Getting cultured: Take 2

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein

Well, there you have it. According to Mr. Einstein, I’m a crazy person. I like to think that I’m a crazy person with high standards, though, which just goes to show that if you believe in it enough, do zero additional research, and try the exact same method…’re certifiably psychotic.

Psychosis works for me. Suits me, in fact. However, instead of proving the rule this time, I am the exception.

~~~~~~~~I MADE YOGURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~~~~~~~~

For real. Edible, too! I’m actually going to go ahead and toot my own horn: It was absolutely delicious!

Because my first attempt was such a disaster, it took me a while to muster up the desire to try it a second time. Then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. -yogurt, Rome…whatever-

When something goes wrong the first time, typically you assess and adjust the process for any subsequent trials. I say typically, because I didn’t. Too much effort. Wait, that’s a lie: I did not put towels on the stove for charring purposes this time. Yay me. I did look at additional yogurt-making recipes, the majority of which called for either powdered milk, yogurt cultures, whole milk and whole fat yogurt, or yogurt machines. Fabulous. Couldn’t find powdered milk -it was probably right in front of me at the store; I obviously don’t do well in grocery stores-; didn’t want to use yogurt cultures since I felt it was pointless because yogurt cultures are in the yogurt you add to the mixture already; wanted a reduced-fat yogurt — I don’t buy whole fat yogurt or milk at the store in the first place, so why would I make it that way? –; and I clearly do not own a yougrt-making machine.

Back to square one. So what did I do? The same damn thing I did the first time…with slight adjustments. I bought fat-free yogurt, 2% milk (last time I used skim – I don’t recommend that), and just talked nice to it. I had everything at my fingertips. When I decided to give it another go, I re-created my double-boiler, got out my trusty thermometer, and was ready to face the yogurt fates. -OH, I decided I didn’t learn my lesson the first time and bought another half gallon of milk to make another unnecessary half gallon of yogurt for this one person. I amaze myself at my intelligence sometimes-

Step 1: create double boiler


Double boiler

Step 2: pour milk into pot
………….Step 2: pour milk into pot

This gets slightly complicated when the top shelf of your refrigerator has decided to imitate the Arctic and make one giant ice cube out of your milk. -insert background laughter from the yogurt fates here- I’m off to a spectacular start. Step 1 has now turned in to: thaw your giant ice cube of milk any way you can – this may take a good half hour or so. Probably longer.

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Well, that was fun.

After your milk cube is thawed, pour into the top pot and bring up to 180°F for minimum a half hour, stirring frequently. During this process, I did notice that my milk frothed quite a bit more than the skim milk for the first attempt.

IMG_0169 IMG_0175

After about a half hour, cool down the milk to approximately 110°F, stirring occasionally. I did this with an ice bath in my sink. You can do it by leaving it on your counter, it will just take much longer, and goodness knows (and my family, and my friends, and my boyfriend) that I am not a patient person.


Ice bath to 110F

Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt (yes, you use yogurt to make yogurt) to your cooled milk. I used FAGE Total 0% for mine. Stir this in well to your milk.


Add yogurt to cooled milk

Now, you have sour, hot, yogurt milk. Congrats! Think of it as your yogurt embryo. This little guy needs some TLC, and a warm, quiet place to incubate for 7+ hours. You want to keep it between 100°F and 110°F during this time. The site I originally got the recipe off of suggests a heating pad. Uh, don’t try to get super creative and invent your own if you don’t have one. It won’t work. Trust me. This time, instead of putting it on top of the oven, I decided to put it in the oven! ………I can hear your negative thoughts you cynics. Ok, ok, I deserve them. I did not turn the oven on. Instead, I put a lid on my yogurt embryo mixture, wrapped it in towels, and put the bottom of the double boiler (the pot that had the boiling water in it) next to it in the oven. I heated up more water in a tea kettle and added that to it as well. I checked on the temperature every now and then and added more hot water only once.


The oven ‘incubator’

I intended to pull it out of the oven at 7 hours. But I went to dinner with a friend and lost track of time. I got home when it had been sitting there for at least 9 hours if not longer. Knowing me, and my relationship with the yogurt fates, I was figuratively crossing every limb, fiber, and hair strand I had that this would not be my downfall again. I pulled out the pot, unwrapped it from the towels and lifted the lid to reveal:




I did it! It worked! I couldn’t believe it. It looked like yogurt, and even kind of smelled like yogurt. I was giddy with pleasure and the satisfaction that the yogurt fates and I had become friends come to an understanding. I put it in containers to refrigerate over night -NOT on the top shelf of my fridge-. The real testament would come the next morning with the first sample.

Morning comes. I’m excited and slightly nervous to try it, considering it was something I made. From scratch. In the kitchen. And you just never know how that’s going to turn out. –If it works out, you ideally never have to buy yogurt again; you can use a few tablespoons from your homemade yogurt in the milk to make a new batch.- It was actually, surprisingly very good. Not as tart as I’m used to, but I was ok with that. The consistency was perfect, maybe a little less solid (is that the right word?), but definitely not runny.


Homemade Yogurt



So good even Klondike wants some 🙂

I’ll just go ahead and give myself a pat on the back for that one.

Getting cultured

For my first trick, I decided to do something that anyone can do, and that almost everyone loves. Pretty cool, huh? I say almost everyone because there are a select few who choose to be difficult and refuse to admit that they, in fact, could love this one particular thing. You know who you are. Either that, or they’re lactose intolerant. But that’s hardly an excuse.

I’m talkin’ YOGURT y’all! -insert fake Southern accent for effect-

That’s right. Yogurt. -or yoghurt OR yoghourt for those looking to broaden their dairy spelling repertoire…you’re welcome- Calcium, protein AND tiny live creatures all in one concoction?! Yes please.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, and have zero good excuse for not trying it before. Now, most people who are trying out something for the first time may play it safe and make a small batch to see if they know what they’re doing. Those people, they’re smart. Boring, even. I like to think I’m adventurous. So, upon deciding how much yogurt to make for my very first batch I threw caution to the wind and opted for a reasonable half gallon. Because, WHO DOESN’T NEED A HALF GALLON OF YOGURT IN THEIR HOUSE AT ALL TIMES?! That’s what I thought. No one. See my next post for the best way to give yogurt as gifts. Just kidding. Kinda.

The magical elves behind Google threw this little number at me when I searched for yogurt recipes, so I went with it. Step-by-step directions with minimal supplies. They know me so well.

Join me on my yogurt-making adventure:

The first step with making anything cooking related is to have a kitchen. Duh. The reason I bring this up, though, is because of the size of my kitchen — It’s about equivalent to a nice walk-in pantry.

My Kitchen

My Kitchen

Stove. Sink. That’s it. Literally. Zero counter space. No dishwasher, garbage disposal, and barely room for a coffee pot -which is most certainly a necessity: what else would I drink with my granola and homemade yogurt?!- But I do have one. So on to Step 2.

This is essentially what I did: Boil water in a pot. Easy enough. -dad, stop laughing.- Pour a half gallon of milk into a smaller pot (however much milk you start with should be how much yogurt you will make). Put milk pot into water pot creating a double boiler. Raise milk to 185°F and keep at that temp for 30 mins stirring constantly. After 30 mins, put milk pot in an ice bath to cool it down to 110°F, stirring occasionally. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of plain yougurt in cooled milk, stir, and you’re done! Almost.



Heated Milk

Heated Milk

Cooling Milk

Cooling Milk

Adding Yogurt

Adding Yogurt

It needs be covered and sit for 7 hours on a heating pad at medium temp. Well, I don’t have a heating pad, so I got those creative juices flowing and…Voilà! Cookie sheet + bath towel + stove = heating pad. Right?

Heating Pad

Heating Pad


Heating Pad Aftermath

Heating Pad Aftermath

Not only did it ruin the towel, which just happened to be my roommates, it also ruined my cookie sheet and kept the milk mixture too hot. -at least in retrospect I think that’s what happened-



After 7 hours, the milk mixture is supposed to be thicker and smell, well, like yogurt. Mine was not. But, I figured maybe it would thicken in the refrigerator over night. Oh, wishful thinking, you silly bastard.


I practically skipped to my refrigerator this morning, looking forward to a delicious breakfast with my homemade yogurt. With a watering mouth and a hopeful heart, I opened my container to examine the delicousness.

Deliciousness fail. Despite all my finger crossing, the yogurt did not thicken up over night. It stayed the consistency of milk with a faint yogurt smell. That’s right, ladies and gents, I successfully made 7-hour sour milk. Please try to contain your shock and awe, applause, rolling of the eyes, laughter or any Ginger references. Just kidding. I welcome all of these.

Yogurt Fail

Yogurt Fail

After putting back together my shattered ego, I’m going to try a different recipe sometime this week. I will be a yogurt-making virtuoso. You just wait. Update to follow.

Until then, these are some key lessons to take away from this experience:

  1. Do try to make yogurt
  2. Don’t make your own ‘heating pad’
  3. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t
  4. Just to reiterate, DO NOT put towels on the stove insert common sense jokes here
  5. If you get confused about what not to do, re-read this post

If anyone has any tips, tricks or good recipes, please leave a comment. For now, I’m going to enjoy a nice bowl of cereal with milk….oh wait.