I love cheese and most dairy products but I've never been a fan of milk or eating dishes prepared with milk (rice pudding, for example). Yogurt is another food I used to hate! I always associated it with my dislike for milk. My mother always had a jar with yogurt starter on the kitchen counter. She would change the milk every other day (I think; I don't remember exactly how often) and it produced a thick liquid yogurt. She used to mix it with fresh fruit in her blender and my sisters drank it as a healthy breakfast - I never liked it.
Last year, Kim, The Farmer's Marketer, posted a recipe for homemade yogurt. Kim uses a different method than my mother. My mom's recipe seemed to need more tending, which is something that turned me off. Since I have been trying to eat healthier food, I decided to incorporate yogurt into my diet and to give Kim's recipe a try.
After making yogurt for the first time, I fell in love with it! I have been making my own yogurt for several months now. I turn half a gallon of milk into yogurt every other week and store it in individual portions. I eat yogurt for breakfast every morning during the week; sometimes with dates or fresh fruit but most of the time with homemade granola (another one of Kim's recipes). I also like to make yogurt cheese to eat with bread or crackers.
If you want to make your own yogurt, you will need to buy a small container of plain commercial yogurt to start with. I only used commercial yogurt in the first batch I made. After that, I have been using the whey to make new batches; I drain some of the yogurt for two days and it produces excellent cheese and about 3/4 cup of whey. I use this to make my next batch of yogurt; it works great.
(from Kim's recipe)
1/2 gallon organic milk, at room temperature
2-3 T. plain commercial yogurt, at room temperature
hot water (almost boiling)
You will need a candy thermometer and an insulated container like a cooler.
In a large pot with heavy bottom, warm the milk at very low heat stiring constantly to avoid scalding it (use a wooden spoon). When it reaches 185°-190°F, turn the heat off and let the milk come down to a temperature of 120°-125°F. Stir in the commercial yogurt until thoughly mixed. Pour into one or more containers and cover (I use 15 individual containers - recycled jars). Place filled containers in the cooler with a jar of hot water, cover with a kitchen towel, close the cooler and let it sit undisturbed in a warm place. If the starter was active and the temperature correct, you will have beautiful yogurt after 8 hours. (I always start my yogurt around 6:00 PM and it is ready in the morning). Cool in the refrigerator before serving.
To make cheese, add a little bit of salt to your yogurt and drain it in a fine strainer or a coffee filter over a container. Drain in the refrigerator overnight (two nights if you like thicker cheese). Save the whey for your next batch of yogurt, or use yogurt from your first batch.