I remember when my family started eating yogurt. It was in the early 1970s. We had returned to the U.S. after living on a naval base in the Philippines for a few years. It seemed as if the whole world had changed in the few years since we’d left the States. For one thing, there was yogurt in the grocery stores.
My mother, who did some of her growing up in Switzerland, loved yogurt, craved it, and lived without it for many years. Muesli with plain, good yogurt was the breakfast of champions, as far as she was concerned. But she had never tried to introduce these foods to us, because, well, she couldn’t find yogurt, and because we were the Lucky Charms and Captain Crunch kind of kids.
But the 1970s ushered in an interest in whole foods, and that interest was echoed by my grandmother, a physician and friend of Adele Davis’, who had long been preaching the need for a big, wholesome breakfast. Providing milk and oats and whole grains and fruit for breakfast were at the top of her list of essential maternal duties. My grandma was a bit tough.
So… yogurt. Right. We would have never touched the stuff if it hadn’t been for… what was her name? Gretchen? Maybe? … A German exchange student hosted by my aunt and uncle. Every one of us fell madly in love with her, and she ate yogurt. Every day. So we ate yogurt, every day. Loved it.
My mother was thrilled. So happy. Until she started factoring the cost of keeping her four children supplied with the pricey yogurt. Soon yogurt was rationed as carefully as cookies and candy in our house. And it stayed that way for a few more years until Mom met another German friend, who taught her to make it. Giselle was her name.
At first we rejected the whole idea of homemade yogurt. But it wasn’t long before we figured out that the homemade stuff, a.) wasn’t rationed. And b.) tasted better than the other stuff. That is, stirred up with enough strawberry jam and granola, it tasted better.
Today we know more about yogurt. We know that it contains that great dairy fat that helps us control belly fat. Calcium to keep our bones strong, and all the lovely bacteria that keep our guts working gorgeously. A serving of yogurt as your last snack at night can help you sleep, too. Whiz it into with some whey protein for a morning smoothie. Add a handful of instant oats and some diced fresh fruit for a super fast muesli, or follow the recipe below if you want to eat the way the young women at my mom’s boarding school did.
Follow my mom’s yummy yogurt recipe to save a fortune on your yogurt bill, my friends, and enjoy the best yogurt you have ever eaten.
I make 2 quarts at a time, because that’s the size of pyrex bowl I have, and the amount of space I’m willing to devote in my fridge. There are just two of us in our household. My mom made a gallon-sized crock every week. But she had a spare fridge… You will soon know how much yogurt you want to make.
You should refresh your yogurt each week. It probably keeps longer, but that’s the advice I pass along from mom.
2 quarts whole milk
½ cup plain yogurt (the last half cup left from the last batch, or start with a good plain yogurt from the grocers. It must contain live cultures, and be plain, plain.)
You need a 2-quart non-metal bowl or crock for keeping/storing your yogurt, a bigger-than-2 quart saucepan or double boiler for heating your milk, a thermometer that will measure between 105 and 185 degrees F, and either a heating pad, a dish warmer, or a gas oven with pilot light. You also need 7.5 hours to complete a batch of yogurt.
Right. It’s this easy:
Step 1: In your saucepan or double-boiler, heat your milk up to 185 degrees. I like to heat the milk slowly, stirring constantly, to prevent the milk from burning in my pan. If you are an easily distracted cook — you have small children around — use the double boiler. Your goal is to get that milk up to 185 degrees, which is just before the boiling point.
Step 2: Stirring regularly to avoid a skin forming on top, cool the milk to 105 degrees. You can speed this process up by putting your saucepan in a cold bath, if you like.
Step 3: Add your ½ cup of yogurt to the milk, and whisk it in well, to mix it thoroughly with your warmed milk.
Step 4: Pour this mixture into your very, very clean bowl or crock. Cover the crock with saran wrap. I poke holes in the saran, and then wrap the bowl in a couple of kitchen towels before putting it in my gas oven, where the pilot light keeps the bowl warm, at around 110-115 degrees. You may place the bowl in an electric oven with the oven light left on. Or on a heating pad set on low. Or on an electric dish warmer set on low. Most crock-pots are too warm for this purpose, but if you have one that can be set as low as 110 degrees, that would be perfect.
Step 5: Wait for 7 hours. You can let your yogurt go longer if you like it more sour. I like a sweeter yogurt, so 7 hours is just right for me. Much less than 6 hours, and it’s too soupy.
Step 6: Your yogurt should be set at this point. If it’s not, try another hour. Refridgerate for at least 4 hours before enjoying your yummy yogurt!