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Yogurt Success!

This morning I took my latest batch of yogurt out of the fridge and opened the jars.  Success!  I am so excited.  This is the first nice batch of yogurt I’ve produced in months!  It is thick and solid, and tastes wonderful.

So how did I do it?  I studied!  I did quite a bit of research on the internet and also received some good advice from someone who also makes her own yogurt.  It seems my problem the last time is that I was keeping the solution too hot.  40C is about where it needs to be.  I was making it at over 50C.

The basic process that I did yesterday is as follows:

1) Heat the milk to 180F (sorry to be switching between unit systems – my thermometer does both).  Take off heat immediately and let cool. Apparently heating the milk to this temperature serves two purposes.  First, it kills any bacteria that might compete with the yogurt making bacteria.  Second, it makes the end product thicker.  Be sure not to let the milk actually boil, however, as this changes the protein structure of the milk and that will ruin the yogurt.

2) Once the milk has cooled to between 38-43C, add a small teaspoon of yogurt culture per jar (I make it in 1 litre jars).  If you are buying yogurt to use as starter, make sure it says “live culture” in the ingredient list.  I’m not sure that “active culture” means the same thing – I tried making yogurt with active culture and it didn’t turn out.  I might have done something else wrong, but I’m sticking to those labeled “live” just to be sure.  This time I used Saugeen County yogurt, and the result is excellent.

3) Screw lid on tightly and immerse the jar(s) in a water bath that is between 38-42C.  I make 4 litres at a time and put them in my small canning pot to incubate.  I put the empty jars in first, fill with water (to know how much water I’ll need) then take the jars out and heat the water.  That way when I put the full jars back into the pot, it doesn’t overflow, or require additional water.

4) It is apparently important not to jostle the yogurt once you have got it going.  I leave my pot on the stove and check the temperature every hour.  I found that it will drop around 5 degrees and hour, so I have to turn the burner on for 1-2 minutes to heat it back up again each time.  This is where an automatic heater comes in handy, but now that mine is broken I have to use this method.  I was going to put it on the woodstove but it didn’t keep the temperature steady enough, and also the pot was so big that it blocked the opening of the stove and had to be moved every time more wood was needed.  This is not good for the yogurt.

5) I let the incubation carry on for 9 hours.  I took one jar out after 7 hours and put it in the fridge and the rest at 9 hours.  The longer you incubate, the more sour the yoghurt will be.  I discovered I prefer that 7 hour yoghurt and have made note of that for the future.  Because you have to reheat the water almost hourly, making yoghurt has to be done on a day when I’ll be home all day.  At least in the winter.  In summer this shouldn’t be anywhere near as much fuss.  Fortunately I work from home several days a week so getting up from my desk once an hour to check a thermometer is not a big deal.

I now have four lovely litres of yoghurt which will last me some time now before I have to do it again.  It is such a relief to have finally figured out this process and I hope that I will now go back to having a reliable source of tasty and healthy yoghurt.  Yeah!

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2 Responses

  1. Just stumbled upon your blog. I’m enjoying it so far and will definitely stop back in. I make my own yogurt too, but I don’t heat the milk to 180 any more, just stop at around 110. Also, if you put the warmed water into a cooler, it maintains its temperature (not perfectly, but well enough) and you don’t have to check it every hour. I make mine when I go to bed and take it out in the morning.

    • I actually stopped heating it to 180 as well, and that’s when I started to have problems. I also tried the cooler trick, but again ended up with something other than yogurt. I think our house is simply too cold in winter (generally at around 16 or 17C) to not constantly warm up the water. With four quarts of hot milk in my canning pot filled with hot water, the temperature drops faster than 5 degrees an hour. It stayed warmer in the cooler, but not warm enough for the correct bacteria to grow. After loosing around 16 liters of milk (at least the dogs enjoyed it!) trying various simpler methods, I went to this very strict control of temperature and finally ended up with yogurt again. So at least until things warm up I will have to stick to the stove top method. But I look forward to trying again come spring!

      Interestingly, when I made my last batch – using careful temperature regulation – three jars ended up perfect and the fourth was runny. I have no idea why! Outsmarted by bacteria yet again…

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