This is a recipe for making greek yogurt, although I hesitate to call it a “recipe” since it’s more like replicating existing yogurt. Still I’m writing this down because it’s the result of trial-and-error and has some differences with what I’ve read elsewhere, although minor. This makes a tangy and smooth yogurt that I’m really happy with.
The goal here is to be low-waste: we make a smoothie every morning with yogurt as a component, and it creates a lot of plastic waste. If you make this a half-gallon at a time, the only waste should be the paperboard milk carton, and the occasional re-buy of fresh starter.
For the starter I use Fage Total Plain 5%; why this recipe differs from others might be due to that starter. It works really well and is super smooth when it’s done though!
Unfortunately where I found any of the info I used to “create” this recipe is lost to time; I’ve looked at numerous sources and then refined this over the last two years, and no longer have any idea where I found things.
You’ll need the following tools; I’ll go into some detail because I’ve found some items that work well.
- 3 qt. sauce pan/pot: anything big enough to handle the amount of milk you want to use, with a little bit of space to allow for whisking and blending.
- Thermometer: you’ll appreciate something that can alarm when the milk cools down, so you don’t have to watch it the entire time. I use a ThermoWorks ChefAlarm, which can warn on high and low temperatures.
- Immersion Blender: the yogurt turns out far smoother when your starter is very well blended into the heated milk; I’ve found an immersion blender handles this best.
- Incubator: you’ll need somewhere to keep the yogurt during incubation that can hold about 90–100°F for 12+ hours. Our oven’s “warm” function luckily keeps to this temperature.
- Strainer: a lot of recipes use cloth or plastic strainers but I’ve found a Bullion Strainer works well and is dishwasher safe. The one I linked will hold a half gallon of yogurt.
- Straining Container: this Cambro 6qt. Container fits the strainer perfectly and isn’t too large to put in our refrigerator.
- Storage: you’ll need some jars to hold the finished yogurt and separated whey if you intend to reuse it; Weck Jars are awesome, easy to clean, and their US distributor ships them in fully cardboard packaging.
- 1/2 Gallon Whole Milk
- 1/4 Cup Starter Yogurt; more on this later
- Remove your starter from the freezer (if frozen) so it can thaw
- Heat milk, whisking briskly the whole time
- Once the milk reaches 185°F, remove from heat and allow to cool
- Once the milk cools to 120°F, immersion blend your starter into it
- Cover the pan
- Hold temperature of the incubating yogurt at 90–100°F for 12.5 hours
- Place your strainer inside of the straining container
- Transfer the finished yogurt from the pan to the strainer
- Place the straining yogurt in the refrigerator for about 4 hours
- Transfer the strained yogurt and whey into jars for storage
- If yogurt has strained too much, mix a small amount of whey back into it
This is sort of a grab bag of things I’ve noted during this process which might help you.
- The time of 12.5 hours is what works perfectly for me with our oven as the incubator; with less time I’ve found that it will sometimes still be a little too thin to strain the first time, and with more it starts to develop a flavor that’s less tangy and a little more cheese-y.
- If your yogurt runs through the strainer, just leave it in the container and let it cool in the refrigerator; once cold try running it through the strainer again, placing it on top of whatever’s still left in the strainer and leave for another 4 hours or so.
- The constant whisking while heating will avoid milk solids building up on the bottom of the pan, which will make your yogurt grainy.
- When the milk cools down uncovered it’ll form a skin, which I usually just skim off.
- On immersion blending: this leads to far smoother yogurt in my experience. For ease, I actually immersion blend about 2-1/2 cups of milk into the starter first, then pour that into the rest of the milk, and then immersion blend that again for a moment.
- You can freeze your starter! When I need to re-up my starter I just buy some from the store and freeze it into silicone ice cube trays, then bag those in silicone freezer bags. It keeps for several weeks without issue.
- I prefer to just use fresh starter instead of using the replicated yogurt as starter; this is mostly out of fear: I don’t want to ruin a half-gallon of milk. I tried it once and it worked fine but wasn’t as good as with fresh starter, and kept running through the strainer.
- We haven’t found many uses for the whey, but did find it works well in some types of bread in place of milk or water, usually using about half whey and half milk/water (depending on what the recipe calls for).
Anyhow I’ve never written a recipe before but there you have it; I’m compiling this because it took me a while to find a combination of quantities, temperatures, and tools that made a good result. Hopefully this works well for you also!