Making Your Own Greek-Style Yogurt

We love yogurt.  We especially love the thick, creamy Greek-style yogurt that has become so popular lately.  And just like everything else we have learned to do, making yogurt was a trial and error process.  The recipe that follows is more of a guideline than a hard and fast recipe.  The conditions in your kitchen will not be the same as the conditions in my kitchen.  Because we do not have air-conditioning at our house, the conditions in my kitchen vary drastically throughout the year, and therefore, so does my yogurt making.  I have one blanket for summer yogurt incubation and another for winter!

I have stopped using reserved yogurt as my starter.  I have found much more consistent results from using the whey that was strained from the last week’s yogurt.  However, you cannot strain commercial yogurt and use that whey as a starter.  That series of experiments was an epic fail!

Homemade Greek-Style Yogurt

3 ½ Cups of whole milk (see note below)

½ C plain yogurt (either commercial with LIVE cultures, or reserved from your last batch) OR 1/2 C whey from your last batch  of yogurt

candy thermometer

Heat the milk on the stove slowly.  If you are using pasteurized milk, heat to 180° F, and let cool to 110° F.  If you are using raw milk, heat to 110° F.   Whisk in the ½ C yogurt or whey.  Transfer to a quart size mason jar and place the jar and a heating pad inside a little cooler.  Turn the heating pad onto Medium.   Incubate for 4-8 hours, depending on how tart you like your yogurt.  After the yogurt has incubated, put it in the refrigerator until it is completely cooled (I usually leave it overnight).   The next morning, place a flour sack towel inside a sieve and place the sieve on a bowl.  If you have used raw milk, scrape the “cream” from the top and reserve in a small bowl.  Put the rest of the yogurt in the sieve.  Add the cream back on the top. Put it back in the fridge and let is strain for two or three hours.  Reserve the whey for lacto-fermenting (it will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of months).  Invert the sieve into the bowl and peel the towel off the yogurt and enjoy!  My children LOVE this yogurt salted for dipping vegetables.

NOTE:  I feel that grass-fed raw milk gives the best, most consistent results.  If you cannot get raw milk, try to find grass-fed milk that is not homogenized.  If you can’t find that, then settle for organic milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized.

What is Probiotic Preservation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProbiotic preservation, also known as Lacto-fermentation, is probably one of the oldest forms of preservation. All of the research I have done has led me to believe that Probiotic preservation precedes even oral history. As soon as someone figured out that the cabbage that got splashed with seawater tasted good for a long time after most cabbage was a moldy mess, Probiotic preservation was practiced! No matter which corner of the world you choose, if you look into the culinary history, you find a form of fermentation. Besides preserving the food, the process of Probiotic preservation changes the chemical structure of the food so that it is actually more nutritious. It delivers more vitamins to the body and an abundance of good flora to the intestines.

My own interest in Probiotic preservation was sparked by what to do with the whey I had left from straining yogurt, and was then furthered by Sally Fallon and Sandor Ellix Katz. I did extensive research on the web and I want to encourage you to try fermenting your own vegetables. I was not really much of a sauerkraut fan before I started making my own kraut. If you worry that you won’t like the flavor of lacto-fermented foods, start by eating them “young, “ when they have just finished the initial fermentation. The foods are less sour.

Probiotic preservation requires the use of salt. I recommend Celtic Sea Salt, because it dissolves readily and does not make the brine cloudy. If you want to cut back on the salt, you can use whey as an inoculant to get the fermentation process started. Where does one get whey? Well, while you can get it form many sources on the web, I do not recommend that. It is VERY easy to make your own whey as a by-product of making homemade Greek style yogurt.