Yogurt has been around for centuries. Herodotus wrote about it in the 5th century B.C. as did Galen around 2 A.D. No-one knows for sure where it originated, but it is widely believed that it came from somewhere in the Middle East around, what we now know of as, Turkey.
There is one story that says it was a happy accident that occurred to a desert nomad. In the story it is said that the nomad had a goatskin filled with milk which he was carrying while he was traveling. The heat of the sun, the bacteria in the bag and milk combined with the gentle rocking motion, curdled the milk and transformed it into what we now know is yogurt. Personally I think it would have transformed it into butter, but hey what do I know?
There is another story that says that after a man had finished milking, he left his clay pot that was filled with milk outside and within several hours the bacteria that was on the mans hands, the animals utter, the milk itself and/ or in the clay pot had transformed the milk into yogurt. This to me seems like a more likely scenario.
Regardless of how it was discovered, it was discovered and humanity has been benefiting from yogurt’s nutritional value and palatability ever since.
I started making yogurt about 6 years ago when I first started my urban homesteading journey and I have been playing with this fermented dairy product ever since. I have read many books on the topic, but my all time favorite is called “The Book of Yogurt” by Sonia Uvezian. I suggest that you experiment with reading different books on the subject and find the method and flavor that works best for you. Remember, the inter-library loan service that is available though most library’s in the US is a great way to read a wide variety of books, usually for the moderate price of the shipping costs.
Some thoughts about the starter. Yogurt needs live bacteria to transform milk into a solid mass. There are several different sources for this bacteria. The first is to use a plain un-flavored yogurt that has live active cultures. You can also purchase live bacteria from places like www.cheesemaking.com. On this particular website, cheese extraordinaire Ricki Carroll sells the cultures you need to make your own yogurt. She even has several different live cultures to choose from so you can experiment a bit with different consistencies and flavors. My favorite is Yogurt (DS) Sweet: It is like creamy sweet yogurt heaven.
For this batch I am using plain old fashioned yogurt from the food store. It is unflavored, whole milk yogurt with live active bacteria. Please do not use the low fat stuff, it doesn’t work.
You can use an electric yogurt maker or if you are confident about the temperature of your home, you can use a quart jar, with a lid. Because it is still chilly here in Montana, I still have my wood stove burning most days, so I have chosen to use a quart jar and the heat radiating from my wood stove to cure this batch of yogurt. Do what is best for you.
OK, here is how I make my yogurt:
To begin with I fill a quart jar with hot tap water to warm the glass. You don’t want warm milk going into a cold jar as it will disrupt the activity of the culture.
Measure out 2 TBS of yogurt. DO NOT use more. This is not a case of if a little is good than a lot is better. In fact the opposite is true. If you add too much yogurt (starter) it can actually have the opposite effect of what you want. So 2 TBS, no more. (If you are using live bacteria from a packet, follow the directions that came with it.)
Give your yogurt a stir periodically. This helps to warm the yogurt evenly. Leave the yogurt on the counter and forget about it. It needs to come as close to room temperature as possible.
Measure out your milk: 4 cups (1 quart) and heat it to just below the boiling point (160-180 degrees). Make sure you stir the milk gently moving along the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching. This is really important as the milk gets warms. Once you have reached the required temperature, remove the milk from the heat and let it cool to about 112 degrees. You will need to stir the milk every few minutes to prevent the proteins from settling on top of the milk creating a film. If the film does occur, simply remove it and keep stirring.
Once the milk has cooled to about 112 degrees, you want to temper the yogurt with it, by adding a little bit of milk at a time to the yogurt starter, stirring the entire time. You really want the starter blended in well. Once you have it well combined, pour the milk with the starter in it back into the sauce pot with the remaining milk and stir well to incorporate.
Once this is done, you will want to pour the water out of your jar/container and pour the unfermented yogurt into it and put the lid on.The next step is really important. You want to wrap a warm towel around the jar to keep the heat in. I use an old hand towel that is wrapped around the jar and secured with a rubber band.
The final step is to put your yogurt in a warm, draft free place where it can sit undisturbed for 5-6 hours. (I always let mine sit for at least 6 hours.) I like to set mine on the mantle behind the wood stove during the winter months, because it is consistently warm there.
After the allotted curing time, you can unwrap your yogurt and place it in the refrigerator until it is completely cooled (overnight will do great).
There you have it, yogurt making according to Bella.
Yogurt costs very little to make, and once you have a good starter made, you can use that to make at least 3 more batches before you have to start from a new culture.
If you want to try making this, make sure you have fun with it. Even if it flops and your yogurt does not solidify, keep it and cook or bake with it in place of milk. It adds a really nice flavor to foods. Remember there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.
If you do make this, please feel free to post your experiences and/or photo’s below, I would love to see what you are making.