Making Yogurt from Scratch

Last Christmas we were given an Excalibur food dehydrator  and have used it on and off this spring. This summer, however, we began putting it to use in earnest.

During peach season, we cut and dried a box of peaches every night (That’s as many as we could put in the dryer.) When we got pears that was the way we preserved them. Most of our 450 lbs of apples went into sauce but we saved a few for the dryer. I have continued to look for excuses to use the dryer, and was recently comparing notes with my sister, Karah (who also has the same dryer) on how we use our dryer when she mentioned making yogurt.

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Ever since the kids started eating solid foods, yogurt has been a big part of their diet at home. We have tried a few different kinds but have mostly settled on plain, sometimes organic, yogurt. The kids, of course, would choose flavored yogurt every time we go to the store, but the sugar content is too high for our preferences. 

So when Karah mentioned yogurt, my ears perked because that was something that I have wanted to make for a while. I’ve been experimenting with it a little and still don’t have it perfect yet but I’m fairly happy with the results and thought I’d share what I do.

Here is what you will need:

  • 7 1/2 cups of milk (I’ve only used non-fat but you can use full fat if you’d like)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of Powered Milk
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt (I’ve read you can use yogurt cultures but haven’t tried those yet.)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey

Additionally you will need the following tools:

  • Double-boiler that holds at least 2 quarts (We don’t have a true double-boiler but use a 3.5 quart sauce pan with handles on each side inside a 6 quart pan.)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Wire-wisk
  • 2 quart jars with lids and rings
  • 1 pint jar with lid and ring (optional)

Making it happen!

The first thing you need to do is to heat the milk. Put water in your larger pan (or the lower part of the double boiler), and then the milk in the smaller, inside part. Heat the milk to 180ºf using your candy thermometer to ensure that the milk doesn’t get too hot.

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While the milk is heating, stir in 1/2 – 1 cup of powdered milk with a wire wisk. The less fat in your milk, the more powdered-milk you want to add.

When the milk reaches 160ºf, I begin to fill the my sink with cold water. Once it reaches 180ºf, remove the small pan from the double-boiler and place it in the sink of cold water. Make sure the water is below the top of the pan. You can add ice t cool it faster or just add more cold water as you need to. 

Put a few table spoons of water in the bottom of each of your jars and put them in the microwave for 3 minutes on high. The water will boil and steam. Once the microwave is done, place the lids on the jars to keep the steam in. This will sanitize the jars.

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Once the milk has cooled down to 110ºf, mix in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with the wire whisk. Now add your honey or sugar and stir it in with the whisk, too. You are now ready fill the jars. Dump out any remaining water from the jars and fill them with the warm milk and yogurt mixture. I try to put at least 2 cups into the pint jar to save for starter for the next batch. They say you can use it 4-5 times before you should start it with fresh yogurt. The remainder is then poured into the 2 other jars. Put the lids on and screw the rings on tight.

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The last step is to place the filled jars into the food dryer at 120ºf. This can be done with a food dryer but there are other methods as well.

Now it’s time to let the cultures grow! Leave them in for 10-12 hours. The longer they are in the dryer, the stronger the flavor.

When the yogurt is done, put the jars in the fridge and let them cool off before you eat it. We sometimes mix the yogurt with honey or sugar-free fruit spread to give it some additional flavor or you can eat it plain (My favorite!).

I’ve tried making some vanilla flavored yogurt but am not yet happy with what I have tried.

Hope you enjoy it yourself as much as we have. 

 

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