"Gallon Batch of Delicious Homemade Fat Free Yogurt from Recycled/Reusable Items;" seems superfluous. This is my first instructable, and I know this topic is covered every-so-often; but this is how I manage to impress my wife and kid every time.
I'm making a bit more than a gallon of yogurt here, starting with a gallon of skim milk and adding ingredients. I like my yogurt soft and just tangy enough, as we like to put it on cereal as well as make smoothies. Making yogurt is incredibly easy, but the results are generally outstanding. You can experiment and find the exact amount of tanginess you prefer and make the most delicious yogurts over and over specifically tailored to you and your family. You can have a lot of fun doing this and it's simply delicious.
Yogurt has been in use by humanity for more than 4,500 years. That is nearly as long as we've been brewing beer, and the two processes are not dissimilar.
In the case of beer, sugars that have been developed by breaking down carbohydrates in grains are naturally fermented by yeast; that is, they are eaten and digested into alcohol. If you were to develop this sugary mixture naturally (which happens all on its own in the correct conditions) you would undoubtedly eventually find naturally occurring yeasts that would appear to devour the feast and leave behind their lovely excrement (never thought of it like that did you?).
In our case, with yogurt, nearly the same process occurs naturally. Fresh milk whether from goat, cow, or dare I say rat, when left out, will most likely turn to yogurt through naturally occuring bacteria that develop in the milk over a course of hours. This was most likely the original yogurt discovery. Unlike the broken-down carbohydrates that our lovely friend yeast consumes, our little bacteria friends, mostly of the Lactobacillus variety, eat the sugars in milk a.k.a. Lactose and excrete Lactic Acid.
Your opinions may very, but I'm a big fan of both. I'd also argue that my worst batch of both homemade beer, and homemade yogurt, were still much better tasting than anything mass produced in either category.
So, lets start getting this thing going:

Step 1: What I Use to Accomplish the Task.

You probably have everything you need, hardware wise, to make a lovely batch of fresh yogurt. Yogurt only requires a few conditions/items:
Temperature between 100-110F
Active Yogurt Culture (I prefer 6oz Stoneyfield Farms PLAIN Yogurt)
Milk (any type will do, for lowfat or fatfree be prepared to add powdered milk)

There are plenty of ways to achieve those conditions, I'm going to show you how I do it.
I use:
An old cooler that only gets used for culturing things these days.
An electric burner that has a low enough heat setting to not kill my culture. *
A digital and a candy (and a laser:)thermometer (just a digital is fine and dandy).
Several used pickle jars, peanut butter jars, Ball jars, whatever you have handy.
Measuring cup.
Ladling spoon, large pot, wisk.
Towel and Weight for the top of the cooler box.

Note: There is a small risk of contamination that is mitigated by simply cleaning everything with dish soap and rinsing well right before use. Wash everything including the cooler, the thermometers, the jars, the large pot, everything! You can go the extra step and sanitize everything with a bleach solution; but I don't think it's necessary most of the time.

  • The heat source can be a number of things: an incandescent light bulb, heater element from a dehydrator, hot water might be especially nice if you have a resevoir in your cooler like i do (I actually hadn't considered this before and will attempt it next batch), etc.
Next step, the Ingredients!
hummmma i will try this as i need pratice for when i plan on living on a farm fresh butter now this i love fresh food tastes so muuuuch better than process. plus i found out artifaical preseves have my ibs started
Great job! Is there anything wrong with using the plastic containers yogurt is sold in? I have a billion of them.<br />
I have just started making my own with reasonable results, but I would say that it is a tad runny but once it's refridgerated it is just about ok, but could be thicker. It that what you added the extra milk powder for? mdog
great ible, easy to follow with great pix. A couple questions 1. how long will this keep in the fridge 2. is there any chance of contamination of the jars and how would you tell if it was contaminated? 3. can other flavors be added to the yogurt? I never would have considered making my own yogurt before. This actually looks quite easy and much cheaper than buying yogurt.
It is definitely cheaper, although I go a bit more expensive with the powdered milk (which is somewhat expensive), it's still cheaper and MUCH tastier than the $.60-$1.20/half-pint they want at the store. 1. I've kept batches as long as three weeks in the fridge with no noticeable taste difference. 2. Yes, there is a chance of contamination, you'll be able to tell immediately by the smell and taste. Although generally I just make sure I wash everything right before using it for this, you can definitely go the extra step and use a bleach/water mixture to sanitize everything. 3. You can add anything you like AFTER it's yogurt. Don't add any fruit flavorings or anything other than sweetener to the milk mixture. Add flavors after you've made the yogurt. I actually like to use a "Hot" strawberry jam in it sometimes for something a bit different (i think it's heated with Jabenero). I know a lot of people don't like the thought of putting peanut butter in their smoothie, but I suggest trying it out! Have fun!
I've been thinking about trying to make my own. You're submission has inspired me to finally follow through. Well written, thanks for sharing.
You're very welcome. It's a simple process, it just takes some patience waiting for the incubation to come to fruition, and then waiting for it to cool enough to be enjoyable. I think people get scared when they think of it as "culturing" as if it's too scientific or something. Thanks for your comment!

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