My son and daughter both LOVE yogurt... it can be used as a breakfast, lunch, dinner meal item, or even as a dessert - it doesn't matter to them! I had been buying the pint or quart sized containers of organic yogurt, and we really started going through it - I could go through two a week, if I let the kids have it whenever they wanted... and why not?
Who could deny this little face asking for more?
Anyway - buying two of these ($3/container) each week was adding up some serious $$, and I thought I would see how hard it would be to make yogurt at home instead. I had heard of a "yogurt maker" - but didn't want to spend ANY extra money on this project, and I don't have space in my kitchen anyway to store another appliance! SO - I did some browsing online... I found a couple of sites that gave specific and rigid instructions on how to make homemade yogurt, and none of the steps seemed that hard, and none of them required anything special that I didn't already have! I was planning to follow one, but it would have required me to get the cooler out of the attic to hold the yogurt at a constant(ish) temperature, so I thought I would try using my oven to maintain the temperature instead. The second one had some other good ideas, like using a double boiler to heat up the milk, but I thought using a double boiler would be a pain - and I didn't have one anyway!
Here's how I make mine... I have kind of combined what worked for me out of the two sites listed, and come up with my version...
These are the things you need:
One Gallon of Milk (I used 2%, you can use anything but skim)
A large stockpot with heavy bottom
A whisk that reaches to the bottom of the pot
A digital thermometer, I used a meat one (you might want one with a clip)
Approx. 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with cultures in it (from the store is fine)
Sterilized containers for the yogurt - I use little Tupperware types, because it works for me
A sink where you can cool down the milk in an ice bath
First - pour Milk into pot and turn on heat to medium high.
Stir the milk frequently with the whisk so it doesn't burn on the bottom.
While the milk is heating up, get your containers ready - I put them on cookie sheets. (2 sheets full of containers fit side-by-side in the oven.)
Fill your sink to about 3 inches and dump in some ice...
Keep whisking (it may start to get frothy) and...
Check the temperature! It will take a little while to get there (whisking constantly once it's over 130 or so), but you want it to reach 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit, then turn off the heat. Let it sit there, after stirring once again, for about 3-5 minutes with the heat off.
Once it has had some resting time (this serves to kill the bacteria that would not allow the yogurt to culture), stick it in the ice bath, making sure not to splash any water into the pot. Stir to cool the milk down to 110F, then stir up your yogurt and mix it into the pot of milk well.
Now you just need to ladle into your containers and seal them up.
Place in the oven (I turn it on for just a few minutes to make sure it's around 85 degrees in there), and close it up. Leave the containers in the oven for 8 hours... the yogurt should then be firm and you can put it into the refrigerator.
Once they're firm you may also like to add some flavorings or fruit - if you have left enough space in the containers, you can add the fruit directly to them, either just on top, or mix it in... you can also add sugar, but this yogurt isn't really too tart, so I just add fruit and skip the sugar. Some favorite mix-ins at our house are bananas, strawberries, pineapple, granola cereal, hmm.... that's all we've tried so far... oh - and a drop or two of vanilla.