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I've been making my own yogurt for years and have developed my technique with easy DIY in mind.Home made yogurt is so much cheaper than store bought stuff as all you need is milk and a little starter (left over from a previous batch).

EQUIPMENT:

  • Cooking thermometer: make sure you use one with a long stem and easy to read (very large) numbers.
  • Rice cooker with a glass lid: if you don't have one of these, get a second hand one from an Op shop...and learn to cook your rice on the stovetop using the steaming method.
  • Insulated bag.

COMBO

Make sure the steam hole in the rice cooker lid is of a wide enough diameter to allow the insertion of the thermometer stem. (Or that your thermometer arm is narrow enough to pass through the cooker lid eyelet).

My cooker takes 3 litres of milk...and makes 3 litres of yogurt. It lasts us a week. I used to make larger quantities but fresh yogurt will start to 'go off' after 10-14 days. Best to treat it like milk with a limited shelf life.

METHOD

  • Fill the rice cooker with full cream milk, insert the thermometer through the eyelet hole in the lid and turn on the machine. 
  • Heat milk to 82 degrees Celsius (180F)

There is no need to stir. Just keep checking back to monitor the temperature as it rises.

  • Turn off rice cooker as soon as the milk warms to  82 degrees, remove milk filled bowl, with lid still on and thermometer inserted, and place in an airy spot to cool.
  • Allow warmed milk to cool to 43/44 Celsius (110/111F)
  • When cooled, spoon in 2 tablespoons of store bought Greek yogurt  or yogurt from an earlier batch.No need to stir it in. Just plop.

Chris' Yogurt is good ...so too is Dairy Farmers Greek Yogurt. "Pot set" yogurts are all good. So long as you like the taste. What you want is a reliable culture that's still very much alive. You can also add any probiotic strain you may have if you want -- such as from a probiotic supplement (just screw open the capsule).But remember, once you've done one batch, it can be used to inoculate the next. Over time the bug mix will be specific to your kitchen just as sour dough strains are.

  • Replace the lid, then place the cooled and inoculated milk in an insulted bag.

I use 'Hot Bags' I got from South Africa...but if you wrap up your rice cooker bowl in a beach towel and placed it in an insulated shopping bag you'll get the same effect.

  • Leave the yogurt to ferment overnight or for 12 hours at least. 
  • Refrigerate your yogurt in the container you made it in: the rice cooker bowl. 

You can decant your yogurt but it can be a messy and wasteful business. It also fosters contamination.The Easiyo insulated yogurt maker containers you can get in the supermarkets are too tall for easy fridge storage...and the lids aren't secure. A rice cooker bowel fits in my refrigerator OK. I recommend that you store as you cook.

  • As you come towards the end of each batch, set aside (in a clean glass jar) a couple of tablespoons to inoculate the next.Don't rely on bottom scrapings.

Bon appetit!

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Comment by Cres on February 3, 2015 at 13:45

Just a quick note. The no heat method I use also works with 100% fresh milk which I used to do for many years as that's how mum always did it when I was growing up. The only reason I use powdered milk is because I prefer it extra thick and powder stores well in the pantry (I don't drink fresh milk as often as I used to). I will heat it on a rare occasion when I need to expedite the process but usually don't. When I do use fresh milk I'll add a small amount of powder to it too.
No matter what method you use more people really should make their own yoghurt. It's so simple and a shame that it's relegated to an overpriced product people now imagine it's in the 'too much effort to make' basket.

Comment by Dave Riley on January 30, 2015 at 3:10

Well the specific heating of the milk is for fresh milk -- not powder. I guess that's the difference with Cres's method and the Easiyo:

Okay, back to that question of heating milk intended for yogurt making to 180 degrees. There are two reasons why milk is traditionally scalded – brought to a simmer – before being made into yogurt.

The first is to kill off any wild bacteria, yeast or mold spores that might have fallen into the milk. This is important because you want your preferred lactic-acid bacterial strains to do the culturing of the milk, not get outcompeted by various mystery microbes.

The second advantage to the heating stage is that the most abundant protein in the whey of in milk – lactoglobulin – fully denatures and unfolds at about 172-degrees. This allows those proteins to bind to some of the other proteins in milk, called caseins. Ostensible result: a firmer, thicker yogurt curd. SOURCE.

The high temperature supposedly also drives out the oxygen and aids anaerobic fermentation.

Milk powder, I gather, has already been heated (to 135C) and much of the fluid evaporated  before being sprayed into a heated chamber.So   I guess, you can treat it differently.

FYI:As an aside (after some googling): an easy yogurt option is Matsoni.This is cultivated at room temperatures. You can get Matsoni culture HERE.

Matsoni s a fermented milk product found in Armenian cuisine, very similar to yogurt.

It is made with Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus lactic acid bacteria.

Matsoni is made from cow's milk (mostly), goat's milk, sheep's milk, or a mix of them and a culture from previous productions.

In Japan, Caspian Sea Yogurt is popular; soy milk is sometimes used in place of dairy milk.

An easy, bench top pot set yoghurt.

Caspian Sea Yoghurt is believed to have been introduced into Japan in 1986 by researchers returning from a trip to the Caucasus region in Georgia. This variety, called Matsoni, is started withLactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris and Acetobacter orientalis species and has a unique, viscous, honey-like texture. It is milder in taste than other varieties of yoghurts. Ideally, Caspian Sea yoghurt is made at home because it requires no special equipment nor unobtainable culture. It can be made at room temperature (20–30°C) in 10 to 15 hours. In Japan, freeze-dried starter cultures are sold in department stores and online

A lifetimes supply; use the starter culture to have matsoni for LIFE. Simply freeze portions for later use!

 Matsoni or Caspian Sea yoghurt, is incredibly simple to make, and one purchase is a lifetime supply.

Much easier to make than yoghurt, Matsoni or CSY sets at 17-30ºc or room temprature, instead of requiring Long incubation at high tempratures like greek or belgium yoghurt, which require maintained tempratures of 40ºc+

This means that matsoni and other pot set yoghurts do not require special equipment; just a Clean jar, milk and culture. It's THAT easy!

Simply add two tablespoons of your last batch to up to 500mls of milk, stand at room temprature  for 24 hours (or until set) and its ready to eat or refigerate for later use. It stays fresh for up to a week in the fridge, before you'll need to make a new batch!

Comment by Cres on January 29, 2015 at 19:16

I make mine in a small esky and add milk powder to it, to make it have an ice-cream like texture.
Here's my process   http://www.simmeringsaucepan.com/easy-home-made-super-thick-creamy-...

I don't bother heating the milk or using thermometers and in over 15years of making it I've only had two times where it failed. First had tried to use skim milk powder only and not enough of it, so there wasn't enough for the bacteria to feed on. The second time I tried to see if it would set with fruit premixed in it but I think the fruit juice killed the bacteria.

I've premixed in and made coffee, chocolate, mocha and vanilla flavoured yoghurts and they've all set fine. Coffee yoghurt is a little weird at first but by the end of it I kind of liked it.


Mum used to leave it on the kitchen table to set when we lived in PNG so that's pretty low tech. I've also made it in my car on a hot day.

My brother has an Easiyo and it doesn't seem to be working using milk powder but I have a feeling it's the skim milk powder he's using so I'll be heading over with the powder I use (Woolies Full Cream Home Brand!) to see if that makes a difference. 

Beats paying the ridiculous $6-12/litre in the stores. Not to mention, the last time I went, there were hardly any full fat options to get as starter culture. Almost all were  'lite'.

Comment by Rob Walter on January 29, 2015 at 12:03

I use an electric yoghurt maker with 8 little glass pots. It's a perfect serving size for me, I find. I reckon there is a bit of a trade off with the temperature parameters between using an electric yoghurt maker or using Dave's method. Since I heat the milk on the stove, there is a danger of overheating. On the positive side, however, after letting the milk cool (putting the whole saucepan in a water bath is the best way), it doesn't matter if you overshoot and let it cool too far, as the electric yoghurt maker will return it to the correct temperature. I have avoided overheating the milk by timing how long it takes to get to 85 degrees and using that time to set a timer in future.

The big advantage for me is that I don't do dairy, but I'm OK with goat's milk, and given the cost of goat's or sheep's milk yoghurt, I can save a lot by making my own yoghurt.

Comment by Dave Riley on January 29, 2015 at 9:31

I've been thinking about the Easiyo jars and temperature monitoring.

What's the best process, say, to make more than one jar of yogurt (if you have more than one insulated flask)?

METHOD 1: I reckon that after heating the milk to 82 degrees, you decant it into the jars immediately but leave the jars lidless. Rather than checking each jar by inserting the thermometer in each you monitor just the one as milk in each jar should cool at the same rate. Remove any skim before adding the inoculant.

METHOD 2: Alternatively you could screw on the lids, but use a substitute cover atop a single jar that has a hole in it for the thermometer. That's your gauge jar. There's be less hassle this way. Easy DIY. Once your thermometer registers 43 degrees in the sampler jar, you unscrew each lid, plop in the yogurt, screw all the lids on and insert the jars in the flasks.

For those size jars, you may need only add a heaped teaspoon of starter.

Comment by Dave Riley on January 28, 2015 at 15:50

Well it's like any bought yogurt up until a point -- or bought milk. So long as you don't accidentally contaminate the yogurt. It has a fresh food use-by-date. 

Any contamination will simply bring the use by date  closer.

I see some people freeze active live yogurt and then defrost and use that.

But I usually keep my yogurt alive  without freezing-- batch to batch -- by working on a rough fortnightly schedule of fermenting. Of course if your starter/inoculant is unusable you can simply buy a wee tub of commercial stuff...and begin again.

Sour dough is much more fickle than yogurt  inoculant in  my experience, more labour intensive and much harder to replace. But when you routine your fermenting  you find any excuse to use yogurt: curries, sauces, dips, sweets, smoothies...and when you run out, a new batch is less than a day away.

Try that with sourdough!

As a tip: any whey strained form the yogurt should be  carrying your culture.I don't strain the whey, as mine's always thick enough, thru the ferment anyway. 

However I prefer the yogurt itself as a starter medium. That's been my habit.

The mistakes you can make with yogurt making are straightforward:

  1. Burning the milk. Some caking on the bottom is OK but don't lift that layer up so that it mixes with the milk above.With the rice cooker method, burning has not been an issue.
  2. Not keeping to the temperature parameters. Don't add the inoculant above or below the recommended temperature. You'll still get yogurt but much less of it as the ferment will be very milky.
  3. Ferment times. I ferment for  about 12 hours (overnight). The longer you ferment the tarty-er the yogurt flavour.

Incubated at 115°F/46°C, yogurt will coagulate within about three hours, but if left too long it can easily curdle. I prefer to ferment it a bit more slowly at a slightly lower temperature, four to eight hours at a more forgiving 110°F/43°C. Even longer fermentations can yield more tangy flavor and fuller digestion of lactose. I have heard of people fermenting yogurt for as long as 24 hours. At lower temperatures, coagulation will take longer, and the end result will probably not be quite as thick. If you should open your incubator and find your yogurt still runny, add hot-water bottles to heat it up, and leave it for a few more hours at warmer temperatures. If for some reason your yogurt fails to coagulate at all, which can happen, you do not need to discard the milk; you can easily turn it into a simple acid-curdled cheese.-- SOURCE : Sandor Ellix Katz

Comment by Susanne on January 28, 2015 at 11:53
Will try that for my next batch, will fill the red top plastic container with the heated/cooled milk then pop it in the insulated flask without the boiling water and leave to ferment.
How long do you get reusing from the initial stock? Is it like sourghdough starter where you keep feeding and it keeps going? Or in your experience does it weaken over time?
Comment by Dave Riley on January 28, 2015 at 9:41

Using Easiyo hardware you can follow the same procedure to make your yogurt and you won't need to rely on their mixes or use milk powder.

All you need is a cooking thermometer.

After heating the milk -- the quantity as it suits you -- in a rice cooker, decant it into the Easiyo jars or the insulated flasks , let cool -- then inoculate before allowing the mix to ferment. The problem with using the flasks is that you then need to decant again in order to refrigerate your yogurt.If you rest them on their side, the whey will drain out and you'll get very thick 'Greek' yogurt.(Been there/done that)

If making the yogurt using the plastic -- red lid (pictured)--  storage containers, decant the heated milk into them,let it cool to 43C, then  spoon in a tablespoon of pre-batch yogurt, insert the container into the flask and allow fermentation to proceed.

If you cool with the container uncovered, you'll get skim so make sure you remove that before adding the inoculant.

I suggest you measure the quantity of milk you heat with your container volumes in mind.

Comment by Susanne on January 26, 2015 at 13:57
Thanks Dave a great idea though it would make too much for me at one hit.

I make a litre in my Easiyo system which I bought from Coles/Woolies perhaps 30 years ago?
-- Buy powder (I only buy full cream Greek, tried many others but this suits my taste)
-- mix powder in water in the pot
-- Screw on lid
-- pour boiling water into insulated bath container
-- put pot within insulated 'bath'
-- screw on lid
-- leave for 24 hours
-- refrigerate

I've picked up spare pots at charity shops so when one is running low I make the next. Yes the cylinder is annoying for fridge space, but hey I'm very used to it now.

I've noticed a different branded litre sized square pot system on sale at the supermarket. Would be much better for fridge stacking.

Over the years I've tried electric small individual pot systems but I prefer the large pot bath. Less fiddly, less washing up.

Tried making it from various milks and a tablespoon or two of the last batch of either store bought or home made but the results were inconsistent so I reverted back to the Easiyo.

Though if out of powder sachets then at a pinch with milk and leftover yoghurt I gamble on heat milk to ''just before boiling' and then cool to 'blood heat' guesstimation.

From what you've said your system would take out the guess work and give a consistent product.
Comment by Dave Riley on January 25, 2015 at 20:36

Dreampots are >$180 to buySlow cookers are fine but the heat up would take so much longer (2-3 hours) and you'd be hard pressed to know when you reached the target temperature.There are also electric yogurt makers...

You can use a pot or jug on a stove and fret over the bottom...but the issue is reaching the temp you aim for without burning the milk and then later keeping the milk warm enough to grow the culture.

Acidophilus et al have very specific environmental growth needs.

The advantage of the rice cooker is that it's a cheap everyday tool and you add to that by buying a $12 temperate gauge and 3 litres of milk..

After years of making yogurt I'm all about ease of production and storage as well as consistency of quality.

I make yogurt every 10-14 days.I use it --any excuse -- 3 meals a day. Supplying yourself from the supermarket will cost you much more and inevitably your favorite brand won't always be available in the quantities you prefer to consume it.

I've baked sour dough bread ,  made sauerkraut, sausages, various pickles and air dried fruit, vegetables and jerky...but making yogurt in a rice cooker is the easiest DIY of the lot.

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