Learn how to make thick homemade Greek yogurt with nothing but milk and two tablespoons of plain yogurt.
A few years ago we started getting milk delivered to our front door. A small white truck would pull up to our house and leave a blue milk crate full of clinking glass bottles on the steps.
My kids loved having a milkman, and in my mid-century rambler surrounded by more of the same, I, too, delighted in seeing them appear on the steps. It seemed to transport me back to a time when life moved a bit slower and was perhaps a bit simpler.
Fast forward to today, and the milkman has gone the way of only CSA. I wish him the best. However, it has meant sourcing the same glass bottle milks from other areas in the community or – more aptly – in the neighboring communities. Since the drive is a bit more, it makes it harder to fit into my schedule and more difficult to determine exactly how many bottles to buy.
Luckily, if I find myself with extra milk, I know what to do with it before it passes its “best by” date. Steaming bowls of fresh ricotta end up on the menu and, now, there is homemade yogurt for breakfast.
I have always been intimidated by making my own yogurt, preferring instead to purchase my own. However, after receiving Cheryl’s book, Yogurt Culture, and reading through her easy directions on the process, I decided to give it a whirl, and I’m so happy I did. As she mentions in the book, people have been making yogurt for thousands of years, and they’ve been doing it successfully with far less equipment than we have at our disposal. It is easy, and the only real time-consuming aspect about the entire process is waiting for it to be ready.
I’ve rewritten Cheryl’s basic instructions below, but here are a few notes from Team Yogurt that should also help.
- Team Yogurt has wonderful ideas on what to do with the whey after you’ve strained the yogurt.
- If you end up letting the milk get away from you on your initial heat, use these tips on how to clean a scorched yogurt pan.
- Head over to Team Yogurt and look for Cheryl’s reviews of her favorite varieties as well as have them mailed to you for free. Keep your eyes open for the secret word to enter.
I’m partial to plain whole milk Greek yogurts, personally, for baking and cooking – the recipes in Yogurt Culture will keep you busy for weeks – and I still purchase it often when I don’t have the time to make my own. Still, there’s something about sitting down with a bowl of homemade Greek yogurt that’s been strained to just the right consistency. I hope you’ll give it a whirl, too.
recipe adapted from Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule
Homemade Greek Yogurt
- ½ gallon whole milk
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live, active cultures (at room temperature)
- Rub an ice cube over the entire interior of a large, stainless steel pot. This will help prevent the milk from sticking to the inside of the pot. Pour in the milk.
- Slowly bring the milk to 180ºF over medium-high heat without stirring. Once the milk reaches 180ºF, turn the burner down to low or medium-low and hold the milk at that temperature or slightly higher for five minutes. Then remove the pot from the heat. Use a spoon or ladle to remove any skin on the surface of the milk.
- Gently stir the milk, cooling it until it reaches 115ºF. You may place the bottom of the pot in an ice bath to help this step go faster.
- Once the milk has reaches 115ºF, take your 2 tablespoons of yogurt in a medium-sized bowl and whisk in 1 cup of the warm milk to temper. Then scoop the tempered yogurt into the pot with the remaining warm milk and cover.
- The milk must now be kept in a warm (around 110º to 112ºF) to incubate for 6 to 12 hours.Wrapping the pot in a towel for insulation, you can place it in your oven with only the oven light on. Alternatively, you could place it wrapped in a towel inside a disposable or thin cooler with a heating pad on low beneath it.
- The yogurt is ready to strain once it is thick and creamy. Remove ¼ cup to use as a starter for your next batch, if desired. Chill the remaining yogurt.
- To strain your yogurt, line a colander with 2-3 layers of damp cheesecloth or several long layers of paper towel. Place the colander so that it is resting on the lip of a bowl. Spoon the yogurt into the lined colander. Gather up any loose cheesecloth or towel overhang and fold over onto the yogurt. Refrigerate as the yogurt strains for 3-10 hours until desired consistency is reached.
- Move to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.
:: a large, heavy stainless steel pan with lid
:: measuring cup and spoons
:: a candy or instant-read thermometer
:: metal spoon or silicone spatula
:: a large bowl to strain the yogurt into
:: cheesecloth or paper towels
You can sterilize most of these by sending them through the dishwasher or dipping them in some boiling water.
Yogurt Culture has so much information packed between the covers, from the history to tips on what yogurts to choose when, to how to make labneh, how to bake with yogurt, frozen yogurt recipes for your sweet tooth, and incorporating yogurt into dinner. Cheryl takes you around the world, exploring different recipes that all start with this one kitchen staple.
For me, the most delightful part of the book and what I appreciate the most were the bits of international yogurt culture scattered throughout. I felt vindicated reading how raita is meant to be spooned into your mouth, a dish in itself rather than a condiment. The inset on Serbian yogurt culture instantly transported me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, where fruited yogurt cups had no business. I found myself reading through the book seeking out these stories to marry them with the dishes we are preparing at home and have them ready to share with my children.