Easy Ferments to Make Right Now, Part 2: Homemade Yogurt


Photo by Laura Poe

If you are staying at home more than usual, as so many are right now, you may have extra time for fermenting projects on your hands. Whether you are totally new to fermenting or have some previous experience, this is the perfect time to try a few new fermentation recipes. If you have some items in the pantry that you aren’t sure what to with or foods in the fridge that are on their way out, such as milk, they may just be destined for fermentation. For those who are wanting easy ferments that use what is on hand and can be done in a shorter period of time, here is the second of three simple ferments that come together and are ready-to-eat quickly, getting you the tasty, probiotic-rich foods you want asap. Let’s make some yogurt!

Homemade Yogurt

Making your own yogurt can seem intimidating, especially if it is your first time to try it. Don’t let the specific temperatures and incubation scare you…it is actually quite easy and totally worth doing yourself. I find homemade yogurt tastes better than store-bought versions, plus I have more control over how the yogurt is made. Because of this, I can give mine a longer fermentation time than most commercial yogurts, yielding a higher probiotic content and more tartness, both of which I prefer in my yogurt. Plus, I can be sure there are no additives, thickeners or sweeteners in my yogurt when I make it myself. I also love having a way to use up milk that is on its way out, where it is still safe to use but may not be as tasty to drink as when it is super fresh.

Yogurt is one of the most popular fermented foods in the world, and cultures from all over have been making different versions of this cultured milk product for thousands of years. This was truly one of the first foods that really brought fermentation back into the diets of modern people and got folks talking about probiotics and gut health. Yogurt made from whole cow’s milk is a great source of gut- and immune-supporting probiotics, but it is also a great source of protein, calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones, B vitamins, healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and even iodine. Because it has gone through its culturing process that pre-digests much of the lactose in the milk, many find that yogurt is easier to digest than fluid milk. The type of bacteria that transform milk into yogurt, primarily Lactobacillus bulgarius and Streptococcus thermophilus, are thermophilic, meaning they need to be incubated in order for the fermentation to be successful. This is in contrast to kefir, another cultured dairy product, that is mesophilic, meaning it can be cultured at room temperature rather than needing a warm environment for its fermentation.

Many people shy away from making their own yogurt because they believe they need a yogurt maker for the incubation, but that is not actually true. All you need to get started is milk, a bit of already-made yogurt (which can be left over from store-bought or someone else’s homemade yogurt, or you can buy a starter culture online if you like), a kitchen thermometer and some way to keep your yogurt warm. To culture the yogurt, you simply need to keep it warm, around 108 degrees F, to allow the cultures to ferment and thicken the milk into yogurt. A yogurt maker machine will certainly work for this, but there are easy alternatives already in your home if you don’t have a special machine. This incubation can be done in a few diy ways: wrap the jar of yogurt in a towel, then keep in front of an “on” oven light in a gas stove or on top of a heating pad on a low setting; in a crock pot set to low, set in a shallow water bath; or, my favorite, kept in a vacuum-sealing thermos, with no external warming element required. I learned the thermos method from Holly Davis’ lovely cookbook, Ferment.

Once fermented, your homemade yogurt will keep for several weeks in the fridge. Be sure to save a few tablespoons of each previous batch to act as a starter for the next, and you will never have to buy yogurt again. You can eat this plain or add a bit of fruit and honey for your own flavored yogurt that is much lower in sugar that store-bought versions. Your yogurt can also be used in various recipes, such as Greek tzatziki, Middle Eastern tahini yogurt sauce, Indian mango lassi or raita, and even tossed in a smoothie or used in place of sour cream. However you use your yogurt, it will feel great knowing you made it yourself and you can pass this method on to others by giving them a bit of your yogurt to help them start their own.

7/5/2020 2:47:08 PM

Dear Laura, Please clarify the direction in instruction #2 to Heat the Yogurt? Do we heat it to room temperature? of just let it stand to room temperature? Thank you, kleasterling@yahoo.com

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