First batch of yogurt, made in May 2012. Instantly converted! I have continued to make my own NLY for the past two years, and am updating the original post with new tips and photos.
1) Heat a desired amount of whole milk on the stove to 180 F. Don't let burn, so keep stirring especially once the milk starts to produce foam. Keep your thermometer in the milk the whole time as the last 10 degrees heat up rather quickly.
2) Cool milk to 110 F by placing saucepan in a sink full of iced water. Keep stirring.
3) Add your yogurt or starter. You need to add about 6-8 oz of natural live yogurt, or an appropriate freeze dried yogurt starter, to every 6-8 cups of warm milk. Stir in well to break up lumps and clumps.
4) Ladle milk into canning jars. I prefer pint sized, and I make generally about 6 pints of yogurt at a time in my large crock. Place jars in crock pot on "keep warm" setting, with warm water in the crock brought up to the level of the jar necks, keeping the whole body of the yogurt at the same temperature. Keep thermometer in crock.
5) Keep jars at 110-115F for about 6 hours.
You will see set curds set throughout the jar once done. I use a small gravy ladle to skim off extra whey by pressing gently against the set yogurt and letting the spoon fill with the watery stuff, dump the whey on my roses, stir the yogurt to smooth out the curds, and then it sits overnight at the back of the fridge. You can leave the whey and stir it all in, but the yogurt will set less firmly and it may have a slightly more tart flavor. You must allow the yogurt to set in the cold overnight.
Regular yogurt on the left, thick Greek yogurt on the right.
Bingo. Fresh, natural, homemade yogurt, full of live cultures. Add anything you like to it. Makes brilliant smoothies and curries and delicious frozen treats. Even facials. The first photo, dished up into the green bowl, is from my first ever try at making yogurt. I used a freeze-dried starter from my local health food store. Since then, I've often used a little leftover yogurt from the previous batch to provide my yogurt culture, and I've also discovered the trick of ladling off the whey. The first bowl was yummy and totally converted me, but my results now are even thicker, and sweeter!
Want to make gorgeously thick Greek yogurt? Read on!
For "Greek" yogurt, start by making regular yogurt. Once your regular batch of homemade yogurt is set and chilled, the next day, pour a jar or two into a sieve lined thickly with cheesecloth or old, clean t-shirt fabric and place it over a bowl in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours. It will halve itself and whey will drain into the bowl. You may be surprised how much whey can drain out of what seems to be already thick yogurt! Dump the whey, or give it to the dog or the garden, and your extra thick yogurt will be just like that expensive, lovely, creamy, smooth, mild Greek yogurt in the store. Except, once again, without preservatives or stabilizers or additives, et cetera, et cetera, and far cheaper. And chock full of probiotics. Your cheesecloth may be used again and again, by the way, after a very thorough wash by hand in the sink, so keep it for next time and don't discard right away.
Use Greek live yogurt as a dessert, a mayonnaise or sour cream gut-healthy replacement, or make up delicious savory dips with raw garlic, sun dried tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs.