Easy homemade yogurt in a thermos
Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, potassium and a host of other essential nutrients.
Stir up a batch of delicious homemade yogurt in minutes
If you love yogurt, you may have been thinking about making your own. Here's the good news: You don't need to buy a yogurt maker. You can make yogurt in a thermos. It's super easy!
It takes only minutes to stir up a batch of homemade yogurt and about eight to twelve hours to incubate in a good quality thermos, depending on how tangy you like it.
On this page, I show you, step by step, how to make yogurt from your own fresh, wholesome milk. No added preservatives. No gelatin. No unpronounceable ingredients.
Here you will also find a link for using your homemade yogurt to make your own Greek style yogurt, and if you think you might prefer a yogurt maker, I've reviewed the one I would buy if I weren't using a thermos.
Start with a good culture
If you are a seasoned yogurt maker and have saved out a half cup or so of your last batch (We call this The Mother), use it as long as it is no more than four days old.
If this is your first time making yogurt, or your mother is older, start with a good commercial culture. Yogourmet is my favorite, both for ease of use and for flavor.
Yogourmet includes the three living bacteria we Americans are most likely used to tasting in our yogurt: L. Bulgarius, S. Thermophilus, and L. Acidophilus. It has never failed to make a creamy, pudding-textured yogurt for me.
Note: The Yogourmet package directions suggest that you are using a yogurt maker. Once you've inoculated your milk according to the instructions on the package, follow my instructions for making it in a thermos.
If using the Mother
The mother culture must come from a live-culture batch, be no more than 4 days old and absolutely MUST be plain and unsweetened
Next, you will need a good thermos
These are the two I use, depending on how much yogurt I want to make and how quickly I expect to use it.
The first is my faithful Stanley wide-mouth, all-steel thermos. I've had this hunk since 1984. It's kept my coffee warm on ski trips that started at 4:00 in the morning and ended at dusk.
It's held steaming hot soup and chili hundreds of work days. And it's made gallons of yogurt over the years.
My Stanley holds 24 ounces, which is just right for the two of us most weeks, but when I know I'm going to need more yogurt, I use this 48-ounce Thermos, which is every bit as reliable as my Stanley for long hours.
It's larger capacity makes it an ideal road trip companion for the two of us, so we both get all the coffee we want in the morning. Later, we fill it with ice, water, and the juice of a couple of freshly squeezed lemons for a refreshing, no-calorie beverage to keep us going all afternoon.
Homemade yogurt recipe
When you make yogurt, you want to assure that only the good, yogurt-making bacteria can grow in your milk, so it's important to start with sterilized equipment and freshly pasteurized milk.
It takes about 10 minutes to sterilize your utensils and another 5-10 to heat the milk to the pasteurization temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Most of the remaining time is spent checking the cooling milk every few minutes until it reaches incubation temperature.
Mix the mother or culture with the milk, pour it in the thermos and set it in a warm place for 8-12 hours to incubate.
This entire process takes about 40 minutes from start to finish. Most of that time, you will be free to move about the kitchen, or perhaps write a HubPage.
You will need the following tools and containers
Can eating yogurt help us lose weight?
According to a Harvard study cited by U.S. News and World Report, people who eat one serving of yogurt every day lost about one pound every four years.
These are the tools you need to make and incubate your yogurt.
- Tablespoon measuring spoon
- Wire whisk
- Long-handled wooden spoon
- One- or two-cup measuring cup
- Large mixing bowl, preferably with a pour spout, for cooling the milk
- Two-quart saucepan
- Instant thermometer
- High quality, well-insulated thermos
- Wide-mouth glass jar(s) sufficient to hold all but 1/4-1/2 C of the yogurt
- Small jar to hold 1/4-1/2 C of the yogurt (This will become your new mother)
If your kitchen is cool, you will also need either an oven with a light or fresh towels and a strong tie with which to wrap your thermos to keep it warm during the incubation time.
Total time to inoculate the milk, including cool-down time
- Milk, Enough to fill your thermos, minus one T per cup
- Yogurt Mother, 1 T per cup of milk; Must be no older than four days
- Commercial yogurt culture, Use if no mother available; Adjust package ratio to milk quantity
1. If you don't need your oven in the next 8-12 hours, you can incubate your yogurt in the oven. Turn on the oven light and keep the door closed until you are ready to pop in the thermos.
The oven light will heat the oven just slightly and keep it at an ambient temperature while your yogurt is incubating.
2. Alternatively, you can wrap your filled thermos in towels and place it in an out-of-the-way spot where it won't be disturbed, such as on top of the refrigerator.
If using this method, lay out your towels and a binding cord so they are ready when your yogurt mixture is ready to incubate.
3. Sterilize your utensils and all containers.
Yogurt is milk that has been inoculated with "friendly" bacteria--microbes our digestive tract needs to be healthy.
To help the good bacteria, and to assure that bad bacteria don't get a toe-hold, it is important to take a few minutes to prepare your work surface and sterilize your utensils and containers, including the thermos and its lids.
4. Lay out your sterilized utensils and containers on a clean kitchen towel so all is at the ready.
I've sterilized the glass measuring cups and thermos by carefully pouring boiling water in them. I let the water cool a bit before I pour it off, to minimize risk of scalding myself, since my hands are somewhat arthritic these days.
5. If your incubating medium is a commercial culture, prepare it now, according to the manufacturer's directions. Set aside.
6. If your incubating medium is the mother from a previous batch, measure the mother into the small measuring cup, one tablespoon mother per cup of milk.
The mother should be no more than four days old.
7. Measure the milk into the sterilized thermos, leaving room for 1 tablespoon mother per cup of milk.
Pour the measured milk into the empty, sterilized sauce pan.
8. Re-sterilize the thermos with boiling water and leave in the uncapped thermos to keep the interior warm while you heat the milk.
9. Over medium heat, per USDA guidelines, bring the milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and pour into the large pitcher.
To speed cooling, you can set the pitcher in a large bowl. Carefully add cool water to the bowl without getting any in the pitcher.
10. Let cool to no less than 108 degrees and no more than 110 degrees.
This is the range that is just right for incubating yogurt. If the milk is warmer when you add the culture, the good bacteria may die. If it is cooler, they may not grow fast enough to make yogurt.
11. Pour 1/2 cup of the just-right milk into the small measuring cup containing the Mother culture or the commercial culture, whichever you are using. Whisk lightly to combine. Do not beat to a froth.
12. Whisk the inoculated culture into the large pitcher of milk. Whisk again, to combine and pour into your thermos. Cap immediately.
13. If you don't need your oven in the next eight to twelve hours, place the thermos in the oven with the oven light on for extra warmth. You may be surprised how warm your thermos is when you remove it from the oven at the end of the incubation period.
If you do plan on using the oven, wrap your thermos in towels and bind with a cord. Set in a warm, out of the way place, such as on top of your refrigerator, and allow to incubate undisturbed for 8-12 hours.
14. Incubate your yogurt undisturbed for 8-12 hours. Less time gives you a thinner, more pourable yogurt which is also milder in taste. More time yields a thicker yogurt and a more tangy taste. That's how we like ours.
Note: The yogurt in my thermos appears yellow because I use whole milk from pasture-fed cows. This dairy does not homogenize the milk, so the cream rises to the top in the bottle as well as in the yogurt. That thin layer of cream on top is a rich, buttery yellow and makes our yogurt all the more creamy and delicious.
15. Ladle your yogurt into sterilized jars, reserving 1 tablespoon per cup of milk for your next batch. This will be your Mother.
Label the mother, if need be, to keep hungry hands from eating it!
If you are as busy as we are and tend to forget which day you made your last batch, add the date to the label and set a reminder on your calendar.
Oh, and if you're like me, you may want to dish up a couple of ounces right away for yourself. It's so good when it's fresh and still warm! I can't not taste it!
That's why my 24 ounces ends up being only 22 ounces, as you see here.
Rate this yogurt-making method
Soy, whole milk, low-fat, no-fat, raw, organic - What's in your yogurt?
Yogurt can be cultured from all types of milk, even soy. What's your favorite?
What is the basic ingredient in your favorite yogurt?
Did you say raw milk yogurt?
If you want to make raw milk yogurt, do your research first.
To assure any harmful bacteria are killed, the federal government states raw milk MUST be pasteurized by heating to 165 degrees F, the same temperature they recommend when making yogurt with pasteurized milk.
MotherLinda, however, shares a different opinion in To Heat or Not to Heat: A Yogurt Question at the Weston Price Foundation web site.
Wherever you stand on this issue, take time to research thoroughly before making a decision for you and your family.
How to culture soy milk or goat's milk
One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, will this recipe work with soy or goat's milk. I have not tried either, but lots of other bloggers have. Here are a few links detailing some of their methods.
Since the methodology appears to be the same no matter the type of milk used, I suspect one could as easily culture goat's milk or soy milk in a thermos, following the instructions above.
- How to Make Unsweetened Dairy Free Yogurt
Learn how to make you own lactose free and dairy free yogurt. This recipe is for unsweetened plain soy yogurt, but is adaptable to your needs.
- How to Make Yogurt from EverythingGoatMilk.com
This recipe for making goat's milk yogurt is similar to the usual recipes for making cow's milk yogurt.
- Cultured Soy Milk or Soy Yogurt
Hillbilly Housewife explains the difference between cultured soy milk and yogurt, and includes a couple of different suggestions for incubating the culture.
- Making Soy Yogurt
Fat Free Vegan Kitchen says that cultured soy milk does not thicken as well as cow's milk yogurt. She suggests adding agar to help the culture obtain a creamier consistency.
- How to Make Goat Milk Yogurt
Sunstone Farm and Learning Center explains how goat's milk yogurt differs from cow's milk yogurt and provides a recipe and tips.
What makes yogurt, well, yogurt?
Yogurt thickens and turns tangy because good bacteria multiply and get fat on the milk sugars. It ferments, just like beer or bread. To thrive and grow, the bacteria need warmth--not too much, just enough. Too much heat will kill them. Too cool, and they hibernate.
If the temperature and other conditions are just right, the good bacteria that make healthy, living yogurt will grow rapidly. Harmful bacteria will be crowded out.
For an interesting article on fermentation, including the yogurt process, see Fermentation: When food goes bad but stays good." NPR interviews Sandor Katz, author of The Science and Art of Fermentation.
The Euro Cuisine YM80 turns itself off when the yogurt is ready. You can set it before you go to sleep at night, or before you run out the door in the morning, and when you return, your freshly cultured yogurt is ready to chill in the refrigerator.
If you'd rather use a yogurt maker - Euro Cuisine Automatic Yogurt Maker is my pick
First of all, it makes the yogurt directly into perfect serving-size glass jars. You don't have to worry about leaching harmful chemicals into your yogurt while it incubates and during storage.
Plus, I like the small footprint. It would fit easily on the countertop in my space-challenged apartment kitchen.
Another big plus: You can purchase a second set of jars, so if your family sucks up the yogurt the minute it's ready, as mine often does, you've got another batch of jars ready to go.
If you need more yogurt in a single batch
Euro Cuisine has you covered. If your family goes through yogurt like mine did when we were all much younger and there were more of us at home, you'll put this second tier to good use.
Add the jars and incubate twice as much yogurt in the same amount of time.
Prefer Greek yogurt? You're almost there!
- Make Greek fat free yogurt in 4 easy steps
Homemade Greek yogurt is amazingly easy and takes only a few minutes of your time. Learn how here.
Thank you for visiting this page
Have you made yogurt prior to reading this page? Willing to give this method a try? I'd like to hear from you, especially if you try it, and I do hope you'll pass a link to this page along to your friends and family members you think would love to try this recipe.
© 2011 Kathryn Grace