Save a container, make yogurt at home

making yogurt-temperatureSure, we can recycle plastic yogurt containers, use them for leftovers. But still they pile up. Better if they never came home in the first place.

So, with Harold McGee’s New York Times column on making yogurt as guidance, I started making yogurt at home about a year ago. I’ve used three different starters: 2 different purchased yogurts and one yogurt starter culture. The one my family prefers is the yogurt I started with Trader Joe’s Greek-style nonfat yogurt.

The one piece of equipment you do need to make yogurt at home is a good thermometer. (I splurged on a digital, instant-read thermometer, about $100, and love it.) You bring the milk to 180 degrees F, let it cool to about 110 degrees F, pour it into a container with some yogurt from a previous batch, swaddle the container and let it sit until the yogurt sets—it doesn’t wobble when you open it and gently shake the container. I’ll often let the yogurt set overnight or make it in the morning and let it set up during the day. Then it can chill overnight and be ready for breakfast. More than once, I’ve lost track and overheated the milk and the yogurt still set. There was the time the milk boiled over. The yogurt didn’t set. And I’ve let the milk get too cool before innoculating. That batch never set.

Believe it or not, there's a quart canning jar under there full of fermenting yogurt.

Believe it or not, there's a quart canning jar under there full of fermenting yogurt.

To ferment yogurt successfully, it needs to stay warm. Luckily, the pilot lights on my old stove stay on all the time (not very green, I admit but it’s a great stove). The always-warm griddle used to be my cat’s favorite napping spot but now I use  it for making yogurt, fermenting bread dough, and as a warming shelf. Since room temperature in my house is in the mid60s, I don’t think the makeshift swaddling I use would be insulation enough without the added heat. I keep looking for just the right wide-mouth insulated bottle to replace all the swaddling.

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I made the couscous salad for my family and they loved it! It was very gratifying for me. I realize one of the reasons I like that recipe is that it’s basic with room to adapt, ie use other vegetables, etc. So I get to be creative.

-Suzanne Harris

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner