I find myself digging into the past recently and finding recipes. My grandmother’s rugelach, cheese blintzes from the Kiev restaurant (a childhood favorite) and fresh yogurt my mom used to make. We lived on a commune in VT, where we grew our own vegetables and raised a cow for dairy. Everything was local and organic, because if we didn’t produce it, we couldn’t afford it. My mom was the one to milk the cow, which she then made into butter, yogurt and cheese. The flavor of that yogurt, made from fresh milk, was divine. 48 years later, in Minneapolis we are allowed to keep chickens, but the city hasn’t approved urban dairy cows, so I just buy milk for making yogurt. Not as romantic, but still tasty.
Now that I have started making my own, I may never buy yogurt again. The homemade version is so easy and has such an incredible flavor. Even my boys like it better. I happen to love it plain and tangy, but I’ll also put a layer of preserves on the bottom when I am in the mood for something a bit sweeter.
All you need is milk (you choose the fat content), a bit of heavy cream (if you’re feeling decadent) and some plain yogurt to get started.
Plain Yogurt Recipe:
1/2 gallon milk, preferably organic, but I think any will do it. I used 2% milk, because that is what my family drinks, but you can use whole, 1 % or even skim milk as well. The more fat content the milk has, the creamier the yogurt will be. You can also use goat or sheep’s milk. I add a bit of heavy cream to the mix, for the silky texture.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar to keep the milk from scorching to the pan (optional) – the sugar prevents the milk proteins from adhering to the pot.
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably organic and without any gums or other crazy ingredients. I used whole milk yogurt, but non-fat or low-fat will also work. The yogurt has to say live active culture.
2 tablespoons preserves for the bottom of the jar. See my instagram video to see how I keep the yogurt and fruit separated. Or you can make it plain and add flavors after.
Non-reactive sauce pan
Instant read Thermometer
Cheesecloth, if you are going to make thicker or Greek Style yogurt
individual Jars with lids or a large bowl
See my instagram video to watch me make the yogurt.
Over low heat, slowly bring the milk and cream (if using) to 200°F in a non-reactive sauce pan fitted with an Digital Instant Read Thermometer or candy thermometer. (You want to denature the proteins, so the milk will become more solid, in the form of yogurt. If you do not heat the milk or heat it too much, to the point of boiling, it will not set up properly.)
Once your milk reaches 200°F, turn off the heat and bring the temperature back down to 110°F.
Once your milk has reached 110°F, stir a little bit of the warm milk into the 1/2 cup of plain yogurt. The plain yogurt, with its active cultures, is going to act as a “starter” for your batch of yogurt. It will create the fermentation that sets the yogurt and gives it the tangy flavor.
Return the blended milk and yogurt to the pot and gently stir them together. Pour the yogurt into the containers of your choice.
For the yogurt to set up, it needs to remain warm, the heat created by leaving the light on in the oven, is just right for generating enough heat to keep the yogurt active.
Now you have the choice of making thin or thick style yogurt:
Thin, mellow yogurt: Pour the mixture into the individual cups or a large bowl and let sit in the oven with the light on for about 6-8 hours.
Thick, tangy yogurt: let sit in the oven with the light on for about 8-12 hours. The longer is sits, the thicker and tangier it gets.
Keep the yogurt covered, so it won’t develop a skin on the surface.
If it does form a skin, many people consider this skin a delicacy and eat it with a sprinkle of sugar or spread on a crusty bread. Think of it as yogurt butter.
For Greek-style Yogurt: Pour the set yogurt in a strainer, lined with cheesecloth, set over a bowl. This will remove some of the whey and make the yogurt thicker. Set the yogurt in the refrigerator. The longer you let it hang in the cheese cloth, the thicker your yogurt will be. Let it go for several hours for Greek-style yogurt. If you let it go over night you will make farmer’s cheese to use in your blintzes.
Once you have the yogurt at the desired thickness place it back in the bowl or into individual cups and return it to the refrigerator.