How To Make Your Own Yogurt

Yogurt has become one of my favorite fermented foods to make this past year & a half. The richness that embodies Wisconsin has opened my mind up to an even deeper awareness & connection to tapping into local resources. To be surrounded by what seems to be an infinite network of organic, small-scale, sustainable farmers who make eating high-quality, local food so darn easy… is priceless.

Two springs ago I started to desire yogurt again, after having eliminated all dairy from my diet for many years. My desire was two-fold: it was partly for the end product itself {an easy & satiating source of fat & protein}, partly because it was another fun fermentation project to take on. And coupled with it being something I can so easily do at home & it be so darn cheap… sign me up!

But first, some honest insight.

I hadn’t consumed dairy for years & was in the midst of still slowly unraveling a lot of deep-rooted beliefs around it. It was easier for me to eat eggs & somehow meat, after years of being vegan. Yet, somewhere along my journey, after years of many self-imposed restrictions, I stopped viewing health as merely foods to avoid. Health began to be more inclusive vs exclusive; I was slowly breaking down walls I’d created over the years & allowed myself the space to truly feel into what foods worked for me and what wasn’t.

That said, I know dairy isn’t for everyone. It was a bit of a gamble to try yogurt again, knowing I had reacted to milk products negatively in the past. But surprisingly I digested it so well. And I was happy I did and continue to.

The only advice I share with others, is the same advice I have now fully embraced for myself. Listen to your body. What works for you? What doesn’t? Adjust where needed and keep in mind seasonal changes often lead to changes in digestibility, food cravings, and (in tandem with digestibility) how you may prepare foods. I think above all it is really most important to consume whole foods & simply honor what makes you feel your best.

why make your own

When making yogurt yourself, you are able to eliminate SO MUCH PLASTIC WASTE. Think of all those individual serving sized yogurt cups… even if they’re getting recycled… they are easily avoidable waste. Or even if you buy larger containers. Whatever the case may be, you can decrease your plastic consumption immensely by choosing this route.

And secondly, if you’re in a prime time location like myself, you can access higher quality milk that will lead to more nutritious yogurt. Cattle that are 100% grass-fed are consuming a diet they are designed for; they aren’t coming with a side of hormones, antibiotics or pesticide residues. We don’t need any of those extra ingredients in our foods. So please, choose wisely.

milk & yogurt sources

I started to do my research. I sent out a bunch of feelers on how I could locally source organic, raw milk and what I would use for a starter.

I found my raw milk source quickly; finding a yogurt I could use for a starter was a bit more challenging. I emailed a number of seemingly popular, reputable brands of natural/organic/grass-fed yogurt that are sold at my local health food stores but I wouldn’t settle for whatever claims were on the label. I emailed, I called. I made sure I had specifics on where the yogurt was coming from, if it was from truly organic and 100% grass-fed cows. I need to have full disclosure on the animals health and livelihood, always.

The part that is tricky (as are most things on the market) is labeling. You see an “all natural” or “pasture-raised” label and assume it’s legit but unfortunately it’s not. Labeling is CONFUSING and I firmly believe many companies are just trying to drive profit by confusing consumers with words that make it appear their product is more ethical or healthy than it really is. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in feeling labels are confusing. This is partly why I avoid purchasing so many food products that come in packages. I much rather prefer knowing my sources directly, in person. I trust in many things but 99% of food labels isn’t one of them.

Look for ORGANIC and 100% grass-fed. Simply just saying grass-fed doesn’t guarantee the cows are free to roam with ample grass all day... confusing, right? Aim for 100% grass-fed. And goodness, always choose organic.

I was thrilled when I finally found an incredible source for yogurt starter, one that is available along the East Coast & parts of the Midwest. If you reside in either of these regions, I highly recommend seeking out Seven Stars Organic Yogurt for your starter. Seven Stars is not only certified organic but they also take it a step above and are certified Biodynamic. Biodynamic certification guarantees animals are living their best lives, graze open, grassy fields where they belong, and aren’t laden with hormones or antibiotics. As someone who has worked on a biodynamic farm myself, I can promise you a biodynamic certification means ultimate integrity & love in everything they do, produce & sell.

One thing I hear so often is how difficult it is for people who live in cities and/or suburbs to source these kinds of farm-fresh speciality items. I know it’s sometimes more of a challenge but it is definitely still possible. Check out the website Eat Wild to find locally & grass-fed raised meat, eggs & dairy products.

 happy cows on seven stars farm :)

happy cows on seven stars farm :)

yogurt recipe & tutorial

Materials

• Large pot (preferably non-stick)

• Candy Thermometer

• Large stirring spoon

• Glass jars (with tight lids)

• Cooler

• Ice/Cold water bath

Ingredients

• 1-2 gallons full fat, organic milk (raw if accessible to you)

• 1 cup of high-quality, organic yogurt for starter (make sure there are no flavors or sugars added). As noted above, I highly suggest Seven Stars Full Fat, Plain Yogurt.

note: yield will be the equivalent to the amount of milk you use.

Directions

  1. Gather your materials and ingredients. Make sure you wash your glass containers of choice in warm, soapy water.

  2. Add all your milk to your pot and heat on medium. Give it a stir every minute or two to make sure the milk doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of your pot.

  3. Heat milk up to 180 degrees F. Once you’ve achieved this temperature temp, remove from heat. {Note: milk is technically pasteurized once it’s hit 160 degrees for 15 seconds. If you’re seeking purely raw yogurt, you should not raise the temp above 120F.}.

  4. Place in a ice/cool water bath immediately to drop the temperature to 120 degrees F. But warning! That temp drops quickly in ice! Keep a close eye on it.

  5. Once you have reached 120 degrees, gently stir in the cup of yogurt starter. The starter tends to remain in clumps so don’t over stir hoping for it to disappear.

  6. Pour mixture into your glass jars & make sure each jar gets some yogurt starter. Close lids tightly and place in your cooler.

  7. Add warm water to your cooler until water level reaches the brim of your jars (or the brim of your tallest jar).

  8. Close cooler lid and let sit for 24 hours.

And that’s it! After sitting in warm water for 24 hours, you’ll have yogurt that has a pretty long shelf life. Mine will still be good up to 4-5 weeks - if it lasts that long ;)

Remember! Always set aside 1-2 cups of yogurt to use as your NEW STARTER. This way you can keep feeding your own culture.

IMG_0952.jpg

a final note!

If you are using raw milk, I have found my batches of yogurt don’t always turn out with similar consistency. Sometimes it’s really thick, other times a bit thinner and sometimes more like a kefir. But regardless of consistency, flavor is always on point. One of my favorite pairings is adding homemade cinnamon applesauce to a cup of yogurt, homemade granola, fresh fruit and/or freshly roasted sunflower seeds. Or simply a dash (or two or three) of cinnamon. Yogurt is so incredibly versatile and has such a neutral palate, that really your creative endeavors are endless.