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October 09, 2008

RECIPES: Home-Made Yogurt


Here's why I make my own yogurt.

First, home-made yogurt is indescribably delicious. The long, slow culturing imparts a tang that doesn't obliterate the cowness. See, it's indescribable.

Second, even with the best commercial yogurts, I have complaints. Take for instance Straus. Straus is a lovely organic dairy located in Marshall, CA along the shores of Tomales Bay. Straus is my favorite non-raw organic milk. The Straus' are good people who make a very good product. And they use glass bottles, my favorite! While their yogurt tastes just fine, I have a problem with the texture. Personally, I like my yogurt to separate. It makes me feel closer to the cow, closer to milk's natural form if I can see the whey pooling up in the container. For some reason, the whey in Straus yogurt doesn't separate easily. I don't believe it's homogenized but it has a homogenized-like texture — too creamy, too blended for my taste. Nancys, another decent organic brand, contains milk powder which brings me to my third point.

Third, many commercial yogurts contain milk powder. I avoid milk powder; it's a refined food. My intuition tells me: AVOID. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon make bolder statements. In "Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry," they say that commercial dehydration methods oxidize the cholesterol in milk. Oxidized cholesterol, as you know, causes arterial plaque. They also say that the high temperature drying "creates large quantities of cross-linked proteins and nitrite compounds, which are potent carcinogens, as well as free glutamic acid, which is toxic to the nervous system." I couldn't find any support for this in my cursory online search, but I remember that back in 2006, China rejected 100 tons of milk powder by West Farm (Darigold) because it was over the safety limit for nitrites. Which, in retrospect, is hilarious given China's abysmal record of food safety in the last 2 years.

Fourth, home made yogurt has less lactose if prepared properly. For those of us with lactose issues, this is important. If you culture your home-made yogurt for a minimum of 24 hours (unlike commercial yogurt which is fermented for about 4 hours), the fermentation process almost completely digests the lactose, according to Elaine Gottschall, researcher and creator of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and late author of Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet, a book I highly recommend. Lactose in milk is a disaccharide and the fermentation converts it to galactose which is a monosaccharide that is easy to absorb.

Ah now, with all that said, I provide you with directions on how to make your own wonderful yogurt. And I'm happy to report that neither a yogurt maker or a special culture is necessary.

Home Made Cow's Milk Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

1/4 cup good quality commercial plain yogurt (or previous home made batch)

1 quart pasteurized whole milk, non-homogenized

a candy thermometer, if you want to be precise

  1. Bring one quart of milk to the simmer stage (180 degrees) and remove from heat. Stir often to prevent scorching and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cover and cool to about 110 degrees. It is very important that you allow the temperature to drop so as not to kill the bacterial culture you are now ready to introduce.
  3. Remove about one-half cup cooled milk and make a paste with one quarter cup of good quality commercial yogurt. The commercial yogurt you use should be unflavored and unsweetened. You could use a starter but why spend the extra bucks? Commercial yogurt works fine. You can use your home made yogurt as a starter for your next batch.
  4. Mix the paste with the remainder of the cooled milk and stir thoroughly.
  5. Pour milk into any appropriately sized shallow glass, enamel or stainless steel container (I use a Le Creuset pot), cover and let stand for at least 24 hours at 100-110 degrees up to a maximum of 29 hours. After 30 hours, it starts to kill the good bacteria. To keep the correct temperature for the culture, I use a 60 watt bulb in my oven and leave the light on. No other heat is needed. Remember, too high a temperature will kill the bacterial culture and will prevent proper "digestion" (conversion) of the lactose. Too low of a temperature will prevent the activation of bacterial enzymes and will result in incomplete "digestion" of the lactose.
  6. Remove from oven and refrigerate.

While this yogurt may not be as thick as commercial yogurt, it will be a true yogurt with no thickeners or extenders. Speaking of thickeners, sometimes I add some Straus cream to the milk in the beginning if I want a more viscous consistency. For a Greek-style yogurt, strain the whey with cheese cloth (as in the photo) or flour sack towels.

When you're ready to eat your home-made yogurt, try and eat only one cup. I dare you! It's so delicious, you'll be wanting more. Try the fresh yogurt with with sage honey drizzled on top or with fresh berries to make your mouth say wow.

FOR RAW MILK YOGURT: In step 1, only heat the milk to 110 degrees so as not to kill the good stuff which is why you buy raw milk in the first place. I like raw milk yogurt better than the pasteurized, both in flavor and texture.

Tomorrow, I hope to post on Coconut Milk Yogurt, my latest obsession.

Related: Got Frankenmilk?

Photo by MomtheBarbarian


This is so timely. I just got out one of my grandmothers cookbooks to look this up--YESTERDAY! She used to make it in a little machine.

Her cookbook said the cultures would naturally be created, but from what I read here you have to add them from an existing source, which makes sense. Do you have to add them?

Amanda, yes, you have to add them.

When I moved from PA to San Diego I fell in love with Straus's Plain, Nonfat Yogurt. To make my own I used a yogurt maker, Straus nonfat milk, and their nonfat yogurt as starter, but was not thrilled with the end result -it was very liquidy. I will have to try again with the whole milk to see if it makes a difference. Have you ever had good results with nonfat milk?

Socalocavore, I never buy anything other than whole fat milk. Have you read Any of Mary Enig's books? Do a search here on the blog and check it out. Just read the entire category here of "Real Fats". See the pulldown menu in the left sidebar. The body needs healthy saturated fats. A lot of the studies on saturated fat were done with transfats! Yogurt culture (the bacteria) will never fully correct for the liquidy, thin nature of reduced fat milks. My face is scrunched up right now thinking about non-fat milk.

I love whole fat. :)

Love Dr. Enig too!

I totally agree with you about the quality of home-made yogurt. Yum! However, I've been making raw milk yogurt without step 1; I just mix it with the started and stick it in the yogurt maker without heating. No one in my family has gotten ill yet, but do you think this is a health issue?


i was making as well my own yougurt at home for a couple of reasons:
plain, natural yogurt was/is quite expencive taking in account that there is not much to do in order to make it and i don't like ripoff :)
another thing was that at a time my garden was full of black and red currants...a little bit of buckwheat honey and mashed black currants with yogurt....yummy.
also in couple of days you could have A LOT of yogurt of different levels of sourness ant texture.

so I was making it the easy way.
heating the milk (i was not bringing it to the boil temperature, just warming it up). to 1 l of milk i was adding ~100 ml yogurt. leaving it on the counter for a day, or two deppending on how sour i wanted it to taste.

in older days there were a lot of natural bacterias flying arround so if you left raw milk on the counter after some time you would have unbelievely tasty extra thick kefyr from which you could make amazing cold beat soup.it is very refreshing in summer time. ahhh the memories of childhood.... yumm.
and now if you want to have yogurt you add yogurt bacterias, if kefyr - kefyr bacterias, etc. it is getting more complicated with wild fermentation in the cities...

Hi Linas!
Nice to see you here on Local Forage.

You make a good point about the different levels of sourness and texture at different points in the fermentation process. For example with sauerkraut which has a longer fermentation process, I try to sample (eat it) at different times so that I get a good range of the microbial species that form in succession They're all beneficial and the more species the better.

Great information. I am culturing my yogurt as I type. Here is an issue I am dealing with. I currently live abroad in China and the only organic imported milk I can get my hands on is UHT milk. If I were in a country where I could trust the milk source, I would clearly use fresh. Any thoughts?

I have tried three times to make raw milk yogurt and the finished texture is exactly the same as the milk it started out as, what and I doing wrong? There is a company in NY that makes raw milk yogurt that is heavenly and the texture is fluffy and creamy, definitely not like commercial but also not a liquid. Any thoughts?


Natasha, are you sure you're raising the temperature to 110 degrees first and then keeping it warm enough during the culturing?

It's going to be runnier than normal yogurt, but you can always drain it a bit for a thicker consistency.

I made yogurt for the first time last night using a crockpot. I left it out overnight and this morning it was no thicker than milk. I then turned the crockpot on warm for about an hour...the yogurt thickened up beautifully! Am I correct in assuming that this is ok to eat? And if it's not can I use it in cooking? I'd hate to throw it away. Next time I'll be more careful with my temps.

Elle, that should be fine. I have left yogurt out overnight. The good bacteria continues to multiply unless you started out with bad inactive yogurt cultures.

Does anyone know what temp will kill the good bacteria when you are making yogurt?

We use raw cow's milk and I am attempting to make yogurt with it. I made yogurt with it last week and the texture was grainy. Should it be grainy or smooth? I used an immersion blender to try and fix the 'problem', but to no avail. Any thoughts?

What kind of culture are you using?
When I use raw milk, i get a very creamy texture.
When I use pasteurized milk, it's a little less smooth.


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