The first things I would recommend is to start with organic whole milk. I know we live in a culture that views fat as the enemy, but fat is so important in the flavor and consistency of yogurt. Low-fat yogurt has added thickeners to make it firm and palatable. If you try to make it at home with out all of those yucky additives you will most be likely unhappy with the results. We should always go organic when it comes to dairy products, as they have the some of the highest quantities of pesticides as well as growth hormones and antibiotics. Too many bad things to mention. But organic, particularly grass fed dairy is a good addition to our diet (unless, of course you are lactose intolerant).
To get started all you need is whole milk and some plain, organic yogurt with live cultures. You can buy yogurt starters as well. That can be a good way to start, especially if you are looking to have a particular style of yogurt. Different yogurt starters can give you more creamy, thicker or tangier yogurts. Here is a website with some yogurt cultures http://www.cheesemaking.com/.
All you need to get started is a double boiler, a thermometer, a spoon and your culture or plain yogurt.
I ran out of plain yogurt, so I used the "plain" part of this strawberry yogurt. Hey, sometimes you just got to use what you have. :) I love the book Nourishing Traditions, it has a yogurt recipe as well as many other useful recipes and advice. It is definitely a worthwhile book to add to your cook book library. We get raw milk in these glass containers, I find that raw milk yogurt is the best.
Place 4 cups whole milk into the double boiler. Gently heat the milk to 180 degrees and allow to cool to about 110 degrees.
Once the milk is 110 degrees stir in 1/2 cup yogurt or yogurt starter. Pour into a glass, enamel or stainless steel container - I use a ball canning jar. At this point you need to keep your yogurt at about 95 degrees for 8 hours. The easiest way to do this is in a dehydrator. I love mine and use it all of the time. If you don't have a dehydrator you can cover the container and place it in a warm oven for 8 hours. If it is a hot sunny day, cover it and put it outside out of the sun for the 8 hours. The other option is to get a yogurt maker. These range in price from $20 to $60, you can get them at Target or Amazon. They are an affordable and provide an easy way to make yogurt regularly.
After the 8 hours you should have a firm, smooth, yummy yogurt that you now put in the refrigerator. Because there are no additives to your yogurt you will see a slight separation of the whey. The clear liquid can just be poured off before you eat the yogurt or stirred in.
Yogurt is a fantastic treat to have with fruit or granola. It may disappear as you make it. But if you find you have some left over, try this recipe. It is my favorite yogurt recipe.
Brown Sugar-Yogurt Tart in a Nut Crust
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by: Deborah Madison (Awesome cookbook! highly recommend)
1/2 cup almonds, pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup white or whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 T light brown sugar
5 T butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla mixed with 2 T water
Preheat the over to 350 degrees. toast the nuts on a sheet pan until they smell good, about 8 minutes. Cool, then chop half the nuts finely and the other half coarsely, Toss all the nuts, flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, then cut in the butter using your fingers or two knives. Add the vanilla-water bit by bit. Use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. Line the dough into a 9 inch tart pan or shallow pie pan. Refrigerate until firm.
1 1/4 cups yogurt, preferably whole mik, drained*
3 T butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 T Flour
Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, vanilla and sugar, then stir in the flour. Set the shell on a sheet pan, pour in the batter, and bake until set and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.
*(Stir yogurt until smooth, than pour it into a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Fold the ends over the top and set the whole unit over a bowl to drip. Let it drip for about 25 minutes to lose a good portion of the whey)
This is a fantastic and relatively easy tart. A great use for extra yogurt. Enjoy!!