We use a modification to the “Nourishing Traditions” method of making yogurt. Here’s the gist:
- Pour cold milk into mason jars (we use quart sized). Put the uncovered jars into a large pot add water to about ½ to ¾ of the jar height.
- On medium to medium-high heat, warm the milk to exactly 180degrees F (we have an electronic thermometer with a temp alarm, but we previously used an old-school candy thermometer).
- Remove the jars from the water bath and cool to exactly 120degrees F
- In a separate jar, pour off about 1/2 C of the warmed milk and mix in 2T of a good quality, plain store-bought full-fat yogurt with active yogurt cultures. (we like Seven Star Farms organic). Stir well and pour back to quart sized jar and stir. (Do this for each quart-sized jar).
- Cover with a canning lid and place in dehydrator at 110-120degrees for 24 hours.
- Refrigerate to halt fermentation and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
Depending on how well you time the temperatures and the source of your milk, this produces a yogurt that is more on the thick side and is not sour (it is less sour than store-bought yogurt).
Why go to all the trouble if we’re just using store-bought yogurt? Two reasons:
- We can select the sources for milk (raw if we can get it, or at least pasture raised from a local dairy).
- The store bought yogurt is not actively fermented for 24 hours. The longer fermenting process allows for more of the lactose in the milk to be consumed by the lacto-bacteria. Thus, you get the benefits of the fat and protein from the milk without the down-side of lactose and casein.
Can I use my own batch of yogurt to kick-start the next batch?
- Not really. The generations of bacteria diminish in their potency in this method of long fermenting. I’m not certain of all the science, but my understanding is that you could possibly get about 6 or 7 batches but then the end product is not as good. I think of it like this: the “active cultures” have not worked as hard when you go with the store-bought yogurt with active cultures, so they are more eager to eat lactose and multiply in our digestive system.
What if I like thinner yogurt (or what if I use raw milk, won’t 180 degrees kill of those other beneficial bacteria?)
- Yes, heating to 180 scalds the milk in order to kill off any bad bacteria-it also yields a thicker yogurt. If you are using store-bought milk, always do this since the food chain often has gaps that allow tainted milk into the supply. If you like thinner yogurt (or if you are using Raw milk and want to preserve the beneficial bacteria), only heat the milk to 110 and not 180- note that this variation does have a much stronger flavor and is not nearly as thick!
Check out this article if you want to really geek out: