A block from where I work is an all Jersey, all raw dairy farm.
If you know me, I don’t need to say anything else. If not, then the combination of all these things usually gives me the opposite of lockjaw, causing my eyes and mouth to open up wider than seems healthy.
The one barrier that stands between me and good milk, though, is the price. You can expect to pay around four dollars for a half gallon, and that’s just for average stuff. When I heard their price was only $2.50 for a half gallon, I did the math several times to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding.
Long story short, I don’t buy milk at Shaw’s any more and have been making a lot of really good yogurt.
Here’s how I do it.
First, there’s this thing.
The Yogourmet half gallon yogurt incubator! If you’re wondering how much they cost, I don’t actually know. Allison found this when cleaning out an old barn and now it’s ours. So… that’s cool.
A part of me didn’t really want to use it, as I’d seen a bunch of methods that involved more ingenuity and less dependence on a product (would this be like baking bread in a bread machine? NOOOOOO!!!!)
I must say, though, I’ve been converted. It makes the whole process a lot easier and removes a lot of potentially dangerous variables.
Case in point:
I tried making yogurt in a gas oven since the pilot light also keeps it at the right temperature. I got some successful batches, but decided to stop once I put them in an oven that was still a bit warm and ended up with yogurt bomb.
In my oven.
Also, since it’s only an incubator, it still gives you complete creative control over what kind of yogurt you’re making. I always choose a Greek yogurt as the starter and raw cow’s milk, but I could easily change culture and milks.
Third, it looks pretty sleek, though admittedly sinister.
So, the technique.
Get a half Gallon of really good milk. If you only can get sorta good milk, that’s fine. I’ve used Shaw’s milk to make yogurt before and just figured that the added probiotic value would offset the poor quality.
Next, heat the milk to about 110 degrees. GENTLY, GENTLY… Boiling the milk is not going to help anyone. I put the milk on low (like a two or three) and set a fifteen minute timer.
If you heat the milk beyond this, it’s fine. Just cool it back down to 110 before starting incubation.
If you feel like there might be some bacteria living in your milk, you can bring it all the way up to 180 degrees to pasteurize it. Again, just bring it down to 110 before moving on.
Next, mix in your starter. For convenience sake, I get a little cup of good yogurt from the store for about a dollar. It has to have Live Active Cultures in it and you need to have about four tablespoons of it.
I also add a half cup of powdered milk at this point to give it a firmer consistency. If you don’t mind a more liquid yogurt or you’re hoping to strain off some whey, skip this step.
!!!MIX IT UP!!!
Start your incubation and leave it alone for about eight hours.