I love gadgets and appliances as much as the next kitchen tool junkie, but you don’t actually need any of them to make easy, delicious homemade yogurt. If you’ve got a yogurt maker or a slow cooker, sure, bust them out and get busy. But you don’t need them. Really.
This yogurt-making method comes from my coworker, Heather, an Iowa mama who makes yogurt for her family twice a week. It’s easy, virtually foolproof, and requires no investment in special appliances. In fact, the most specialized equipment you’ll need is a thermometer (not absolutely necessary, but useful until you’re familiar with the process of heating the milk) and a large glass jar (Heather uses a pickle jar; I use a cracker jar I bought at Target for $5). I like to use super-fresh milk from a local dairy. Mmm.
Heather’s No-Fuss Homemade Yogurt
1 quart whole milk
2 Tbsp of your favorite, plain, store-bought yogurt as starter
YOGURT: In a heavy-bottomed pot, slowly heat the milk until it just reaches a simmer, between 180 and 190 degrees F. Remove the milk from the heat and let it cool down to around 115 F (this usually takes 10 to 15 minutes). In a small bowl, mix the yogurt starter with about 1/2 cup of the warm milk and whisk until smooth. Pour the starter mixture and the rest of the warm milk into a large, clean glass jar with a lid. Wrap a towel around the jar to hold in the heat, and let the yogurt sit for 4 to 6 hours without moving or shaking the jar.* Refrigerate to set completely.
If you like thicker yogurt (which I do), you could then pour the yogurt into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth. Set the colander over a bowl in the refrigerator to drain the whey. When the yogurt’s at the desired consistency, scoop it into a tight-lidded container and store it in the refrigerator. You can use your own yogurt as a starter for about 10 batches.
*Alternatively, if it is a very cold day, you could heat your oven on the lowest temperature, then shut the oven off, let it cool down until it’s warm — not hot — and let the yogurt jar sit in the warm oven to gets its culture on. I find the towel method works just fine for me.
WHEY: You can save the whey and use it for baking.
LABNEH: If you strain the yogurt long enough (12-18 hours), you will be rewarded with labneh, or “yogurt cheese,” which can be shaped into golf-ball sized balls (use wet hands) and rolled in chopped herbs and/or ground spices. Store the labneh covered in olive oil in a tight-lidded container in the refrigerator. It’s delicious on crackers, in sandwiches, or tossed with hot pasta.