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So I am on kick to make everything from scratch apparently. First marmalade. Then english muffins. And now yogurt. Next thing you know I’ll be churning my own butter. I wish I could make everything from scratch, but there are just not enough hours in the day. Sometimes you just have to give in and buy pre-made items at the store. Every week I drop a quart of European yogurt into my cart, and don’t even look back. Thanks to my Pinterest addiction though, and all the beautiful photos people have posted of their homemade yogurt, I was inspired this week to make my own yogurt. I have read that the process is super simple and produces a yogurt that is so creamy, tangy, and delicious that you’ll give up on store-bought forever. So I thought “why not?” What’s the worse that could happen? Well, I’ll tell you: everything they say about homemade yogurt is true, and now I am stuck making yogurt at home for the rest of my life! 

I haven’t been a fan of yogurt my whole life. As a kid, I loathed the stuff. I thought the texture was disgusting, I hated the way it coated your mouth. The flavor wasn’t good either; it was way too sour and there was not nearly enough sugar. I remember going to my grandmother’s house when I was younger, and her refrigerator being chock-full of the stuff. I think her goal was to make me a convert by buying the chocolate kind. All kids are bound to eat anything with chocolate in it right? Wrong. I was deceived for about 5 seconds. After swallowing one teaspoon, the rest of the container went in the garbage. My grandmother finally gave up, and on all my subsequent visits I would just consume all the ice cream she had in her freezer instead.

So when did I start to change my mind about yogurt? It was when I was in college, and my two roommates stocked the fridge full of yogurt. Upon first inspection, my first thought was “what the hell is wrong with these girls, why do they eat so much of this crap?” And my second thought was “my grandmother will just love this.” One of my roommates, Kelly, was a food science major, so when she found out about my objections to yogurt she gave me a lecture about all the benefits of the “superfood.” Healthy probiotic bacteria and reduced blood pressure. Blah blah blah. Insanely high protein levels and vitamins. Blah Blah. Calcium and potassium. Blah blah blah. Just to appease her (she can be quite persuasive), I told her I would give some of her strawberry yogurt a try (college is about new experiences right?). Well, I guess my taste buds had grown up because it wasn’t all that bad. It still wasn’t something I loved to eat, but I thought I could add it to my diet just for the health benefits she had described. Well now, 12 years later, I have moved on to the hard-core, super-tart, greek yogurt that has no added sugar. I love it in the morning with granola and fruit, and I also find myself adding it to sauces, pancake batter, and even scones. The thing that I used to hate most about yogurt, the tanginess, is now what I find makes it so distinctive and delicious.

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Homemade Yogurt
Yield: about 2 cups

For my homemade yogurt I used the most local and organic milk and yogurt I could find: Clover Farms. Located in Sonoma & Marin counties, Clover is known for their hormone-free and humane treatment of their cows (Happy Cows are from California right?). I used Clover yogurt as the “starter” and it includes 5 probiotic stains of bacteria. It is believed that the more strains of bacteria, the faster the yogurt will ferment and create a thicker texture.

4 cups 2% or Whole Milk – organic if possible
1/2 cup Whole Fat Yogurt with live active cultures – organic if possible

*Make a parfait by layering the yogurt with honey, fruit, and homemade granola

  1. Heat the milk on the stove in a heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 170F (I used a candy thermometer and it worked fine). It is important to watch the milk closely so it doesn’t go above 170F and boil. Heating the milk kills any bad bacteria and denatures the proteins which is what will allow the yogurt to become nice and thick. 
  2. Pour the hot milk into a medium-sized bowl, and allow it to cool to 110F. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of the warm milk into the yogurt. This will help bring the yogurt up to temperature before adding it back to the milk.  
  3. Stir the milk and yogurt mixture into the bowl of warm milk. Place the bowl of warm milk and yogurt into an environment that is about 110F. I preheated my oven to a very low temperature and then turned it off. For the next 4 to 12 hours, the bowl should stay at about 110F. I placed the bowl in the oven with the thermometer so I could monitor the temperature ever so often. I also left the oven light on which helped to keep the temperature in the oven warmer. The longer the milk sits at the 110F, the tangier and thicker it will be. I let mine ferment for four hours (mostly because I am just impatient).
  4. When you have reached your desired level of tanginess, remove any skin that has formed  on the top of the yogurt and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. If you want thicker yogurt, you can line a strainer with cheesecloth, and pour in the yogurt. Drape the cheesecloth over the top of the yogurt, and let it chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until it reaches your desired thickness. Place yogurt into a jar or container with a lid. Fresh yogurt will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.