I hauled the yogurt maker out of Narnia,* and gave it a try. It worked reasonably well, but reminded me why it was consigned to Narnia in the first place -- it makes eight 4-ounce cups, which is way too much fuss and bother.
So I turned to middle Joy to learn how to make yogurt without a special machine. Middle Joy (1975) is the go-to version of The Joy of Cookingfor do-it-yourself back-to-the-land recipes. Middle Joy suggests using the oven, but ours doesn't have a low enough temperature setting. It also suggests just putting the yogurt in a cooler to work its magic. Bingo! We have a beverage cooler that is just the right size to hold a quart canning jar.
Making Yogurt in a Cooler
This recipe is very simple. The only time consuming bit is waiting for the milk to cool.
I have tried using nonfat milk and supplementing with a bit of dry milk powder as a thickening agent, but haven't had very good results, so now I use fresh milk with 1% fat. I don't generally drink milk but, since milk is much cheaper by the gallon, I buy a gallon and freeze the rest for later yogurt making.
I find that yogurt made with yogurt as a starter tastes a bit better than yogurt made with powdered starter. Also, a box of 6 packets of powdered starter costs about as much as 6 yogurt cups. so you might as well get the extra yogurt for your money. If you make yogurt frequently enough, you can use your last batch of yogurt as a starter for the next batch, and not have to buy starter at all.
- 1 quart milk
- yogurt starter (per package instructions) or 2 tablespoons of reasonably fresh yogurt (less than 5 days old) with live cultures
- Heat the milk to 185-190 degrees F (a digital thermometer with an alarm makes this easy). This takes about 8 minutes.
- Cool the milk to 110-115 degrees F (this takes roughly half an hour at room temperature).
- Put starter in a separate cup, mix in a little of the warm milk, add it back to the rest, and mix thoroughly.
- Pour mixture into a quart canning jar and put in cooler. Add towels on top of the jar to fill up any extra air space inside the cooler.
- Let cooler sit undisturbed for about 10 hours. (Jostling interferes with yogh-ing).
- Refrigerate yogurt.
Bread Machine as Yogurt Maker?Despite the manifold virtues of the cooler system, I wasn't satisfied at first, because it's not particularly easy to get the yogurt out of the tall quart jar. Two wide-mouth pint jars are better for serving but, stacked on top of each other, they're too tall for my cooler. Of course, I didn't discover this until I had them loaded and ready to go.
As I stood in uffish thought, I noticed my bread machine (another fantastic money saver - over time). The jars fit perfectly into the machine's loaf pan. I made a custom program that didn't do any kneading and spent as long as possible on each of the pre-heat and warm cycles. Unfortunately, my particular machine forces you to include a bake cycle in the custom program, and maxes out at 6 hours for the other cycles. So I set my kitchen timer for 6 hours, came back before the bake cycle, restarted the custom program and took the yogurt out after another 4 hours.
I was pleased I could make it work, but the process was too much fuss for me - I'll live with yogurt in a quart jar from now on.
*Narnia is our random term for deep storage of unneeded kitchen wares -- couldn't say why. Neither can we explain why the food processor is called the Gorbachev -- it just is.