I’ve been thinking for a while now about making my own yogurt. I go through big 16oz (or even 32oz) tubs weekly, so it seems like it would be wise for my wallet and for the environment (less plastic), as well as a fun kitchen project. Years ago (I think I was in High School), we bought a yogurt maker, made one batch, and never touched it again. I don’t remember why we never got into it, but I also don’t remember having any trouble making the yogurt.
So last week, knowing my mom was coming to visit, I asked her to bring me the yogurt maker. It arrived intact, complete with the instruction manual!
Excited to get started, I carefully reviewed the instructions:
- Prepare your utensils and ingredients: a high-sided saucepan, a pitcher, a kitchen thermometer, a funnel, and a spoon or whisk; milk (pasteurized milk of any fat content), and plain yogurt.
- Pour about 42 oz. milk into the saucepan, and heat until it boils (180 – 200 degrees). Allow the milk to boil for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, and cool to lukewarm (110 – 120 degrees). You may place the saucepan in a cool water bath to accelerate cooling.
- Whisk one glass jar (about 6 oz) of plain yogurt with some of the milk in a separate bowl until the yogurt is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Then add the mixture to the room temperature milk and whisk until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the glass jars (use your funnel!).
- Place the glass jars on the yogurt maker (without the white lids), and put the cover on the machine.
- Plug in the machine, set the timer (7 hours if you used whole milk, up to 10 hours for skimmed), and press the red light button to turn the machine on. The machine will automatically turn off once the allotted time has passed.
- Put the jars on the lids, and put your yogurt in the fridge for at least 3 hours before enjoying!
- Save 1 jar of yogurt for your next batch.
Easy enough, right?
But wait, let’s talk about timing… 7 to 10 hours?! When am I supposed to do this? Do I let it incubate over night? Do I leave the yogurt
maker on while I’m at work? Do I make it in the evening and stay up late to move the jars to the fridge?
After considerable deliberation, I decided to wake up early to prepare the yogurt before work, and to leave work on the early side to be home to check on things at the end of the process.
But I made a mistake… Upon arriving home and seeing that the red light was still on, I did not actually check on the yogurt for another hour… And when I did, this is what I found:
My yogurt had separated!
A little google searching indicated that most likely, I had left it in the incubator for too long… According to my calculations, if whole milk yogurt takes 7 hours, and skimmed takes 10, then 2% yogurt will take 8.5 hours. Maybe my machine’s timer is “off”, because I had set it to 8.5 hours, but it didn’t turn itself off… Right around 9 hours, I finally took a look at things, and I found the separated yogurt…
While I was initially upset and a bit embarrassed (this is supposed to be simple, after all), I realized that I had stumbled onto a key learning moment. In my professional life (as an arts educator/administrator/advocate), we often discuss failure and mistakes as important parts of the creative process and the learning process. If the kitchen is my place for creativity, it must also be a place where I learn to deal with and learn from failures and mistakes, right?
While the separated yogurt is not inedible or spoiled, it has a slightly strange texture and it is extra tangy! I don’t think I’ll eat it as is, but I might save some to use for baking.
Not to be defeated by this first attempt, I plan to try to make yogurt again soon. Wanting a bit more information about the process, I asked my friend Faith, who uses the same yogurt maker that I have, for some advice.
- What type of yogurt should I start with? I used Fage 2 % Greek yogurt (my favorite), but perhaps it doesn’t work to use Greek yogurt as a starter?
- Answer: Any type of plain yogurt (or powdered yogurt starter) with live and active cultures should be fine. Also, be sure to use the freshest milk available.
- My instruction booklet tells me to leave the lids OFF of the jars while the yogurt incubates, but you put the lids on while your yogurt incubates… Could this make a difference?
- Answer: Probably not… either way should work okay.
- The instructions tell me not to “disturb” the yogurt while incubating (i.e. don’t move or bump the yogurt maker), but at what point is it okay to take the plastic cover off to check for “doneness”?
- Answer: It should be okay to take the cover off to check on the yogurt after 6 hours.
- Is 8.5 hours really the right amount of time for 2% yogurt?
- Answer: I’ll let you know after I succeed in making it!