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Homemade deliciousness…

Updated, Sept 29, 2017

I’ve been making my own yogurt for decades now. I first learned how to do it when I owned a Jersey cow and was faced with the prospect of having to use 2 gallons of milk a day. For my first recipe, I relied on the crude advice of a friend, “Just pour the milk into a big jar, throw in a couple of blobs of yogurt and leave in in the oven with the light on overnight”.

The method worked just fine for many years. But these days, I’m a little more scientific. I use a large stainless steel pot, a kitchen thermometer and (don’t laugh) a trouble light with a 60w bulb.

So, why make your own from store-bought milk? For us, the issue was all about the plastic containers. Every day we eat 500mls of yogurt. That ends up being a ton of plastic containers every month. Sure, we recycle them, but I don’t want that oil for the plastic extracted to begin with. So I’m voting for fewer fossil fuels with my pocket book. And not that it’s a big deal, but there is a deposit on the cardboard milk containers, which we get back. There’s no deposit on plastic yogurt containers, so no incentive for people to recycle them.

I just finished a batch of yogurt this morning and was able to work out whether it was financially worth making my own using store-bought milk.

The products I used were 2L cardboard cartons of 1% milk. I used two of them for my recipe, and each one cost $3.35. For comparison (and because I needed some starter) I also bought a 500g (500ml) container of PC Greek Yogurt (plain) for $3.98.

After a night in the oven and an hour in the cheesecloth, I ended up (from 4L of milk) with 2.5L of whey and 1.35L of Greek yogurt. (We give the whey to our chickens, so there’s no loss there.) The cost of the 500ml of my own Greek yogurt was $2.48 (versus $3.98 in the store). Yes, there’s the additional cost of energy to heat up the milk and leave a light bulb on for 10 hours, but that’s pretty tiny. Compare that to the energy used for the plastic and transportation.

So, bluntly, homemade is 62% of the cost of store bought. And there is no plastic involved. And if it takes more than an accumulated 20 minutes to make, (stirring and washing time included) you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s my recipe.

You’ll need
– 2 gallon pot with a heavy bottom (canning pot will work, but not as well)
– 2 gallons of milk
– 1 cup of starter yogurt (I use 2% plain yogurt with no additives)
– 1c measuring cup
– spoon for getting starter from container to measuring cup
Optional stuff (especially for raw goat milk)
– 2 drops of single strength rennet (animal or vegetable)
– 1/4c measuring cup


1. Put trouble light in oven. It should warm your oven somewhere between 100° to 110ºF

2. Sterilize your pot and utensils (2 gal pot, lid, 1c and 1/4c measuring cups, spoon)
– I do this by putting my utensils in the pot with a couple inches of water and boiling for 15 minutes

3. Heat the milk to 185ºF (raw milk becomes pasteurized at this temperature*)

4. Cool the milk in a sink full of cold water to 110ºF

4. Stir in starter (1/2c per gallon of milk)

5. Optional: we use our own raw goat milk and it tends to make quite thin yogurt. One drop of rennet per gallon of milk makes it the perfect texture. If you’re going to do this step, let the pot of milk with the starter sit for ten minutes. Dilute the two drops of rennet (1 drop per gallon of milk) in 1/4 of water. Add to the pot and stir it in.

6. Cover pot, put in oven for 8-10 hours (the longer, the tarter your yogurt will be)

7. Hang in cheesecloth (or a tea towel) to drain whey (for Greek yogurt)

*Pasteurization of raw milk happens on a sliding scale of time and temperature. The lower the temperature, the longer it takes. I usually pasteurize at 145°F for 30 minutes or 160°F for 30 seconds. At 185°F, you can bet the raw milk for your yogurt is pasteurized (whether you like it or not). BTW, the 185°F is not specifically for pasteurization but (according to Wikipedia) to “denature the milk proteins so that they do not form curds”.

Update, January 19, 2015
The other day I tried my lovely recipe at 9 hours and instead of hanging it to drain, I lined a colander with cheesecloth, sat it in a large bowl and dumped the whole batch in at once. Then being a good hygienic cook, I let it drain the fridge for a couple of hours – instead of simply hanging it from a cupboard handle.

The result was pretty great. Not nearly so dry as at 10 hours. Plus, it was considerably sweeter. So, Nora suggested we go for 8 hours, just to see what happened.

Well, the result was almost exactly as sweet and creamy as store-bought and we ended up with a full 500mls more yogurt, bringing the price for homemade down to $1.81 per 500mls (vs the $3.98 for store-bought). Less than half the price!

So now I’m sold on the 8 hour method and there’s no looking back.

Update, September 29, 2017
We now have our own milk goats, so now, the biggest issue is not plastic or price, but what we feed our goats to make sure our milk is the best possible. Yup, we’re that dedicated to awesomeness.