My obsession with homemade yogurt started after I read the book French Women Don’t Get Fat. The book itself was a fun read and it really reinforced what I already knew about European eating habits from my own time spent in France. The French aren’t a low-fat or fat-free culture. They eat everything (in moderation) and avoid deprivation. They eat real, whole foods and enjoy sweets without guilt.
In the book, the author speaks about how she loves to make yogurt in her Donvier Electronic Yogurt Maker. When I read this I got really excited! Before reading about her love for homemade yogurt, I never even thought about making my own at home. I was excited and very intrigued by the thought of having fresh, creamy yogurt in my fridge and I just knew I had to try it. The machine itself is fairly inexpensive and something I figured would be a great investment for my family since we eat a lot of organic yogurt in our house.
The process itself is super simple, only requiring one quart of whole or low-fat milk and one heaping tablespoon of commercially prepared yogurt to start. You can use a scoop of yogurt from your own batch for the next batch but when you first start, you need the cultures from an already made batch of yogurt to get things going. Culturing the yogurt takes about 10 hours which seems like a long time but I usually set mine over night. And there is something about waking up to a fresh batch of homemade yogurt that feels very luxurious and special. The result is a creamy and delicious plain yogurt that rivals any store bought brand. Each time I open up my little jar of homemade yogurt, I can’t help but recount the days of being at an adorable little bed and breakfast in France with my husband on our honeymoon. Each morning we were greeted with fresh yogurt served in a glass jar with a scoop of fresh fruit preserves alongside to sweeten it. Heaven in a jar.
Plain yogurt is great to serve to your family because it is much healthier and has much less sugar than commercially prepared yogurt. Although there are some great Organic yogurt brands on the market these days, the ones geared towards babies and children have WAY too much sugar in them. I stick with plain yogurt only until my kids turn two years old. Getting them used to the tangy tartness of the plain variety is a great way to build their palate and keeps them from getting used to overly sweet things. As a sometimes treat or dessert, I will sweeten my three year olds yogurt with a bit of freshly mashed fruit or 100 percent-fruit puree. I find that babies take to plain yogurt fairly easily early on. They really seem to enjoy smooth, creamy and cold foods and yogurt has always been a big hit with my teething tots. Homemade yogurt is definitely worth the time and little effort it takes to make and so delicious. Make some for your family soon!
Homemade Plain Yogurt
Makes 8 jars
1 quart whole or low-fat milk (Note: if using skim milk, you’ll need to stir 1/4 cup of instant skim milk powder into cold milk before heating)
1 heaping tablespoon plain commercial yogurt or homemade yogurt from a previous batch or 1 packet of dried yogurt culture, available at natural food stores
1. Pour milk into a medium saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally until bubbles begin to appear around the edges and steam starts to rise from the surface. Temperature of milk should be 185-190 degrees F (check this using the provided thermometer).
2. Remove saucepan from heat and check the temperature using the provided thermometer sitrrer. Let milk cool until it reaches the “Add Starter” level—(110-115 F). Add 1-2 heaping tablespoons of starter (ie; commercially prepared yogurt, or dried yogurt culture) to one of the provided yogurt cups, add some of the warm milk and stir until well combined. Pour mixture back into saucepan and stir again.
3. Distribute milk equally among jars and cover each tightly with their plastic covers. Place yogurt cups into the yogurt machine, plug it in and set it for 10 hours for the first batch. For future batches, you can set it for more hours in order to produce a thicker consistency. After yogurt is finished, it must be chilled for 3-4 hours before serving. Plain yogurt will keep in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days.