Yogurt is a milk product made by fermenting milk with specific yogurt-making bacteria strains. The result is a thick, creamy, protein-rich food that, when flavored with fruits or other sweeteners, makes a perfect breakfast, baby food, or healthy snack.
The micro-organisms, or beneficial bacteria, used in the making of yogurt benefits your digestive tract. Yogurt can help your bowel movements become more regular. Yogurt is a great soft food for people who have undergone mouth surgery or are sick with sore throats. Often, those who cannot regularly tolerate dairy can tolerate eating yogurt because of the beneficial bacteria.
Yogurt dates back to the neolithic period. Humans have been preserving and fermenting dairy into yogurt-like products since approximately 10,000 BCE. Before the advent of modern refrigeration and food preservation techniques, fermenting milk into yogurt was one of the only ways that nomadic and semi-nomadic people could safely consume dairy.
Types of Yogurt
After the discovery of yogurt-making bacteria, people began experimenting with different types of bacteria that could alter the taste, texture, and thickness of yogurt. As a result, we now have available to us a variety of styles of yogurt to enjoy.
- Greek Yogurt: This yogurt goes through an extra process of straining out the liquid whey, resulting in a thicker, creamier style yogurt that has become increasingly popular.
- Unstrained Yogurt: Traditional yogurt made with yogurt cultures. The whey, a clear liquid, often separates and sits on top of this style of yogurt. The whey is full of protein and often stirred back into the yogurt.
- Kefir: A thinner drinkable yogurt sold plain or flavored. This beverage is high in protein and gut-healthy bacteria.
We even see yogurt made with various types of dairy, including goats milk and sheep’s milk. Commercially produced non-dairy yogurts are available with added beneficial bacteria, but these are not fermented dairy products or “yogurts” in the real sense of the term.
Making Yogurt At Home
If you’ve landed on this website, you know we are proponents of making things from scratch for the fun of it! In the case of yogurt, there are other real benefits to making yogurt at home.
Commercial yogurts are artificially thickened during processing to give off the appearance of authentic yogurts. When you stumble upon ingredients such as guar gum, pectin, carrageenan, or tapioca starch, you know that your store-bought yogurt is not the real deal.
Many don’t mind the added thickeners, but for some, concerns over the added preservatives, artificial ingredients, and thickeners, have them seeking to make yogurt at home.
Artificial sweeteners are another concern with store-bought yogurts. To maintain lower calorie levels and reduce carbohydrates in their yogurts, manufacturers add artificial sweeteners to flavor their yogurt. Artificial sweeteners and their adverse health impacts are a growing concern for consumers.
So join us while we take a trip into the world of at-home yogurt making!
Homemade Yogurt Basics
There are several ways to making yogurt today, and fortunately, none of the ways to make yogurt are wrong. With the invention of yogurt makers and yogurt cultures, making yogurt is quite easy.
Traditionally, people made yogurt using raw milk. Often, raw milk would begin to ferment on its own. Pasteurization led the industry to locate and isolate the specific strains of bacteria that produce yogurt so they can be added to the pasteurized milk to create yogurt. Luckily for us, those isolated yogurt strains are available for purchase.
To make yogurt, you must slowly heat the yogurt to a specific temperature and then maintain a slightly cooler temperature for a certain amount of time for the bacteria to work its magic and turn the milk into yogurt. Keeping the heat of the milk can be tedious, time-consuming, and you are at risk for mistakes in the process. Yogurt makers play a vital role in making homemade yogurt an easy and hands-off process!
Basic Steps to Making Yogurt:
- Heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit
- Cool the milk to between 112 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit
- Add yogurt starter (yogurt-making bacteria strains)
- Incubate yogurt in jars for 7-9 hours. During the process, this is where its challenging to keep a consistently warm temperature for your yogurt to ferment and thicken properly. This step is where your yogurt maker comes in handy for incubating your jars.
- Cool yogurt in the fridge for 6-8 hours to cool and thicken even more.
The thickness of your yogurt will vary depending on the type of bacteria you use and how long you incubate your jars. The most consistent incubation temperature, together with a longer incubation period, will result in thicker and creamier yogurt.
Ingredients Needed to Make Yogurt:
- Milk: the higher the fat content, the thicker your yogurt will be. While low-fat yogurt will still become yogurt, you will end up with a thinner consistency than whole milk yogurt.
- Yogurt Starter: Theses are the strains of yogurt-making bacteria that turn your milk into yogurt. You can purchase custom made yogurt starters with several types of beneficial bacteria. Your primary yogurt-making bacteria are Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Streptococcus Thermophilus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium Lactis.
Flavoring and Sweetening Homemade Yogurt:
After the yogurt is made and cooled, you can add your flavors and sweeteners. Adding flavors and sweeteners to the milk before making the yogurt can negatively impact the yogurt making process. The bacteria eat the milk sugars in the milk to create yogurt, added sweeteners can impede this process.
- Euro Cuisine YM80 Yogurt Maker: This yogurt maker incubates up to seven 6-oz jars of yogurt at a time. Using this yogurt maker, you can conveniently make single-serve sized jars of yogurt to put directly into your refrigerator after the incubation period. You can set the time for between 6-10 hours of incubation to achieve your desired yogurt thickness. Prepare your milk in the evening and let your jars incubate overnight, they will be ready to cool in the fridge when you wake up in the morning!
- Cuisinart CYM-100 Electronic Yogurt Maker with Automatic Cooling: Once incubation is complete, this yogurt maker shifts into a cooling mode to perfectly chill and set your jars of yogurt. No transferring to the fridge needed until you are ready to store your yogurt. This yogurt maker makes up to six 8-oz portions of yogurt at a time. The digital screen on this yogurt maker allows you to set the perfect fermentation time for your desires thickness of yogurt.
- Suteck Automatic Yogurt Maker with Digital Display with 8 Glass Greek Jars: Using this yogurt maker, you can set the fermentation temperature and fermentation time up to 48 hours. This yogurt maker comes with 8 Greek Style Glass jars for convenient storage and serving of your homemade yogurt. This yogurt maker comes with a lifetime warranty to guarantee you years and years of delicious and healthy homemade yogurt.
Yogurt Starter Cultures:
This starter contains three different starter bacterias for a well-balanced yogurt.
This yogurt culture contains four different strains of yogurt-making bacteria, this creates Villi yogurt, which is a Finnish style of yogurt that is thick and creamy.
This starter contains two different strains of bacteria that create a Bulkan Style yogurt. Bulkan yogurt is a thick and tangy yogurt.
If you’re interested in making Greek-style thickened yogurt, be sure to check out this Yogurt Strainer. Straining the whey out creates a thicker yogurt. Save the whey for other uses or throw it in your compost pile!
Enjoying Homemade Yogurt:
Yogurt makers are a convenient and hands-off way to make delicious and healthy homemade yogurt right on your kitchen counter. Avoid overheating or scalding your milk, or inconsistent incubation temperatures by using a countertop yogurt maker.
Making homemade yogurt allows you to adjust the thickness, sweetness, and flavors of your homemade yogurt. All while knowing what is going into your yogurt. Here’s to enjoying the fun and health of making things homemade!