I have, for the better part of my entire existence, loved eating yogurt. That love affair only grew deeper when I had my first taste of thick, Greek style yogurt. That stuff I had been eating seemed like a tasteless, watery goo by comparison. For quite a few years now, I have been satisfied with buying my yogurt at the grocery store. Of course there are a few different brands of Greek style yogurt on the market today, but I still the think the best offering in this country is the FAGE brand. Pouring some raw honey, or scooping a spoon of fruit preserves atop a bowl of yogurt is quite a divine breakfast or mid-afternoon snack.
A few weeks ago, the other TDB asked me if I had ever made yogurt at home. I sadly had to answer, “no, I hadn’t.” I was then inspired to begin my quest for a good homemade yogurt recipe. My first batch, in which I combined 1/3 goat milk with 2/3 cow milk, came out alright, but I wasn’t entirely happy with the consistency. It was a bit too runny, but after I allowed it to drain overnight in a cheesecloth, it did thicken up enough to my liking. I decided to try another method with a slightly different recipe I found in one of my Greek cookbooks. Instead of allowing the yogurt culture to do its work with the milk inside a pot, placed in a turned-off oven, this recipe called for the milk mixture to stand in a thermos for about 8-10 hours. I decided to give it a whirl, and I was much happier with the results the second time around.
Yogurt can be refrigerated for about three weeks once it’s been made. Thicken it to make tzatziki, a yogurt cucumber salad, or combine with fruit and honey for a frozen pop your children will love (check back soon — recipes will follow). Yogurt is extremely healthy and makes a wonderful dairy alternative for those who don’t enjoy consuming milk.
Yield: about 2 scant cups
2 c. whole milk
3 Tbl. dry milk (can use non-fat if you prefer)
2 Tbl. whole-milk yogurt, preferably FAGE brand
Rinse a 2-quart saucepan with water, which will prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom and side of the pan. Add the milk to the pan and whisk in the dry milk. Over medium-low heat, cook just until milk begins to slightly boil. When a thermometer is inserted, it should read about 215°F. (There’s no need, unless you already own one, to use a candy thermometer. Simply use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.) Remove the milk from the heat and allow it to cool to about 110°F. Meanwhile, fill a wide-mouth thermos, which can accommodate 2 cups worth of liquid, with hot water, cap, and set aside.
Once your milk has cooled to 110-115°F, spoon about 1/2 cup of the milk into a liquid measuring cup and add the yogurt starter. Combine well and pour into the pot of milk. Stir the milk and yogurt starter together, being careful not to scrape up any of the brown crust that may have formed on the bottom of the pan while you heated the milk. Pour out the hot water from the thermos and add the milk mixture. Cap the thermos, set aside in a warm place, such as on your stove top if you have a gas stove. Do not disturb the milk mixture for about 8-10 hours. Just allow the yogurt culture to work its magic. After about 8 hours, uncap the thermos and check it to make sure the milk has turned into yogurt. If it’s ready, pour it into a container and place in the refrigerator. If you would like it to be thicker, place the yogurt into a sieve lined with a cheesecloth and allow it to drain into a bowl overnight, or for about 10 hours.
**Alternatively, you can omit the thermos altogether, and simply pour the milk and yogurt culture into a glass or plastic bowl with a lid, cover it, and wrap it with a towel. Allow the culture to work for about 20 hours. It is perfectly fine to make the yogurt in the morning, allowing it to sit all day, and then placing it in the fridge late that night or the following morning.
¹ Garrison, Holly, Nicola Kotsoni, and Steve Tzolis. The Periyali Cookbook. New York: Villard Books, 1992. p 10