When thinking about what to make from scratch vs. what to buy, some things are obvious. There are things we always buy (most of us aren’t churning butter or curing our own bacon), some we do on our own sometimes (bread, bone broth), and others we always DIY (salad dressing, hard-cooked eggs).
In the always-buy category is usually yogurt. There are so many good brands to choose from, and we love it — Americans’ consumption has doubled in the last decade, to 1.3 billion pints consumed in the U.S. alone in 2016.
And it’s no wonder, given yogurt’s abundant benefits, including a great source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, as well as health-boosting probiotics. In fact, some Greek yogurts have almost half of the daily protein needs for the average woman.
Our love affair with yogurt makes perfect sense. So why not take it to the next level and make your own? It’s remarkably easy, and you get to control the ingredients–including sugar, which can be surprisingly high in some brands. Not to mention the bragging rights when you have your friends over for brunch (“Oh, you like the yogurt? Thanks, I made it myself”).
The best part: Making yogurt involves three simple steps. You just scald milk, let it cool, and then leave it alone. It does require some time, though it’s largely hands-off time; your yogurt needs to sit for a minimum of seven hours, including refrigeration.
Ready to give it a shot? Here are some pro tips:
1. Start With Storage. Invest in some Mason or canning pint jars. Pint-size jars are perfect for easy transport.
2. Consider Straining. Greek yogurt is made the same way as regular yogurt, except for the final step: Greek yogurt is strained for two hours in a colander to remove much of the whey. All you need to do that is a colander and some cheesecloth, so have those handy. (Note: Don’t toss the whey. You can use it in smoothies or other recipes.)
3. Stay Cool (or Hot). You can make yogurt by feel, but it will go much smoother and more consistently with a food thermometer. You can go digital or analog, and you’ll find plenty of other uses for it, like checking the turkey at Thanksgiving.
4. Pick Your Milk. You can use any type of milk you want, except for ultra-pasteurized, which won’t set up. Organic, whole milk makes excellent yogurt. If you opt for a dairy alternative such as soy or almond milk, you will need to thicken it with a starch like tapioca, agar-agar or arrowroot.
5. Get Some Culture. To get your yogurt to ferment, add store-bought yogurt; just be sure it says on the label that it has live, active cultures. (Once you get in a yogurt-making groove, you can use some of your last batch to make a new batch.) You can also buy yogurt cultures and add those.
6. Get Ready, Get Set: When setting the yogurt, you can place it in a cooler with warm water or you can leave on the counter in a warm, draft-free spot overnight. Unopened yogurt will keep in the fridge for up to one month. Once opened, it’s good for up to one week.
Feeling inspired? Here are some simple recipes to try: