1. Buy really good milk. The higher the fat content, the more delicious the yogurt will be. My first choice is raw milk straight from the farm. My second choice is a high quality, preferably organic whole milk. (In my family, we call it the “red milk” because of the red caps/labels.)
2. Use a 2.5-3 quart sauce pan set over medium heat with a good thermometer in it. Pour the milk in and wait, stirring every few minutes. Fill it almost to the brim (almost a 1/2 gallon).
3. When the temperature rises to 180-185, take off the heat. (FYI–you have to do this to kill the bacteria that will compete with the probiotics that you will want to cultivate later.)
4. The milk temperature needs to drop down to 110 before you can add the starter. Some people prepare an ice bath to help cool down the milk. I just try to be patient and let it sit on the top of the stove for about 30 minutes. At this point, I take the starter out of the fridge. I buy the starter at my local co-op, but you can buy it on Amazon or you can use a cup of plain yogurt from the grocery store. (In a previous post, I had mentioned that I had used the fillings from probiotics capsules as a yogurt starter. This works, but it is imprecise. Store bought starter works best.)
5. To add the starter, remove about one cup of milk and put in a mason jar. Add the starter. Use two packets of starter (one for each quart). Put a lid on and shake up the jar. Then add back to the big pot and incorporate.
6. Put the milk in your yogurt maker or set up your incubation station. I like putting the milk in a big 1/2 gallon mason jar–the kind that you get your raw milk in. I wrap two heating pads around the jar. It is important that the heating pads do not automatically shut off. I set them to medium, but will adjust if needed. I use rubber bands to make sure they stay put. I also stick a thermometer in there so I can check on the temperature throughout the day.
7. Most yogurt is done after 8 hours. If you want to remove all the lactose, continue heating it for 24 hours. After you remove from heat, stick it in the fridge for a few hours. Then enjoy.
To make Greek Yogurt:
1. Set up a fine mesh sieve. Line with cloth or cheese cloth. Some people use an old pillowcase. I bought some unbleached cheese cloth and cut it to fit the size of the sieve. I then line that with a large coffee filter. Fit the sieve into a medium sized bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for a few hours. Do this in batches. Not all the yogurt will fit at once.
2. Remove from sieve and put into a container for storage in the fridge. It should last a few weeks, but I finish it before the end of the week!
Suggestions for flavorings:
lemon or citrus curd, jam, honey, vanilla or almond extract, maple syrup, toasted coconut chips