Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homemade yogurt

The first spoonful in my mouth and my eyes opened wide. The creamiest yogurt I have ever eaten.* Really. And it's mine! Mine, mine, all mine.

I've been wanting to make yogurt for a while, now, so I read up about it. But I don't have a yogurt maker. I don't have a slow cooker. I wasn't going to put it in the oven with the pilot light on. I don't have a thermometer.

But this is not a new food. How has yogurt been made without electricity through the ages?

What about the hotbox method, I wondered, the way I make the Thanksgiving ginger ale pig. Sealing in the heat...

So, this is what I did.

I bought a quart of Ronniebrook Farm milk. It is whole milk, and I chose the full cream kind. The milk itself is wonderful. And I think the quality of the yogurt must depend on the milk.

For my starter I used Fage yogurt.

1 quart whole milk (low fat works, too)
1. 5 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 sterilised mason jar with lid (or a clean pot that has a lid)

Heat the milk on the stove to the point where minute bubbles have begun to form at the edges. Turn off at once. Allow to cool for five minutes - too hot and it will kill the culture. Remove any skin that forms..

In a very clean bowl pour the milk over the yogurt, whisking to blend. Then pour into the sterilised glass jar (I sterilise it in the oven at 300'F for ten minutes, then cool). Screw the lid on, keep at a steady temperature for eight-twelve  hours, like this (for example):

Two feather cushions. One cashmere blanket. One wool blanket. Another for luck. Place the jar on the first cushion Wrap the two blankets around the jar and place the second pillow on top. Cover with another blanket.

In Cape Town my mother's hotbox is a cardboard box with two bean bags inside. The bean bags insulate whatever pot is sandwiched between them.

After eight hours the yogurt should be set. When I use more milk the wait is bit longer.

Now I strain it to make it very thick. Line a sieve with muslin, double thick, or a very clean cloth, and place the sieve over a bowl. Put the yogurt into the sieve, cover with a damp cloth, and put in the fridge till much of the whey has dripped through. It takes many hours. It forms a pale yellow pool in the white bowl. Why do I think that George Eliott heroes liked a draft of cool whey on a hot day?

I left mine overnight, which yielded an intensely creamy Greek-style yogurt. Use a low fat milk if the cream is off-putting, or strain for less time.

When it's done, store in covered bowl. Now bring on the chestnut honey. Bring on the last of the wine-poached plums. Bring on the garlic, for that matter. And the crunchy, omega-3 purslane leaves, the diced cucumber and the lamb curry.

I am ready.


  1. Have you ordered a yak for your roof garden yet?

    Looks - and sounds - great!

  2. Funny you should ask, webb, I have just placed an online order for a dwarf yak. Apparently very hardy.

  3. I've been thinking of doing this, even got the thick organic starter yoghurt in the fridge, gonna do it! Ths! Bx

  4. And the yogurt purists say "never stir". Your yogurt is a living, breathing, singing, dancing, easily-hurt, sensitive, pouty, fragile little thing. Leave it be. Just dip your spoon in ever so gently. (At least that's what my yogurt friends say. Mine costs $4. But this has inspired me.)

  5. Belinda - let me know how it works...

    Janet - Maybe they're right. Once it's sealed there's no stirring...

  6. could some of that infernal bubble wrap be used for insulation, do you think?

    i am trying to cut down on waste (containers) coming into the house. yogurt crossed my mind just this morning.

  7. I purchased an EasyYo from amazon - no electricity. Initially you will have to purchase this plastic set, but only once. There are packets of EasyYo mix that can be purchased but I read in the comments what people said about how to use milk, powdered milk, and a yogurt starter and it worked well. it works in a manner analogous to your setup but the outer container is insulated, then inner container goes into some boiling water. I have forgotten it overnight on the counter on occasions and the yogurt still tastes great. You might be interested in one.

  8. Heita Marie, dit lyk fantasties! Nothing better than thick homemade yoghurt infused with rose geranium leaves... Groete uit Koringberg

  9. I heata gallon of 2% milk in a dutch-oven-pot and when I've finished putting in my yogurt starter, I preheat my oven to 180 degrees F----then TURN IT OFF and put the pot in overnight.(No need to for blankets) In the morning there's creamy yogurt screaming to be married with honey. My husband and six-year old love it!

    1. Interesting - so there's initial heat and then ...nothing?

  10. I make 2 quarts of yogurt every two weeks. I am able to get raw milk from my local farmers' market, but I have also used Ronnybrook. I use my last batch for a starter,
    or Brown Cow or Dannon if there is none left.

    I pretty much follow your procedure, but I keep it warm in a cooler-I place the 2
    quart jars of yogurt in the cooler, then fill it half way up with hot tap water.


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