This past summer the Accidental Locavore started making a lot of things that normally you just buy at a supermarket. The latest has been yogurt. It’s amazingly easy and the only “special equipment” you need is an instant-read thermometer (if you don’t have one, you must get one, it makes roasting meat and chicken a no-brainer), some cheesecloth (most good grocery stores have it) and a big strainer or colander. If you can boil water, you can make yogurt. (and if you can’t, check out this funny article from Serious Eats). The original recipe from Food and Wine was for a quart of milk, but we went through that in about a nanosecond, so I now double that and use half a gallon of milk (you’ll end up with about a quart of yogurt). If I had the refrigerator space, I’d do more. My friend Jeremy said to use Stonyfield Farm yogurt as a starter, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
- 1/2 gallon milk, take 4 tablespoons from the 1/2 gallon and put in a small bowl or measuring cup
- 4 tablespoons yogurt
Mix 4 tablespoons of the milk and the same amount of yogurt in a small bowl, or measuring cup. Put the rest of the milk in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it stand off the heat until it reaches 100 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. This takes me about an hour (I just keep resetting the timer to check it). A skin will form on the milk. Don’t mess with the skin! You will probably have a small opening in the skin where you put the thermometer, if not make a small hole in the center. Pour the yogurt/milk mix into the hole.
Cover with a clean dishtowel. Put the pot in your oven with the oven light on and the door closed for 16 hours (overnight and then some). I put a Post-It over the light button so I don’t turn it off by accident. You’ll be amazed by how warm your oven is with just the light on. When it’s done, take the skin off with a slotted spoon (or clean fingers). Ladle the yogurt into a sieve or colander lined with two layers of the cheesecloth (over a large bowl) and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. How long you strain the yogurt will determine how thick it is. For Greek style, 4 hours, for more normal yogurt an hour or two is fine. Discard the liquid in the bowl.
Transfer the yogurt into a bowl or container, serve and enjoy.
Notes: Once you start making yogurt, you can use your own as a starter. After about 4 batches, you might want to refresh it with some good store-bought. I’ve used both whole and 2% milk, both with good results. After scorching batch after batch on my electric range, I’ve started heating the milk in a big glass measuring cup in the microwave. 17 minutes seems to be the magic number for a half-gallon of milk.