I am a big believer in using whole foods to keep our bodies healthy. In this day of scary viruses, a healthy immune system is especially important. One of the foods that the children make quite often is goat milk yogurt. It is full of probiotics that helps to keep their gut (and hence their immune systems) healthy.
To make your own yogurt, you need to first collect your milk. We use raw goat milk, but you can use pasteurized whole cow milk from the grocery store. In fact, if you don't have a source of natural milk, turning your store-bought milk into yogurt is a great way to make it healthier. (Notice our sourdough in the background? Sourdough bread is a great way to make healthy bread.)
I have used many methods to incubate my yogurt over the years - from insulated coolers to crockpots to dehydrators - there are many ways to make it work if you need to do so inexpensively.
But if you have a small amount of money to invest, my favorite method for consistently good yogurt is the Yogourmet*. We currently have two of them so we can do a gallon at a time (each yogourmet holds 1/2 gallon of milk). While they do use a little more electricity than some other methods, the reliability is worth it to me. Plus the amount I save from not having to purchase yogurt quickly paid back the cost of the equipment.
The Yogourmet comes with a plastic container.
I purchased 2 additional glass containers* that fit into the yogourmet. I did this not only because I prefer glass, but because we make a lot of yogurt and this way I have extra containers.
Pour your milk into the containers and then add a starter.
You can use any starter* that has active yogurt cultures. You can use a half cup of active yogurt from the grocery store. I use a freeze-dried culture*. It is more expensive, but I use it because we use raw milk. Raw milk has a lot of live beneficial bacteria and I want to make sure that my starter is strong enough to culture the raw milk. I've had trouble with yogurt from the store not being potent enough for my raw milk. Plus, I can keep them on hand in the freezer so I know I always have starter when I need it.
But if you're using pasteurized milk, yogurt from the store (make sure it has live cultures) should be fine. I would start with a half cup of store-bought yogurt as a starter for every half gallon of yogurt I was making. You can experiment with the quantity, increasing and decreasing it to adjust for the time you want to spend incubating (the more yogurt the shorter your incubation time).
As a side note, if you are very sterile with your milk, jars, and utensils, you may be able to propagate your own yogurt starter culture. I've done this in the past and while it takes dedication and absolute cleanliness, if money is an issue, it is the least expensive way to maintain a yogurt starter. But you can only do this with pasteurized milk. It will not work with raw milk as the good bacteria in the raw milk will eventually over power the yogurt cultures.
Once you've added your yogurt starter, stir your milk with a clean spoon to make sure the starter is properly mixed in.
Set the container in the Yogourmet, make sure it is filled with water and plug it in.
8-12 hours is usually a good amount of time to incubate your yogurt. We usually start yogurt after we've collected the evening milk. We let the Yogourmet sit overnight and in the morning we unplug it and remove the finished jar of yogurt.
We then put the yogurt in the refrigerator. This yogurt won't be super thick because we didn't add any thickeners or heat our milk to denature the proteins before making the yogurt. (I'll share in the next post how we turn this yogurt into thicker greek-style yogurt.)
But this yogurt is great as drinkable yogurt or for smoothies or with raw honey.
Have you ever made your own yogurt? Do you want to?