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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Successes With Making Yogurt After a Long Break

I hadn't made yogurt in at least a year. I just lost interest in making it, and my family wasn't eating it as readily. But in cleaning out the freezers, I found a few containers of homemade yogurt to use as starter. Combine that with early in the month I had picked up a gallon of whole milk. So . . .

The other day I did make yogurt, again, and had several areas of success that I thought I'd share.

  • using old starter --the starter in my freezer was about one and a half years old, and it still worked! Who knew the starter would stay viable for so long?!
  • chain yogurting for years -- the starter that I used this week is a direct descendant from my original container of Yoplait, bought in July of 2012. I think that's incredible. I never expected my starter to last for all of these years. Every few batches, the day after making yogurt I pack several small containers to use as starter for future batches, and keep in a 0 degree F freezer. It just keeps on going.
  • incubating part of the yogurt for less time, to have some of it ready sooner -- I like to leave the yogurt to incubate overnight, but one daughter was asking if any would be ready for her to pack in her lunch, before morning. In that moment, I was thinking, well no, as I'd be leaving it in the incubator overnight, and then it would need to set up in the fridge for several hours. And then it occurred to me that I don't have to leave all of the jars in the incubator overnight. I could take one out after 3 or 4 hours and refrigerate, but leave the other 3 jars to incubate the length of time I prefer, for flavor and thickness. While this doesn't seem like such a monumental thing, it was to me as I was thinking outside of the box and doing one thing with part of the yogurt and another thing with the other part. When I think outside of my own boxes it makes me feel like I am opening up new opportunities for myself.
  • adding milk powder to add extra nutrients to the yogurt -- two of my kids are not eating as much as they should (for completely different reasons), so I wanted to add a few extra nutrients to the foods that I prepare. I added dry milk powder to the heating milk. This isn't new or novel. A lot of yogurt-makers do this to thicken skim or low-fat milk in yogurt. But I've not done this before, and I was pleased with how well it worked. No noticeable change in texture or taste, except it is slightly thicker.
For anyone interested in my original attempts with making yogurt, this post covers what I did in July of 2012, along with a couple of follow-ups to that post.


  1. Lili...I think from what I have read, that you are lactose intolerant. I have real issues with milk anymore. I can however eat the yogurt I buy that is labeled lactose free. It however, is quite pricey buying much of it. I am wondering, do you think I could make it with lactose free milk or almond milk?? I used to be successful making my own yogurt before I developed this sensitivity. Any ideas?
    Thanks! Plus, you always amaze me with all your wonderfully creative and frugal projects and ideas. Thanks so much for being so generous with all of us!

  2. Hi Linda,
    I have made soy milk yogurt. The milk has to have a fair amount of protein and fat, and some sugars to work. I use the blue box of soy milk from Trader Joe's. I also use dairy milk yogurt as starter. I don't know if your lactose-free yogurt has enough of the live cultures to work, or not. It may be enough for a starter. Another alternative is to make dairy yogurt, then after it has set up, you could stir lactase enzyme drops into it and let sit over night in the fridge. It should be lactose-free afterwards. The lactose in the milk in yogurt does get consumed by the bacteria, to a certain extent, so I would think that lactase enzyme would work well on the remaining lactose in the yogurt.
    I'm not sure on using lactose-free milk, as the lactose is a sugar, and the yogurt bacteria need some sugar.

    Here's the post I wrote on making soy yogurt. The soy version is a little thinner, but that can be remedied:

    Good luck with this, Linda.

    1. Thanks so much! One more exciting project to look forward to...and I do sincerely mean that. It will save a great deal of I like making as much from scratch as I can...that way I control what is in it.

  3. I am not sure if I succeed or fail at yogurt making! I have done it in the crockpot in jars and sometimes it is smooth and creamy and other times it just looks like sour milk. I have done it in the pressure cooker in jars and that was fine although a bit thin. Finally, I have done it in the pressure cooker without jars but just in the cooker. It couldn't heat up to high enough temp. without scalding on the bottom. I also like my yogurt thicker and not pourably thin. I should try it again since my girls make protein smoothies almost every day and use yogurt in those smoothies. It sure would cut some cost.


    1. When I could use regular milk, I would add some gelatin into it and it really helped it thicken and gelatin is good for you also.

    2. Hi Alice,
      it sound like making yogurt might be a worthwhile project for this summer. I know how much gets used up in smoothies. Good luck. And Linda's suggestion for gelatin sounds like a good one.

      Linda, at what point do you add the gelatin?

  4. I've been making yogurt for years and my method is tried and true for me. I incubate it in a cooler with a pan of boiled water to keep it warm. And I pour it into a gallon Rubbermaid container. I let it incubate about 8 hours and afterwards I drain off the whey and make it Greek style. You'd probably not "approve" of that waste since I usually just dump the whey down the drain. I have watered plants with it and used it in place of water when I've made bread or pizza crust but there's no way I can use up as much as I get every time I make yogurt. That said, my homemade Greek yogurt comes out to about a dollar for two quart containers. Can't beat that, and it tastes better than what I would buy in the store.

    I find it interesting that you've reused the starter like you have. When I've reused it from several batches it just doesn't seem to work nearly as well. Maybe I should give it a go again. I make yogurt at least twice a month and sometimes more.

    1. Hi Linda,
      I think finding what works in your own kitchen and climate really makes a difference. If you're not making lots of muffins, pancakes or other quick breads, then I see how it would be hard to use the whey. Whey tastes fine in some soups, too, like creamy/cheesy soups.

      I've been surprised that original yogurt that I used has produced so many batches of starter, too. My only guess as to why it's been so successful is that

      1) I freeze 3 or 4 containers of fresh yogurt (Day 2 of the process), every 3 or 4 batches. The starter is still fresh and viable, and kept that way in the freezer.

      2) That I freeze several batches worth of starter at a time means that I have really only created maybe 20 "generations" of starter, in order to make about 70 or so batches of yogurt. This as opposed to chain-yogurting with each batch's starter coming directly from the previous batch. I don't know if I made sense there. Similar to a family tree, comparing each child having only 1 child for successive generations, to each child having 3 or 4 children for successive generations. At the great grandchildren level, there are far more offspring in the latter example than the former example.

      Do you freeze starter to use in subsequent batches, or do you use leftover refrigerated yogurt from the previous batch, to make the next? Do you have a particular brand of yogurt that you use for starter? When you yogurt is done incubating is it firm? I begin my incubation period at 115 degrees F, in a cooler. So, over night the temp drops to probably about 90-95 degrees F. I don't know, but temperature might help with longevity, too. Specific temps might promote the reproduction of certain strains of bacteria. But, I don't know. I'm just trying to think what would keep your cultures viable, longer. Or maybe, since you make yogurt more frequently than I do, your cultures are exhausting themselves sooner on the calendar, but in about the same amount of generations as mine.

      What I know is I was so pleased that my yogurt starter was still viable after a year and a half in the freezer. I was expecting this batch to fail, or only partially set.

      Good luck, Linda.

    2. I buy plain nonfat yogurt, quart size, at Aldi and freeze the entire container in ice cube trays. Once frozen I pop them out into a gallon freezer bag. I use 5-6 yogurt cubes as the starter for each gallon of milk. So that one container makes a number of batches of yogurt.

      When I've used my own newly made yogurt I've simply added it to the ice cube trays to freeze just like I do with the yogurt I've bought. So like you, one batch of yogurt can make a number of batches of new yogurt.

      Maybe I've gotten too much whey and not enough yogurt when I've made my own starter. I might try instead draining some of the whey off (not nearly as thick as Greek style) and then making the starter in the ice cube trays.

      After it has incubated for 8 hours (mine begins incubation closer to 110) or so it is quite firm. There is always some whey that I can pour off right from the git go though.

      Immediately after the incubation I pour it into a colander lined with a thin cotton kitchen towel and let it sit in a larger pan (to collect the whey) overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning it is almost as thick as cream cheese. I spoon it into two quart containers (old yogurt containers) and always add back some of the whey that drained out. I like my Greek yogurt thick but not as thick as cream cheese!

      The other thought I had after reading your response is that I need to try again. I used to only let my yogurt incubate for 4 hours. The person who first taught me how to make yogurt never lets hers sit longer than that. It's only been in the past year or so that I've been letting mine sit a full 8 hours, or longer if I forget about it. Perhaps the longer time period would better insure longer viability for a culture. I'm going to try again next time I make a batch!

    3. Hi Linda,
      Also, I don't know if there are live cultures in the whey. Another thing to try, don't pour off the whey right away, or strain, before taking some yogurt out for a starter.

      I use 6 ounces of yogurt as starter for 1 gallon of milk. So, by my calculations if I bought 1 quart of yogurt I would get just over 5 batches worth of starter. Do you think 5-6 cubes equals about 6 ounces or 3/4 cup of yogurt?

      In any case, your method of buying yogurt a quart at a time, and dividing into cubes is a good one. And you're saving a fortune over buying Greek yogurt, by making your own.

  5. Hooray for starter that just keeps on giving. :)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I know! I don't know how long it will last, but while it does I'm grateful.


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