I have finally found a process for making yogurt that takes very little time and turns out great tasting yogurt. I bought an actual yogurt culture, rather than using store-bought yogurt, so that I’d have a little more control on the results. The website I ended up using to order my starters was Cultures for Health. I ordered both the villi yogurt starter and the filmjolk yogurt starter. Both of these are mesophilic starters, meaning they work at room temperature and don’t have to be heated.
So far I have started the villi yogurt. I haven’t tried the filmjolk yet, but I’d like to soon. I just wanted to make sure I had the process well under control before adding another yogurt to keep going. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Get the starter going. The starters come in a little sealed envelope and are in powder form. You need to culture this powder to start the process. There is enough powder for two batches, so you only use half the envelope and refrigerate the other half just in case you need to restart the yogurt later. Mix half the powder into one half cup of pasteurized milk in a clean and preferably sterilized glass jar. The milk needs to be pasteurized for this step because raw milk will eventually kill off your starter. Cover the jar with cloth or a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Set the jar on your counter and leave it for 24-48 hours. (The room temperature of your kitchen needs to remain above 70 degrees for this to work. If you keep your air conditioning ultra low, you might need to find a warmer spot for the yogurt.)
Step 2: Start checking the yogurt at 24 hours and every 12 hours after that to see if it is done. You will tip the jar and see how thick the yogurt is. If it is still runny like milk, it needs more time. Once it clings together and looks like yogurt, it is done.
Step 3: Start your yogurt. At this point, you can use either raw or pasteurized milk. I haven’t tried raw yet, as I ran out of money for dairy fresh milk over a week ago. Since we just got paid again, I will be buying some more fresh milk and will give it a try. The important thing to note is that you will always need to keep a mother culture going with pasteurized milk, so that that you don’t lose the potency of the starter in the raw milk. So if you use raw milk, do not use all of the mother culture you just created. If you are just using pasteurized milk, then it doesn’t matter as you will perpetuate the yogurt with the new yogurt you create. To start a batch of yogurt you need one tablespoon of the mother culture for every cup of milk. I have been using quart jars, so 4 Tablespoons of mother culture or previous culture is added to the jar and then it is filled with milk. Shake or mix and cover again with cloth or a coffee filter to let it breathe. This time you will only need to let the milk sit 12-18 hours. Mine is usually done in a little over 12, though I have left it longer when I’ve forgotten and it still has been fine.
Step 4: Continue to perpetuate the yogurt. In order to keep making your own fresh yogurt you need to do step 3 at least once a week. Waiting longer than 7 days will cause the culture to start to weaken. You will be using the yogurt you made the last week to start the next batch, unless you are using raw milk. Then you will always need to keep a small amount of yogurt going with pasteurized milk only and use part of that (never all) to add to your raw milk. Hopefully that makes sense. The instructions that come with the starter are very thorough, so there are more details and suggestions in there.
I really thought I’d have trouble doing this every 7 days, but to be honest, I’m on my 3rd batch and I haven’t once made it a full 7 days without needing to start another batch. Just make sure you don’t run out of yogurt because then you will have to start all over again. The taste of this yogurt is very much like plain store-bought yogurt. It goes very well with honey to sweeten it. I’ve also been using it in place of buttermilk in my recipes because I haven’t started a buttermilk culture yet (that will be done pretty much the same as the yogurt I believe). The yogurt is thin, but not so thin that you can’t eat it with a spoon. And if you want to thicken it you can strain it through butter muslin or a flour sack towel. I started to strain my first batch, but I would have had to let it sit for awhile to get a very thick consistency, so I decided it wasn’t worth the extra step in the process.