Yogurt is a great addition to a paleo diet. It’s full of probiotic bacteria that will keep your digestive system functioning properly, and it’s yummy. I find that my homemade yogurt is much less sour than commercial yogurt, and even seems to have a bit of a vanilla taste, even though I don’t add any vanilla. Not convinced it’s worth the bother? Read 5 reasons to make homemade yogurt.
Any basic yogurt recipe has four basic steps.
1. Heat milk to 82C (180F) degrees.
2. Cool the milk to 46C (115F) degrees
3. Add a starter.
I like to make yogurt the old-fashioned way with no equipment other than a pot and a wooden spoon. I don’t even bother with a thermometer, but some people prefer to use a yogurt maker. What yogurt makers do (except for a few very fancy ones that can heat and cool the milk) is simply keep the yogurt at a constant temperature after you’ve heated, cooled, and added starter. I’ve found a big towel or blanket does a fine job of keeping the yogurt warm.
How to make yogurt at home without a yogurt maker
This is actually a very simple process, but there are certain details you need to get right for it to work. Trust me that it’s really super easy, in spite of the long explanation.
Preparation time: 15 minutes Start to finish: 2 days
1 liter (1 quart) whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1/2 cup light cream (optional)
At least 1 tbsp. of unflavored yogurt with a live culture (either store-bought, or saved from your last batch of yogurt).
1. Pour the milk into a pot and heat it on a medium heat. Stir the milk constantly, making sure none of it sticks to the bottom. I like to use a wooden spoon with a flat end – I drag it across the bottom of the pot while I stir.
2. After about 2 minutes, foam will start to form around the sides of the pot, then gradually across the milk surface. After about 7 minutes, steam will start rising. This is good. You want to heat the milk until it is nice and foamy, but stop before it starts boiling. Last time I made yogurt, it took me 8 minutes, but use this only as a general guide. If you have a thermometer, stop when it reaches 82C (180F).
3. Set your pot aside to cool down. This should take around 12 and 25 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, test it by inserting a clean pinky finger. The milk shouldn’t be so hot that it immediately burns you, but not so cool that you can leave your pinky in there comfortably. The test: If you can leave your pinky finger in the pot for 5 seconds and no longer, the temperature is right. Or… stop letting it cool when it reaches 46C (115F).
4. Add the yogurt starter and stir. Note that you can add more than 1 tbsp., but the end product won’t be as thick.
5. Wrap the pot in a heavy blanket or towel and leave it on the kitchen counter to ferment for at least 8 hours. I’ve always left it longer, closer to 24.
6. Remove the towel and store the pot in the fridge for another day, and it’s ready to eat.
Greek Style Yogurt
Paleo people aren’t fat phobic, so why not make extra-thick, Greek-style yogurt? Make sure you add the optional cream. Then, when your yogurt is finished, line a colander with cheesecloth, then pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth and let it drip for an hour or two. Some of the liquid whey will drain off and you’ll be left with a thicker yogurt. Don’t through out the whey. Keep if to use when making other fermented foods or just add a bit to other dishes where the taste won’t be noticed. Whey is very healthy, though not too tasty.
What milk should you use? I’ve only used cow’s milk, but you could use goat, sheep, yak… whatever you can get. Use the best quality milk you can afford. Note that you don’t need to use raw milk, though you can, of course. This is a great way to get some of the benefits of unpasteurized dairy with pasteurized milk. You could theoretically use skim milk, but why would you want to?
What yogurt should I use? Only yogurt with a live culture can magically convert milk into yogurt. The first time you make yogurt, you obviously can’t use your own homemade yogurt as a starter, so buy the best yogurt you can find – one with no filler ingredients. If they are using thickeners, it means they didn’t let the cultures do their job for very long… i.e. there won’t be a lot of probiotics in it. The ingredients should be just milk and probiotic bacteria – such as L. acidophilus. Make sure there are no ingredients such as “milk protein concentrate”, locust bean gum, gelatin and others.
Can I use some of my own yogurt to get the next batch going? Of course! If you aren’t ready to make a new batch as soon as the old batch is eaten, you can freeze a bit of yogurt to store it. Let it defrost naturally (don’t heat or microwave it) when you’re ready to make your next batch. You can even make yogurt culture from scratch, but more on that in a future post.
What about buying a yogurt culture? Since there is no way to measure the amount of live bacteria in yogurt, you might want to buy a yogurt culture to hedge your bet that you’ll have enough. So far I’ve lived on the edge – I’ve used real yogurt, and it hasn’t let me down.
What do I do with the skin that forms on the yogurt when it cools off? The skin seems icky to me, so I always quickly picked it off threw it out. Later I noticed that some recipes say to carefully move it aside and add the yogurt to the milk underneath. Oops. Further reading showed me that other some recipes don’t mention the skin at all. I concluded that it really doesn’t matter: keep the skin or discard it – it’s a matter of personal preference.
What about the liquid? Sometimes there is a bit of liquid in the container when you buy commercial yogurt. This can happen with homemade yogurt too. I’ve had so little liquid that I’ve ignored it, but if it bothers you, then pour it off or stir it in.
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