When you could have this little homemade beauty? This was my first batch of homemade yogurt and it turned out really well, I’m happy to report. And so did the cream cheese I made from it!
To make your own homemade yogurt, you will need 1/4 C starter yogurt for every quart of milk. Buy a cup of good quality plain yogurt with live cultures from the store to use for this purpose. The milk can be any kind as long as it is not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized milk has damaged proteins that will not work well to make yogurt. Get organic if you can; raw is even better.
Heat your milk to 185 degrees, let it cool to 110 degrees, stir in the starter yogurt, and then keep it warm, between 90 and 110 degrees, until it has transformed into yogurt, usually about 12 hours later.
Most homemade yogurt instructions tell you that you need to have a thermometer so you can keep the yogurt at the proper temperatures. But hey, I’m a wise woman! I don’t use fancy thermometers either!
When initially heating the milk to the requisite 185 degrees, I just use my senses to tell me when it is the right temperature. 185 is steamy, but not boiling. This step is for the purpose of killing any bad bacteria, which I’m guessing is not a big problem if you are using pasteurized milk anyway, but I still do it.
When the milk is slightly warm or even a little cool, it is probably within the 90-110 range. Just gauge it based on your own body temp as a starting point. Your body temp is around 98.6, so if it is exactly the same you won’t feel either cool or warm when you stick your finger in, if it is a few degrees warmer, it will feel slightly warm, a few degrees cooler, it will feel slightly cool. You get the idea.
To keep mine between 90-110 degrees while it was setting up, I wrapped a heating pad set on low around the jars and put a towel around the whole bundle. My home is air-conditioned, so it was important to have heat source, but if you are in a warm climate and don’t have air-conditioning, you may not need this. My heating pad automatically turns itself off after a certain number of minutes, and every hour or so, I would turn it back on. There are many other ways to keep the culturing yogurt warm — set in warm water in a cooler, set in an oven set on 100 or so, etc.
I kept half the yogurt to eat with fruit and in smoothies, and the other half I turned into cream cheese. To make cream cheese, line a strainer with a clean cloth and set over a bowl, pour in the yogurt and let the whey drip out and into the bowl. It takes a long while for all the whey to drip out, and toward the end you’ll probably need to take the yogurt filled cloth out of the strainer and tie it to a large wooden spoon or other such device and hang it over a taller pitcher to finish dripping.
When the cream cheese is firm, store it in an air tight container in the fridge. You can eat it plain or stir in some flavors as you like. You know that shelf in the grocery store with all the flavors of cream cheese? Use that for ideas, or make up your own combos. My favorite so far is dried apricots and ginger. Yum! Next, I want to try some savory herbs.
Keep the whey also. This can be used to soak beans and grains before cooking (to increase their nutritional value) and as a starter for fermented (pickled) vegetables. For more information about using whey in food prep, see Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.
Whey is also very medicinal as a topical on itchy rashes, as is the full fat yogurt. This helped clear up a severe, long-lasting, angry, red and itchy rash on my arm last summer when nothing else helped.