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Friday, June 21, 2013

My yogurt-making save

(for summer posts, see note in left-hand sidebar, under Welcome)

Making more yogurt than will fit in my cooler/incubator

So, y'all know that  I make my own yogurt, right? 

The other day, checking the whole milk supply, I discovered 3 half-gallons of whole milk that needed using right away. 

"I'll just use it all in one big batch of yogurt. No problem," I thought to myself.

I heated the milk, mixed in some starter from the freezer, and poured into glass jars. Only, there was a problem. My cooler/incubator was not large enough to hold all my jars! Ack! 

What to do?  What to do????

I came up with a two-tiered incubator solution that worked incredibly well. 

After placing brim-filled jars into the cooler/incubator, I had one last half-pint that didn't quite fit.

So I moved all the tall jars to one side, and short jars to the other. Then on top of the shorter jars I added a glass bowl, filled with warm water, to incubate that last and final small jar. The lid shut over all of this just right, and all the yogurt incubated nicely. Problem solved.

It occurred to me that this could work to make multiple individual jars of yogurt, for easy brown-bagging. I could use all half-pints, and again make a 2nd tier to incubate double the number of jars. This 2nd tier could be made from a rectangular plastic container, placed on the lids of the bottom layer of jars. 

I'll let you know how that works out . . .


  1. When milk is broken down in yogurt, can you eat it or do you still have a reaction?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Sadly, no. But my family enjoys dairy yogurt quite a lot. I do make soy yogurt for myself, and can tolerate the tiny amount of regular yogurt used as a starter in the soy stuff.

  2. I'm going to have to reread your post on making yoghurt and try again - after three successful goes, it started turning out runny and worse still, slimy looking (with stringy bits). Tasted ok but I don't like slimy things. So, back to basics I think.

    Good idea with the layering though!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Oh no! No, I don't like slimy either. And that's why I gave up on yogurt making back in the 80s. Slimy yogurt can always be used in baking and smoothies, though.

      But to get your yogurt back to thick and creamy, here are a few possibilities. If I knew more about your method, and what you used, I could help a bit more. But here's what I know off-hand about slimy and runny yogurt.

      A couple of causes of stringy/runny yogurt:
      incubating at too cool of a temp. I start my cooler filled with 115-120 degree F water. If the temp is around 100, it just won't set right. If it's too warm, then there's a lot of whey produced. I use my thermometer to test the water temperature before setting yogurt jars inside the cooler. You may want to check the temp mid-way through incubation. Some folks in colder climates have trouble keeping the temp constant in winter (if the cooler is placed on the floor above an unheated space, for instance. When I may soy yogurt, I leave it in for 6 hours, and I have to re-warm some of the water half way through incubation. If you find your water cools off too quickly, you can wrap the whole cooler (under as well as around) with a blanket or beach towel. A lot of folks do this with success.

      If your jars are "fat" and the temp of milk/yogurt has dropped below 115, then the heat of the water bath might not penetrate enough to bring the temp of the whole jar full.

      The other thing is the heating of the milk really needs to get between 180 and 190 degrees F. Heating the milk kills off competing bacteria and it denatures the proteins, allowing one in particular that creates the smooth texture, to do it's thing.

      Another possibility is your starter. Are you chain-starting, using some from the old batch to start the new? Some strains of bacteria can die off with successive use, leaving the culture "out of balance", and stringiness can result. My best method for chain-yogurting, has been to save/freeze enough yogurt from a 2-day old batch for about 6 or 7 yogurt attempts. This seems to lengthen the life of the different strains. I have probably only saved yogurt from about 6 batches total, and I've had starter for a year of yogurt.

      If you're chain-yogurting from each previous batch, do so within 5 days, some of the bacteria begin to lose strength at that point, which could also cause problems with your yogurt.

      Make sure your milk is not ultra-pasteurized. In the US, the ultra-pasteurized stuff comes in cardboard cartons, whereas the reg pasteurized usually comes in plastic jugs. Many people have reported that ultra-pasteurized milk does not produce good yogurt.

      And finally, if you're buying new yogurt each time, and you've been sticking to the same brand, there's a chance the manufacturer has changed their formula.

      If you can't get a good set using yogurt as your starter, you can still make yogurt, but with a formulated starter. And it's still less expensive (and without additives like commercial yogurt). Brandy from the Prudent Homemaker buys starter, I believe.

      Good luck!

    2. Thank you SO Much!

    3. I hope one of the things I mentioned clicks with your situation. Best of luck on your next yogurt attempt!

    4. IT WORKED!

      I took on board everything you said - the yoghurt I bought to start with had the two cultures (interestingly enough it was the store's own brand that had the ONLY option to choose from, the Danone and Yoplait were all full of "fruit" and "flavours" and worse still, thickeners), I made 100% sure on the temperatures, brought it up to temp slowly, made sure the jars were all very clean and that they were smaller ones (250ml).

      Thanks for taking the time to help.

  3. Aren't you smart? :-)

    Do you make your own soy yogurt, too?

    1. Hi Shara,
      Yes, I make soy yogurt for myself. I use Trader Joe's blue box Soy Milk Extra, and a small amount of dairy yogurt as starter. Soy yogurt comes out thinner than dairy, so I strain it on day 2. Out of 1 quart of soy milk, about 1/2 cup of liquid will strain off.

      Here's the post for how I make soy yogurt:

      I have only tried Trader Joe's soy milk. The soy milk needs to be a brand with some sugar added, and a high amount of protein to feed the cultures. The soy milk from the dollar store appears to be a bit thin (more watered down, less protein than Trader Joe's), and may not work for yogurt very well. To compare what you may have to Trader Joe's: I use Trader Joe's Organic Original Soy Milk Extra (shelf-stable box), it has 7 g of protein, 12 g sugars, 3 g total fat, and 130 cals per 8 ounces.

      You buy soy milk regularly. Is that a lactose thing or casein? I'm lactose intolerant, can't take a whole bowl of dairy yogurt, but I can eat soy yogurt made with a small amount of dairy yogurt as starter.

      If you try making some soy yogurt, let me know how it turns out, and what brand soy milk you use.

  4. Is it necessary to have water around each jar or is a warm environment all that is necessary? I wonder if you would have had equal success if you hadn't used the extra bowl of water. I never have this problem since I only make 6 cups of yogurt at a time. I've learned from experience that if I make more it gets moldy before I eat it all. I think making it in individual servings extends the shelf life too since a whole batch isn't exposed repeatedly (with each time some is dished out) to possible contamination.

    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      To be honest, I don't know if the air temperature would have been warm enough or not, inside the cooler. But given how finicky yogurt making at home can be, with make-shift equipment, I wasn't willing to try it out. From all I've read, the incubating yogurt should remain at 105 to 120 degrees, for the cultures to fully do their thing. The air above the water may have taken a while to come up to that temp, especially in my very cold kitchen. But like I said, I don't really know.

      I think you're right about smaller containers to begin with delaying the development of mold or other problems.

  5. Nice Save! I've just recently gotten back into making yogurt because I missed it SOOOOOO much last month during my $21 challenge. I also missed fresh fruit, so fruit with yogurt has been a staple meal this month. And I was actually able to make it with regular grocery store milk instead of having to drive over to "Whole Paycheck" for the fancy variety. Woo Hoo!!!

    And thanks for the info on chain starting in your reply to Jessica above. That may have been what happened to me last go 'round...

    So you just freeze a bit of yogurt each time you make it? I wonder if you could just buy a small container of regular stuff and freeze that. I'm very surprised that it doesn't kill the bacteria.

    1. Hi Cat,
      About once every 6 or 7 batches, I dedicate almost an entire jar of yogurt to freezing for future batches. I do this on the 2nd day, after it's been in the fridge overnight (don't know if that matters, but it's what has been working). I scoop 4 or 6 ounces (since those are the amounts that I use at one time) into freezer containers and freeze. I figure, even after a year's time, because I'm taking several containers at a time for freezing, I'm still only on about the 6th or 7th generation from that one container of Yoplait. And strains of bacteria have evidently not died off yet.

      You might be able to buy a container of a good brand, like Stonyfield and split it up and freeze.

      I know, I was surprised when freezing it kept working for me, every single time. I'll just keep on doing what works.

  6. hi lili,
    i love homemade joghurt! it taste much more better than as that from the supermarket. i make my own joghurt with a joghurt maker.that is so easy.have you a joghurt maker?
    wish you a great weekend,
    love and hugs,

    1. Hi Regina,
      My family agrees with you 100% -- that homemade yogurt tastes so much better than supermarket. No, unfortunately, we don't have a yogurt maker. But making it in jars in a picnic cooler seems to work well for us. But I can see how a machine would be a lot simpler!
      Hope you're having a lovely weekend!


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