Homemade Yogurt

homemade yogurt recipe

I was goofing around on social media the other night, conversing with someone and recollecting our fondness for our Salton yogurt makers from the 70s; bright yellow contraptions that you put white-capped jars that you’ve filled with milk and yogurt into, plugged into the wall, and waited overnight. Then, in the morning, you were magically rewarded with five pots of warm, barely quivering, just-made yogurt.

homemade yogurt

It was all so exciting at first and I couldn’t stop myself from making yogurt. But like most things teenagers get interested in, I eventually lost interest in it, most likely tempted by the rainbow of flavors at the supermarket, which were highly sweetened and were accompanied by a pretty brilliant ad campaign. And I switched to those.

whole milk

It wasn’t until I became a mature adult – although some say they’re still waiting for that day to happen – so I’ll say…it wasn’t until I moved to France that I developed an appreciation for plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurt. The yogurt aisle in a French supermarket is, indeed, a sight to behold, with rows upon rows of yogurt and dairy items in all sorts of colors, flavors (including chocolate, caramel, cheesecake, and lemon macaron), fruits, fat percentages, and lord knows what else.

homemade yogurt

However it’s become a bit more of a challenge to find plain, full-fat yogurt a flavored yogurts (and their relatives) are encroaching upon the space of yaourt nature (plain yogurt). And while you can still find them, they’re not prominently featured and sometimes you have to search around for them. (Usually on my hands and knees, as they’re often relegated to yogurt “Siberia”.)

sterilizing jar

Lately I’ve been using a lot of plain yogurt and in a recent post for Labneh, a reader rightly pointed out that I should be making my own.

washing yogurt jar

But since I DIY (do-it-yourself) on a number of other things, such as aging my own cocktails and brewing my own coffee every morning from scratch, I was okay on letting someone else make my yogurt for me. Then again, coming from a place where even the simplest task can be complicated (or I was trying to capture a portion of my lost youth) I gave in and picked up a bottle of milk and decided to make a batch again.

homemade yogurt

I now have a full quart of plain yogurt and I couldn’t be happier. I suspect some will be drained and made into Labneh and since there are strawberries showing up at the market, there may be some Strawberry Frozen Yogurt in my future. But for now, I’m enjoying it with some granola and jam. And a spoonful of nostalgia.

homemade yogurt  recipe

Homemade Yogurt
1 quart (1 l)

I use a heavy, heat-proof jar, and sterilize it by pouring boiling water into it and letting it stand, then draining it well before adding the yogurt mixture. Swaddling the jar with a towel is a good way to keep it warm if you don’t have a warm place in your house or apartment.

I’ve never made it with low fat or reduced fat milk because I like whole milk yogurt. People do say it works although I haven’t tried it. Be sure to use a brand of yogurt that has live and active yogurt cultures in it. Buttermilk won’t work, which I learned from experience the night before ; )

  • 1 quart (1 l) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) plain whole milk yogurt

1. Clean a 1 quart (1 l) jar by pouring boiling water in it and letting it stand 5 minutes. Drain the water (carefully, as the water and the jar will be hot), and let the jar dry.

2. Heat the milk in a saucepan fitted with a thermometer, or use an instant read thermometer, until the milk reaches 180ºF (82ºC). Remove from heat.

3. When the temperature drops to 115ºF (45ºC), stir in the 1/4 cup of yogurt, then pour the mixture into the jar and cover it.

4. Put the yogurt in a slightly warm place, and leave it undisturbed for 10 to 12 hours. The longer fermentation will yield a more tart yogurt.

An oven that has a pilot light, is good. I have radiant heat (under-floor* heat) and put it in a warm spot.

5. Chill the yogurt thoroughly, at least three hours. The yogurt will thicken up once cool.



*For those concerned that I am putting it on the floor, I make sure there is a protective layer of glass between the yogurt and the floor.


Notes

Because it was a last-minute decision to make yogurt, I used regular, non-fancy milk for this batch. However using good-quality milk will result in the best-tasting yogurt. I spent a sleepless night while this batch of yogurt fermented, worrying that I didn’t use milk from the natural food store. (Please don’t tell me that I should get my own cow and make my own milk – at least until I catch up on my sleep.)

Some folks add dried milk powder and/or powdered yogurt starter. Others use slow-cookers to make yogurt. Here are a few posts below that discuss those methods and ingredients in depth:

Homemade Yogurt Recipe (101 Cookbooks)

DIY Greek Yogurt (Annie’s Eats)

Homemade Yogurt in a Crockpot (Our Life Simplified)

Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt (Fat-free) (Salad in a Jar)


166 comments

  • I make my own yogurt all the time – using an insulated cooler. While the milk is heating up, I fill the cooler (jar-neck height – you’ll have to put water-filled jars in while filling so when you put the yogurt jars in the water won’t go over the tops of the yogurt jars) with hot water from the tap and close it to keep the heat in. I leave the yogurt in the cooler overnight & in the morning – Ta Da! It’s yogurt!

  • I made yoghurt just this way in a thermos when I was a teenager as a science experiment, and using powdered starter in a special (non-powered) yoghurt maker about 10 years ago, but I haven’t made it since.
    I think I may try this method with some of the organic and local milk and yoghurt from the organic co-op I volunteer at. I think my daughter may love this, and she might actually eat some, especially if I can find some blueberries to go with it for her.

  • Can I increase the fat content of the yogurt by replacing half the milk with 35% cream? how do i stop it from forming a skin?

    thank you! hope to make my own yogurt soon.

  • Awesome! I didn’t know it could be made at home so easily. Definitely saving this!

  • I have a regular non-gas oven. The oven light is sufficient to keep the milk mixture warm enough for it to thicken. Cover the jar/jars/bowl in a thick towel or two, turn the oven light on, and let it sit for about 12 hours. It works great!

  • At some point here, everyone got a yogurt maker for mother´s day, even my mother, who never used it. But I did. Then lost interest too. The problem with making so many homemade stuff is that I don´t want the store bought anymore. And so it´s another thing to add to the list of things. It never ends

  • Good to read that you don’t throw the yoghurt on your floor and scratch it up again after twelf hours. :)

    I thought about buying a yoghurt maker on and off, but now it seems like one of those kitchen aids that can easily be substituted by my already owned pots and jars.

  • I was just thinking about starting to make yogurt, so this post was perfect timing! We have an EasiYo yogurt maker which is good, but you have to buy sachets of powder to make up the yogurt which are quite expensive, so I’ll definitely be trying this recipe!

    • Hi Kezia, you don’t have to use the EasiYo sachets- just follow Davids’ recipe using the EasiYo container then pack it into EasiYo thermos as usual but use just warm not boiling water in the chamber.

  • I forgot to mention that I use full-fat milk, and as a starter I use yogurt from the previous batch. The only time you need to purchase a starter is the first time you make it.

    And to make Greek-style yogurt, let the yogurt drain by placing it in cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel, and suspend the bundle over a bowl to drain the whey. The drained yogurt is very thick and creamy.

  • I am so interested in making home made produce. I am wondering would the process work with soy alternatives or other animal milk?

  • I grew up on a dairy farm, and as a teenager, made many batches of yogourt from whole, raw milk; it’s taste was unlike anything available commercially, so absolutely creamy and delicious. I no longer have access to ‘straight from the cow’ milk so I don’t bother to make yogourt anymore. I used to make it in a heavy clay casserole meant for slow cooking baked beans, all wrapped up in a big towel. It kept the heat in and allowed the yogourt to cool very slowly overnight. Perfect yogourt every time. Extra delicious with my Mom’s homemade jam stirred into it.

  • I use an insulated lunch box or beer six pack box which kees it warm enough overnight.

  • I lived in Canada in the 70’s and knew a woman who made yogurt for her family. She used a starter from the health food store. After eating her yogurt it spoiled me forever from eating store bought yogurt — even Greek yogurt doesn’t taste like hers. I think the consistency had a lot to do with it and it had a wonderful sour taste that went so well with fruit and granola. Store bought yogurt tastes rubbery compared to hers…

  • I make yogurt like this every week. I use basic whole milk and I even use yogurt from a previous batch to make the fresh batch. It is awesome!

  • Ah, the old Salton yogurt maker! I dug around in the dark corner of the garage that holds my “elephant’s graveyard” of appliances that have long since fallen from favor and, low and behold, there it was! However, years of dust and grime would prevent me from dragging it out. Especially when you have such a simple recipe right here in front of me. Agree with the comment about that an oven light will give enough warmth to make this recipe. What a great idea! Thanks.

  • The first time I had unsweetened yogurt was at a boarding school run by French nuns. The yogurt was served in glass jars and was lovely and tart. It was made from milk from the cows grazing on the school’s land. I didn’t know how to eat it , as I had only been used to fruity yogurts, like Danone, but watched my fellow students pour sugar onto the pots and dig in. Now I like my plain yogurt with fruit and honey, and often with bircher muesli to which I add lemon juice and nuts.

  • I too use a small cooler. I put the milk mixture in 8 or 12 oz jars and pour boiling water into one more jar placed in the center. Seal up the cooler and voila! In the morning you have yogurt.

  • I use a cooler as well – the way I’ve learned is to pour the milk into jars, put the lids on , place them in a small cooler and then fill the cooler up to the height of the jars with hot water (as hot as the tap will go). Then close the cooler, wrap in a blanket and let it set for 6-8 hours. Comes out lovely and warm. I always strain mine into Greek yogurt – it’s divine.

  • One of the best tasting homemade yogurt that I had came from a starter my bro gave me. He acquired it from his officemate who bought it all the way from India. I ran into the same dilemma as Paula mentioned. Now that I ran out of it, I can’t make myself eat store-bought yogurt anymore.

  • David,
    the links at the bottom of the post need rectifying…

  • Hi David- I’m having trouble with the links at the bottom of the post, after the notes. Is it me?

    • Claudine and Peter: There was a coding error that I couldn’t figure out how to fix. So I re-coded ‘em completely and now they’re working a-ok – thanks

  • Would this work like a sourdough starter? In other words could I take my last 1/4 of homemade yogurt and use it to start my next batch?

  • David, I had so many instances where the yogurt would not take that I stopped making my own. I recently found the Sant Benoit brand at Whole Foods, and nothing reminds me more of the yogurt we used to make straight from farm milk. Your post reminded me of how easy this is… My favorite way of eating it is to put it in a bowl and drop a tablespoon of Creme de Marrons Faugier in the center. Then I eat away at the creme de marrons with spoonfuls of rich, tangy yogurt. Will try making my own tonight… Thank you for the post! If you have a recipe for the Creme de Marrons which is almost impossible to find here, please be kind enough to post it. I still remember the tubes that we used to take on Girl Scout trips… You bring back so many fantastic memories… Thank you!

  • eek! cows milk!!

    Please….if you want to make labneh & tsatsiki etc etc you need SHEEPS milk.

    I know you can get this in Paris….

  • I too use whole milk (not ultra pasteurized if I can find it) for my homemade yogurt. Instead of trying to find a warm place to culture, I use a Saltom YM9 1-qt yogurt maker. I tossed out the plastic quart insert andinstead use a wide mouth glass quart jar. Works to perfection!

  • Making yogurt with raw milk is even simpler. Using clean quart jars, put a few ounces of yogurt (your own or a good commercial plain full milk) and fill it to the top with raw milk, cover it and put in in the pilot-lit oven. If you leave it for 30 hours, it is more thoroughly pre-biotic. That’s all. Then transfer it to the refrigerator for a few hours. No heating the milk, no sterilizing, no praying.

  • David, when you say “brewing my own coffee every morning from scratch”, what exactly do you mean? I miss “Seattle” roasted coffee. There is Starbucks in Paris, but not here in the middle of the country, and Starbucks in France doesn’t do online ordering. Any thoughts?

  • David – Ah, yes … the Salton wonder machine. Got us all eating yogurt back in the day.
    Actually, I learned to make yogurt from a friends mother who is Persian. It was so simple and foolproof! But the lure of those cute jars was not to be denied.
    You’ve got me thinking of making some of my own again – perhaps out of goats milk.
    Here’s a tip – regarding the sterilization of the jars – from my experience making confiture: Put your jars on a half sheet and in the oven. 215 degrees f, until you need them. They’ll be warm and dry. Turn off the oven when you retrieve your jars, and leave the door ajar, allowing the oven to cool somewhat. Then pop your filled jars back into the still warm oven and proceed as in your recipe.

  • This has me intrigued. We go through ridiculous amounts of yogurt and I could easily do this every evening. I wonder if the ‘proof’ setting on my oven would be too warm?

    Thank you :)

  • That’s a great tip re: sterilization, Cynthia. I’ve been running hot water into my jars for a few minutes with a touch of dish soap, but that’s much better!

  • my grandmother always made our yogurt and covered it with a blue woolen blanket; how come you are not using a woolen blanket? (just kiddin’)

  • You forgot …. line a wire strainer with two layers of clean paper towel, dump in the yogurt, put on a pot in fridge for 4 – 5 hours to let the whey drain out and you have a Greek yogurt. INFINITELY superior in taste and texture to plain yogurt. Don’t worry, the yogurt will not stick to the towel.

  • Ah yes, the Salton, I had it, too. Then I found Fage, but now I’ll try this recipe…love the simplicity…can’t wait – will start with 2% milk. Thanks!

  • I also use a little 6 pack ice chest filled with hot water from the tap after seeing it suggested by Harold McGee. He didn’t mention sterilizing the jar and so I don’t. He said it would be ready after 4 hours and it is. Also his recipe said to use 2 tablespoons of yogurt per quart of milk which is better for people like me who want to eat as much of each batch as possible. I have been keeping the same culture going for 2 1/2 years after I found some fantastic farm made yogurt while visiting my son in Washington DC. When I go on vacation I freeze a small amount so I can make it again when I get home.

  • Joel L. – It’s worth noting that that initial heating step is not only to kill any undesirable spoilage organisms you might not want to cultivate, but it is also very important to the subsequent gel structure of the yogurt. The heat changes the shape of the milk proteins so that they can better hold onto the whey in the final product and reduce syneresis. If you want the benefit of raw milk, drink some raw milk with your fresh yogurt.

    Whole milk powder will reduce syneresis but I never use it – if you don’t like the whey that forms on the surface you can just pour it off.

    I’ve also found that using each batch of yogurt as a starter for the following batch won’t work past the first few times. There are a number of variables to control for that change the lactic acid bacteria population ratios and you’ll end up with off-tasting yogurt eventually. Mine tasted like socks, which is great if you’re into that sort of thing. I am not.

    It also helps to add a little bit of the cooled milk to the starter yogurt in a separate small bowl while whisking, then adding that back to the pot of milk so that the bacteria are brought up to temperature slowly.

    I incubate at 40ºC for 8 hours and that’s usually enough. It’s also important to not jostle the jars too much during that first 8 or so hours. This can break the gel structure and stop it from setting up properly.

    Having said all of this, yogurt’s pretty hard to eff up.

    I’m just…I’m just really passionate about yogurt. I’ll go now.

  • I have been making yogurt for several years, but frequently the results were somewhat curdled and watery. I then happened upon this method for a custard-style yogurt that gives me a thick, smooth product every time. The key is keeping it at boiling temperature for 10 minutes. I do a crossword while stirring to make it a bit less tedious.

    http://brodandtaylor.com/bread-more/yogurt/custard-style-yogurt/

  • I put some jars of hot water in a cooler, then add jars of incubating yogurt and leave them overnight. This method has never failed me. A few times I’ve made quark, too, which is like a milder labneh and is also very easy. Ashley England’s book on dairy and cheeses explains all the steps in making different cultured dairy products very clearly, although I’m not at the stage of making my own camembert.

    I’ve also used lowfat milk ith no problem although letting it incubate a bit longer helps with the thickness and creaminess factor.

    Thanks for another fun, and funny, post. I was especially glad to learn of the protective layer of glass between the yogurt and the floor.

  • Wait, Claire! Come back! I get a kind of weird, stringy quality to my 30 hour unheated unheated yogurt. It’s a lot like you get with natto, that fermented soy bean concoction the Japanese eat for its health benefits. A definite “eww”, but it charms after a while and doesn’t effect the taste.

    • Joel L. – Ropiness is likely caused by exopolysaccharides secreted by Streptococcus thermophilus. The main cultures used in yogurt (though there are a range of others often added to commercial yogurt for probiotic or other purposes) are S. thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. S. therm prefers to grow at a lower incubation temperature (35-42*C), while L. bulg prefers slightly higher (43-46*C). Of course they’ll both grow within either of those ranges, but one will grow faster if it’s within its preferred range. A slightly higher incubation temp will probably reduce the amount of exopolysaccharide you’re getting, though it is harmless and even desirable in terms of texture in small quantities (adds body, not enough to get stringy). Some companies isolate it and use it in non-fat yogurt to mimic the mouthfeel of a full fat yogurt. Hope that helps!

  • Thank you for the Salton yogurt machine flashback! I was instantly transported to my childhood home kitchen (in burnt orange, antique gold and avocado hues) to recall my mother’s feverish efforts at health and making what at the time I felt was ‘gross’ plain yogurt. Fast forward to now and I purchased a Donvier yogurt maker a few years ago which is sitting dormant in the pantry of my NOT burnt orange, antique gold and avocado kitchen. As we migrate toward summer foods, this is a great prompt to pull that baby out and start making yogurt. Thank you.

  • Is plain yogurt really starting to become obsolete in grocery stores in France? I find that sad… good yogurt has always been something I have associated with French food. When I moved to Germany I really got into yogurt, plain yogurt specifically, because it’s just so good, and everywhere. Sure, we have a million flavors as well- things like straciatella, chocolate, coffee – and they come in these awesome jars that make you think it’s almost homemade – but I’m thinking (hoping) plain yogurt will always rule in Germany.

  • Found bringing temp down to 110 F insures i won’t kill the culture. Also you can ferment in the cooking pot. cool milk down to 110 F from 185 F, slowly stir in the culture, cover, put pot on a heating pad set to medium, cover all with a few dish towels and wait 8-10 hours. remove lid and whisk yogurt thoroughly and then pour into jars. put in fridge to let the yogurt “set” i can make a gallon this way and have enough to have strained and regular. use 3 Tbs of yogurt for every 1/2 gallon of milk. (too much yogurt added and the bacteria starve and the batch fails.) this method has not failed me yet!

  • I was in Nice France for 3 weeks last year and was disappointed in the yogurt choices. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but my main complaint is that there was no, absolutely none, quart-size containers of yogurt. The packaging of yogurt is absurd. All those little containers. I also did have trouble finding plain whole milk yogurt. I looked in good stores and regular stores along the way. Someone over there smirked at me when I mentioned the lack of quarts, (although I am very lean) and said something about, of course, Americans would have to have quart sizes. I and everyone I know buys quarts in the U.S and have done so for decades. Maybe quarts are easier to find in Paris or another city…

    • Some of the ‘natural’ brands in health food stores are sold in pint containers in France (and, less-rarely, in supermarkets), although you can get fromage blanc and crème fraîche in pint-sized containers in most supermarkets (which, come to think of it .. is interesting that yogurt is something mostly sold in small plastic containers. I did see something once on tv that was advising people to buy things like yogurt in larger containers in France, because of all the plastic those small containers used, but not sure what became of it.

  • So I too used that Salton back then. Specially for my kids! Very earthy crunchy Park Slopey :-)
    After reading your post on Labneh i went and ordered my new yogurt maker on Amazon!!!!
    What could be better! Found great natural milk just waiting in my fridge for the maker to arrive tomorrow and a bag of sweet peaches to slice on top!

    See, we were both inspired!

  • I heat my milk (1/2 gal) sometimes with added cream in a large heavy saucepan to low boil, cool for 20 to 30 mins and add the yogurt starter (purchased plain full fat ) that I have premixed with a small amount of milk. Just drag a spoon through the center of the kettle and pour it in do not stir. Leave skin alone.
    Then I put it in my oven with the light on for 16 hours take out and put in large strainer that I have lined with a very old tea towel. Drain for a few hours and pour into bowl to keep in refrig. Perfect greek yogurt in one pot. No measuring, no thermometer not many dirty dishes.
    The hardest part is finding plain full fat yogurt in the stores for the starter.

  • Here in upstate New York (The Hudson Valley actually) we are lucky to have at least 3 local dairies that produce quarts of wonderful ORGANIC whole milk yogurt (from sheep or cows) easily found in the local co-ops & farm stores. However, I remember, before yogurt was a household word in this part of the country, we did have the yellow Salton with the little individual cups. But our favorite yogurt maker was a large aluminum plug in pot (I wonder what became of it?) that held 3 or 4 of our own quart jars and kept the temp exactly right. For the original batch we used Bulgarian Yogurt Culture found at the health food store & saved a half cup or so for each subsequent batch. Those were the days!!

    I haven’t missed a post for several years, David. I’m incredibly impressed by your photography skills (as well as your culinary ones.)

  • Next time you’re in the States and near a Trader Joe’s, French Village Cream Line Yogurt is amazing – just whole milk and active live cultures – that’s it!

  • Hi David,
    I live in France and love you blog. Could you tell me how to identify thst yogurt is live here (vivsnte?).
    Thanks!
    Marianne

  • Having a bunch of kids, I never have time to myself. Looking at food blogs is my escape. I follow you and John Contratti’s “Cooking With Mr. C.” You two guys are a life saver. I like today’s yogurt.

  • Judy Gee – where do you find this yogurt upstate. I have a weekend home in the Caskills and would like to locate this. Can you share the info?

    I hope you see this – not sure how to contact you. David do you have any suggestions?
    Love this post by the way

    Many thanks,
    Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

  • Oh, Claire, a plethora of riches! Since I’m determined to use the raw milk I can get with a 35 minute drive (illegal here but not in Pennsylvania), I don’t want to heat it. That’s why I’ve evolved this dodgy method. I’m not concerned only with the cultures I’d be altering but the other things we don’t even know about which are in milk in its raw state, and the yogurt I get is sublimely delicate in texture and flavor. The yogurt I make this way is so rich and creamy, I’ve been easily living with the ropiness (I didn’t know that was the word for the consistency). But I’m swayed by your suggestions; I’ll give it a try. If I warm the jars to 215° (F, as Cynthia (above) suggests), is that enough to avoid warming the milk, or do I still need to get it to 40° (C)? For how long?

  • Yum.
    I have been making my own yoghurt for around 1.5 years now.
    My culture is 1 year and 4 months old and just keeps going. If you keep the yoghurt ‘alive’ you can keep using the same culture as it shouldn’t die. It is alive!
    Anyway, here is how I do it. I find the stove top method too time consuming.
    http://fruitsaladmixedveg.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/how-to-make-your-own-yoghurt-detailed.html

  • If you have Indian friends, talk to them about starters. I use the starter given me by an Indian friend, and I expect it to go on working for a lifetime. Previously, I used various natural and bio store yogurts as starters, because after 2 or 3 batches, my own was less effective.
    My friend, a nutritionist, has explained to me that in Europe store yogurt is generally made with only 2 types of culture. Her culture from India has about 70 – 100 different types, and is therefore more robust.

  • Hi Emily in Catskill! I’m across the river in Chatham! These are the yogurts made in Columbia County:

    Ronneybrook Farm yogurt, Hawthorne Valley yogurt, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company (sheep’s milk) yogurt. I’m not familiar with the shops in your area, but over here we find them at The Chatham Real Food co-op Market, the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, Samascott’s (Kinderhook) & probably several small gourmet-type shops in Hudson (nearer to you.) I’m surprised there isn’t a place in Catskill that carries one or all.

    Judy

    PS If you’re a weekender, can’t you find good yogurt near your first home?

  • For Emily again. Oops! I reread yr post & I guess you’re not in the Village of Catskill, but somewhere up in the mountains! No wonder you had trouble locating the yogurt up there! (Try googling.)

    Judy

  • I just returned from Paris; while there I found plain yogurt in our neighborhood (6e) small FranPrix, though packaged in those silly little white plastic containers and swamped by the highly sugared and flavored others. –Nancy

  • Still using the Salton pots here…and also have a Moulinex pots maker and a big tub 1 litre yoghurt maker!
    We use raw milk but heat to 70c and stir constantly to avoid skin. I use a natural Greek Yoghurt as a starter and add a bit of organic full milk powder to achieve that lovely stand your spoon up texture. The only thing with raw milk is that I need to use a commercial starter every time as the lovely microbes in the milk aren’t stable re thickening. Love yoghurt : ) Looking forward to exploring French yoghurts for a month in November…great post.

  • Hello David – I have been making yoghurt for a couple of years. Every couple of makes I use bought yoghurt for the starter( makes better taste.). Being thrifty I freeze the remainder in ice cube tray and it works very well. Just make sure you bring the cubes back to room temperature before adding to the cooled milk.
    Enjoy your blog and life in Paris very much.

  • I make my own yogurt every week as I live in a remote area of Indonesia and cannot buy yogurt here. I use powdered whole milk to make my yogurt and don’t even have to heat/cool the milk. I just mix 1 part boiling water with 2 parts room temperature water, and then 1 1/2 parts powdered milk. I add some of my yogurt from the previous batch and then let it set in an insulated cooler. Sometimes I also add in a can of sweetened condensed milk with the mixture for a sweet yogurt. SO easy and it is better than any American commercial yogurt I have tried.

  • Odd coincidence! I have just been wishing I had held onto my old Salton yogurt maker too. And exactly because of the dearth of whole milk yogurt here in Los Angeles.

    In the past when I made yogurt I found that it had a natural sweetness when made from powdered culture. Once my yogurt was made I could use that as the starter for subsequent batches as your recipe suggests but the tartness developed as soon as I began making yogurt with yogurt instead of the powdered culture. Each subsequent batch got a bit more tart still.

  • I’m not concerned you put your yoghurt on the floor, I’m just envious of your underfloor heating.

    We are lucky enough to have the Yoghurt Of The Gods available in New Zealand (Cyclops Organic), which is unimprovable upon, so I will resist the lure of making my own. It would be a very different matter if “normal” commercial yoghurt was all that was available, though.

  • Thanks for the article and the recipe, I can’t wait to try it. I wonder how it would compare to the absolutely amazing homemade yoghurt I had in Milos, Greece? If you ever get a chance to compare, I highly recommend the Psarvolada Resort in Milos – the best food we had during our two weeks in Greece!

  • Here is my recipe for organic 2 percent yogurt which I make every week and of course strain half for labneh. I suggest that you save some of your homemade yogurt to become the culture for your future batch of yogurt. It is the gift that keeps on giving
    http://reinventingnadine.blogspot.com/2012/05/homemade-yogurt.html?m=1

  • My favorite way to eat plain yogurt is with a big spoonful of honey – I drizzle it over the top, without stirring it in, then spoon up the yogurt with the honey coated spoon, getting just a bit more honey with each mouthful. So delicious. And it was my French best friend in high school who introduced me to it.

    Also, for a dairy free version, this works with coconut milk – I’ve done it many times!

  • I love when I see western world start to eat yogurt, it is one most the most important magical food everybody should eat! Homemade preferably :-)
    It is really important the quality and type of milk when you make yogurt and also starter! I tried to make natural starter from an ant hole but didn’t have the courage to use it, for now :-)

  • I love making my own yogurt! Because a stomach virus caused me to become intolerant to milk products, I now make my own (virtually) lactose free yogurt by fermenting it for 24 hours. It does not come out too tart and is some of the best yogurt I have tasted. Most importantly though, I can eat it!

  • Great post, David. Thanks.
    Do any of you experienced yoghurt-makers use a microwave to heat the milk with good results?
    I usually heat it on the stove but worry about scorching. I stand there a long time, stirring away and eyeing the thermometer. Crossword puzzle diversion is a good idea. Maybe if i stand close by…

  • I just boil milk skim off the skin as cooling to around 40 deg then add starter from previous batch and pour into sealed thermos flask or jug leave 8-12 hours works great everytime

  • Thank you so much for the timely post. I have just gotten back into making yogurt after a friend gave me a vintage West Bend 1 quart yogurt maker with the $0.25 yard sale sticker still attached. For years I didn’t know about the importance of heating the milk to 180 degrees. It is definitely key! Now my yogurt is above and beyond anything from the store, due to fresh milk from another friend’s 6 Jersey cows. All the plain yogurts found in stores for starter are not created equal. After being disappointed with Stonyfield, I switched to 3 Greek Gods and couldn’t be happier. One bacteria in particular, L. Bulgaricus, makes for an especially sweet and mild yogurt which I prefer. Check your labels and happy fermenting!

  • Oh MY. Well, I just had to add one thing for all the yogurt nerds out there. Wild cultures for yogurt can apparently be obtained from chili pepper stems, goat poop, and ant eggs. Amazing. Read all about it here: http://www.wildfermentation.com/yogurt-cultured-by-chili-peppers/

  • Congratulations. Homemade yogurt is special. At least for my family. I heat the milk to 200 F and mantain it on the stove with the simmer setting on the flame for 10 minutes. Then cool it to 115 F and place it into containers and keep the temperature to 111 F for 2 to3 hours to set and to develop a low acidity. I happen to own a bread proofer box so maintaining temperatures is not a problem.

  • I make mine with 1 cup of skim milk powder to a litre of full cream milk. Makes a beautiful thick Greek-type yoghurt. There is also no need to do the pasteurisation step (heating to 82C) if your milk is already pasteurised. I just mix my milk, milk powder, and a dollop of the last batch, and put it all in my waterbath at 40°C overnight. Oven does just as well, or warm it up and put it in a wide-mouth vacuum flask.

    • I worked somewhere where we didn’t always heat the milk – we just added the culture and let it sit. The owner of the restaurant was a food scientist as well as the owner however on occasion, it didn’t turn out and we’d end up with big jars of runny yogurt. So heating it apparently is just an added measure of security.

  • On my last trip to New Zealand, I discovered the EasiYo yogurt maker. What a life saver since I go through a quart of yogurt a week. This handy little yogurt maker comes with packets to make all types of fruity yogurt ($5 each once initial supply is gone), but being the simplistic person that I am and love plain unsweetened yogurt, I found a recipe on the internet and make my own without use of packets. Nothing like a wonderful bowl of yogurt to start the day. Just like Mom made us back in the 60’s with that Salton yogurt maker.

  • I live in India, and making yoghurt here in the tropical weather is breeze. We just have to take lukewarm milk, mix in a teaspoon of yoghurt, and leave it overnight (6 to 8 hours). I am so thankful that making yoghurt does not take so many steps.

  • I want to like yogurt because they say it’s so healthy, I really do, but I just can’t get past the tangy acidity of it. Can you add some sugar to the mixture to sweeten it when you make it?

    • In all likelihood, you probably can (that’s just a guess, since you can buy yogurt pre-sweetened and I assume they ferment it in the containers). Regarding the “healthy” issues, of course yogurt is full of calcium and a few other good things, but they say if you really want to get benefits from yogurt, you should eat yogurt with bifidus in it, which is supposed to be quite beneficial for various health reasons.

    • Susan – I make about 2 L of yogurt at a time, and I add a can of sweetened condensed milk in with the milk mixture when making the yogurt. It sets up just fine, and the yogurt is just delicious – mild and not too sweet.

  • Genie, I also use the NZ Easiyo, eat it every day, I use the Greek unsweetened packet but would like to know how to use it without the prepared packet – can you post the recipe you use? Thanks

  • Wow, this is very exciting, I would love to make this with goat’s or sheep’s milk for my son who’s allergic to cow. I have to stop throwing my money at Monoprix so would be amazing to do something for myself!

  • I just looked at the previous posts – it looks like I can just use milk powder with the EasiYo maker, I wonder if it is anything like Greek yoghurt if you use Greek yoghurt as a starter?

  • Your post arrived at the best time… I just returned from Manila where we were making our own yogurt at my aunt’s and I wanted to do the same here in SF. I looked into buying an EasiYo yogurt maker, but your post convinced me to try your method first. Thanks, David!

  • I just read your book about Paris, and I’m thrilled, and some rules soon for sure I’ll try.Best :-)
    http://tohavefabulousday.blogspot.com/2013/05/paryz-i-marilyn-mariln-i-paryz.html

  • “I spent a sleepless night while this batch of yogurt fermented, worrying that I didn’t use milk from the natural food store.” God, if this is a sort of a problem that keeps you up at night, I want to have your stress-free life.

  • Thanks for this great post. I have been making my own yogurt for years using a Yogotherm which is a 2 L heavy-duty plastic yogurt container inside an insulated container. It’s essentially a purpose-built thermos. No electricity required. I remember them being around in the 70s when I was a kid and then I bought my own about 15 years ago. The design has changed somewhat (uglier now, natch), but they work beautifully. Whole milk works best, tastes best and is easiest.
    I found this article by Harold McGee helpful: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/dining/15curi.html?_r=0

  • Joel L., you can also get that stringiness if your starter has additions like pectin (and surprising numbers do.) That’s why I only used freeze dried starters, myself. I haven’t found any commercial yogurts in the US that I like the taste of or the results, except for Mountain High, but that’s not available on the east coast where we live now.

    I prefer whole milk with added dry (because I am the queen of scorching the milk and way too impatient), but we now make it with 2% because my hubby deals with cholesterol issues. It’s OK (but whole is better.)

    My homemade yogurt is the reason my kids and husband can digest any dairy, so it’s not optional at our house. (We learned that when we lived in Paris in the 13e. He was so glad to not miss out on French cheese!) I use a 2 quart yogurt maker (Eurocuisine) because we go through a lot. I also use a lamp timer on it to make sure it shuts off after 8 hours so it doesn’t get too tart.

    And David, I, too, preferred yaourt nature brassé. Some fromagers will have it, too. There was one at the marché Auguste Blanqui right near our apartment. She also had an amazing butter, and would save me some each week. She started doing it after I got upset when her husband tried to give me the “unspecial” butter. ;) She even offered to mail it to me in the US when we moved home. Sigh, elle me manque, la France.

  • Funny, I’ve been reading this post while eating my homemade yogurt for breakfast (with blackberries and homemade granola)! A few years ago I decided to try making my own yogurt again, and bought a Salton yogurt maker on eBay — because I had given away my original one years ago after it sat and gathered dust. The results were okay, but not consistent.

    Then, I found Maureen’s recipe and method for yogurt and labneh on Rose Water & Orange Blossoms, and hit the jackpot. The key for me is to drain the yogurt for a couple of hours before putting it into my yogurt jars, to get it more like Greek yogurt consistency. No comparison to store bought, and there are a couple of dairies nearby where I can get excellent, fresh milk.

  • Wow I had no idea how incredibly simple it was to make homemade yogurt. That’s something I’m going to have to try now!

  • 90+ comments and not one from an Indian? (aside from Annie’s comment about making yogurt in India). I’ll get us started then. I love, love, love this blog and am a huge fan of anything David Lebovitz, but I am always hugely amused by the hoopla over “homemade” yogurt. Making yogurt is a nightly routine here in this subcontinent of a billion-and-counting, which I’m frankly glad to catch a break from every now and again. In Houston we used culture from regular plain store yogurt; worked just fine. Swaddling worked ok–but sticking it in the oven with the light on worked better. There’re stories to be told of folks who smuggle yogurt culture from India in, but the stuff from a tub worked just as well, like I said. Sterilize jars? Measure temperatures with thermometers? Seriously–you really can’t go far wrong even if you’re not super scientific in approaching yogurt. But maybe it’s the “Indian grand/mother” approach to cookery showing itself here: pinch of this and warm like that, and hey you know what, you’ve grown some darned fine bacterial cultures!!

  • I have yet to buy a kitchen thermometer despite the myriad uses for one…I don’t often try to make chocolate or candy but I would love to make yogurt. Might just have to pony up and buy one for this.

  • I always hear about how France has less strict pasteurization rules than the US – do you think that you’d get the same effect buying whole organic milk in the US, or should I add a culture?

    Thanks!

  • Joan — I heat the milk in the microwave, because 1) it needs no watching at all; 2) the timing is absolutely predictable; and 3) you can incubate it in the same vessel you use for heating. You’ll have to experiment a few times to get the timing right, but then you never have to watch it again. My (very old) microwave takes 18 minutes on high to heat a half-gallon of whole milk to just below boiling in a 2 qt pyrex measuring cup. If I leave the milk untouched, it will be the right temp for inoculating two hours after I put it in. To speed things up, I take it out and peel off the skin that forms as it cools. I make yogurt at least three times a week and have never had even a glimpse of a problem using the microwave.

  • i’ve been making yogurt for 12 years, and have some observations that haven’t really been mentioned thus far: 1) the type of milk you use matters alot, i use organic Straus pasteurized but not homogenized. i think it’s a waste using raw milk cause you would kill the good bacteria in heating the milk, you should be making kefir with raw milk. 2) the culture you use matters also. i had a 4 year old culture that i liked, and then found a bulgarian culture at a do-it-yourself store and the difference was amazing. 3) my girlfriend and I go thru about 5-6 quarts a week, so I make it in a big stainless steel pot. i’m starting a very small scale yogurt business and make yogurt for that in 1 quart mason jars. the yogurt is thicker/better when made in a big pot. 4) i used to use a big le creuset pot thinking that i’d need the heat retaining qualities of cast iron, but switched to stainless because there’s alot less scorching of the milk. an oven pilot light works just fine for keeping things warm. 5) last, rinse your pot out with water before you add milk. when there’s a film of water between the pot and the milk at the beginning, and you stir a couple of times, you won’t get any scorching at all. 6) i heat to 190, cool to 121, incubate for 6 hours.

    • Folks say to rinse the pot with cold water before heating milk for that reason, but I’ve never tried it to test it out (side-by-side with another pot of heated up milk) but perhaps I should! Wow, you eat 5-6qts a week. No wonder you’ve got such good words of wisdom – thanks for adding to the discussion!

      • 2 people eating yogurt + preserves for breakfast everyday… apricot preserves being the best.

  • “3. When the temperature drops of 115ºF…” Do you mean when the temperature drops TO 115º?

    I haven’t made yogurt since I was in college (we used wooly mammoth milk then). Now you’ve inspired me to try again.

  • What else besides healthful bacteria are in cow’s milk? That’s why I use organic, raw milk and don’t heat it up, just incubate it in the oven for a full day.

    • the texture is a ton better if you heat it to 190, there are electron microscope pictures of milk in ‘On Food and Cooking’ by Harold McGee that explains this.

      Kefir is amazing from raw milk, there are alot more different types of bacteria in it. It’s less fun to eat, though

  • Trying to think where in my house would be suitable for the overnight part of the method.

    Does it need to be a warm place as in warm enough to rise a bred dough? Or a bit cooler, like the sort of place warm enough to soften butter in a couple of hours? Or a bit warmer, so the jars will still be warm to the touch after standing overnight?

    My house is old and drafty so I might have to go with the cooler/hot water method.

  • I recently started making my own yogurt again as well–I find that in taste it’s far superior to any commercially available brand. I am a microbiologist and thought it would be fun to take a look at what was going on in yogurt under the microscope–I posted some pretty nifty micrographs on yogurt, and other cultured foods. Check it out!

    http://thehousered.virb.com/home/13795813/invisible-kitchen

    I’ve read about adding a little bit of buttermilk to enhance the flavor, but I’m not sure how much or how that might affect the process. What are your buttermilk in yogurt thoughts? I’m curious if you’ve heard of this?

  • If you have a food dehydrator, it works well! I incubate mine overnight, batching it with drying fruit or with my husband’s “raw food projects.” I just use good local additive free yogurt and good milk, that’s it. Superb texture even with lowfat ingredients.

  • My grandmother used a wool sweater to swaddle the yogurt bowl – very effective!

  • Christy: Someone lent me a food dehydrator and I loved using it, but it’s one thing I never bought. Glad to know it has other uses. (And perhaps there will be one in my future!)

    Kyle: I would be concerned that the buttermilk may interfere with the culture and/or the process of yogurt-making. I like the idea of adding that flavor, though. Maybe make a small batch to see if it works out before embarking on a full quart?

    Frances: Yes, without knowing the exact place, usually the place where you put bread to rise would be a good temperature for yogurt.

  • i’m the guilty party who made the suggestion.

    i’ve been making at least a gallon of plain yogurt once a week for several years now. being a super cheapskate i can’t stand paying the 900% mark up they usually put onto those little pots of yogurt. in the us you can almost always find supermarket milk on sale for under $2/gallon.

    i have a tip on the incubation process. my temps are the same as yours, but for the incubation, i wrap the pot (i make a gallon at a time) in a large towel and then put it inside a thermal sleeping bag which i fold over it a few times to maximize the insulation. it takes only 4 to 5 hours to form.

    since i like to minimize the tartness, i try to catch it just as soon as it’s formed, pour off whatever whey has accumulated on top, then refrigerate it for a few hours so it can firm up some more. then because i like the greek yogurt texture, i strain it for a few hours more in the fridge. i use the whey for fermenting vegetables.

    since you live in paris, i’m assuming you have some sort of thermal coverlet you could use if you don’t have a sleeping bag. with this method the temp only drops about 10 degrees after 5 hours. it’s very efficient and much easier than fooling with water baths, pilot lights, or beer coolers filled with hot water.

    as for stirring the milk. having no patience, i just bite the bullet and stir the gallon of milk over high heat, reaching all over the bottom to avoid scorching. It takes 10 minutes of high-alert stirring. but i’m used to making a lot creme patissiere, so stirring is no big deal, especially since that’s the only work involved in yogurt making.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! : )
      The radiant heat works very well, as I put the jar in a corner under a counter and the temperature was nice and cozy. Milk here costs about €1,4 ($1.80)/quart or liter – about €5 ($6.50) per gallon. And a 4-pack of plain yogurt (4 pots, each 1/2 cup/125g) costs about .80 centimes ($1) so it’s not necessarily more economical (or maybe it is, but by the time I do the math, I could have made the yogurt!) and since milk comes in plastic bottle (which I don’t understand, since square packaging packs tighter on shelves and for transit, as there’s no wasted air space between the containers) I don’t know how much plastic is being saved or not, but it is a good way to make yogurt if you need a lot of it.

  • For Joel L: For raw milk yogurt it’s okay to heat the milk to 110 degrees F. — the benefits of the raw milk will still be retained. I use Yogourmet as a starter because I’ve found it to be reliable. As Claire noted, you can’t use the previous batch as a starter indefinitely for regular pasteurized milk yogurt, and it’s even dicier for raw milk yogurt. I leave the yogurt in a pot overnight on my stovetop, which is always warm since my stove is an Aga. Raw milk makes a runnier yogurt, so if you want it thicker, strain it — Euro Cuisine makes a nice cotton bag with handles for this purpose. (Use the resulting whey in your next loaf of bread.) There are lots of websites which discuss making raw milk yogurt so you might want to check some of them out.

  • One of my favorite dishes in France was my host mom’s homemade yogurt with a choice of vanilla bean sugar or homemade blackberry jam on top. She made it in a nifty blender with a cooking element and a yogurt attachment on top that she said was all the rage among French housewives. I still haven’t figured out what it was!

  • Yes, organic, unflavored, whole milk yoghurt is hard to find. I finally grabbed a quart of organicStrauss Family Farms Vanilla in frustration and got it home to find it has 32 grams of sugar per cup! I’m cutting it with a 2% plain and will start making my own, thank you.