A few years ago I wanted to make yogurt but I didn't have a yogurt maker. I really didn't want to spend money on a kitchen gadget that would only do one thing and take up lots of space in my kitchen. Luckily I had a copy of The Tightwad Gazette where Amy Dacyczyn had done her own experiment to see the best way to make homemade yogurt. She offered the multiple suggestions on incubating the yogurt. Taking her suggestion and using not a yogurt maker, but a heating pad has given me great results.
A few words about getting thick yogurt. High fat content, high content of milk solids, and longer incubation times will lead to a thicker yogurt. I have added some cream to my milk when making yogurt before and while it was tasty it was too rich to eat for breakfast so I now make mine with whole milk. If you are watching your weight feel free to use low fat or nonfat milk. It will be a little thinner but still good. To get a higher concentration of milk solids Dacyczyn suggests adding a half cup of powdered milk. It is not necessary to use but it will make the yogurt thicker. Last of all, longer incubation times will make a thicker yogurt but it will also make a more tart yogurt. Pick your poison. I normally like to make it before I go to bed at night and check it after 8 or 9 hours. That is normally long enough but sometimes I let it go a few hours longer.
You will also need a starter for the yogurt. Any brand plain yogurt will do as long as it has live active cultures. So a whole container of yogurt doesn't go to waste you can freeze the yogurt starter I normally freeze it in 2 tablespoon increments so I just have to defrost one at a time.
|This is my incubation set up.|
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup milk powder
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Heat the milk in a saucepan until it reaches 180 degrees (this is necessary to kill any bacteria that might compete with the yogurt starter). Let the milk cool to 115. If you are in a hurry you can place the saucepan in a larger pan of ice water. When the milk has cooled put your starter yogurt in a small bowl and ladle in a small amount of warm milk just to slowly heat the yogurt. Whisk yogurt milk mixture together and return to the pan with the rest of the milk. Mix and pour into a quart size canning jar.
Put the lid on and place on a towel covered heating pad. Wrap the yogurt jar with a kitchen towel and cover the whole thing with a stock pot for insulation. Turn the heating pad on (low or medium normally work for me), and let sit for 8-10 hours. Refrigerate.