Back in my hippie days in college — no, I really wasn’t a hippie but I did have a tie-dyed shirt — I discovered “health foods.” One of them was yogurt. Growing up I’d never even heard of yogurt let alone eaten it. But when I got to college we had a dairy on campus and you could buy their yogurt in the cafeteria. It was super cheap and fit well with my college food budget, and I loved it.
Now you probably read the headline of this post and thought “Why would I ever want to make yogurt when I can just buy it?” Well, we’ve all heard the health benefits of eating yogurt. And read the stories of people who’ve lived to be 110 and when asked what they eat they usually say yogurt. Then again, there’s always the occasional one that says they smoke and drink whiskey every day too….go figure. But the really beautiful thing about so many foods is that they are not hard to make.
And then of course, everyone discovered “Greek” yogurt a few years ago and it became all the rage because it has a higher protein content than regular yogurt. But a few months ago I discovered “Icelandic” yogurt, also known as Skyr (“skeer”), and man is it good! Ounce for ounce it has slightly higher protein content, and it’s less tart than Greek yogurt. It’s incredibly thick and creamy and I just love it. But it ain’t cheap. In my local stores there are only two brands and they are around $2 for one teeny little 5.3 ounce container.
Yogurt in France
If you’ve ever been to France and gone food shopping in the supermarkets, you’ll know that the yogurt aisles are almost as large as the aisles for all the wine. There is every type and flavor of yogurt imaginable. As soon as you taste it, you realize that it is very different from the yogurt we eat in America. I think it’s largely due to the milk from the French cows. They have to keep those cows (and the goats and the sheep) pretty happy to keep churning out all that cheese and still have some milk leftover for other products like yogurt. And it’s also likely due to the higher fat content. Yogurt made with “no fat” milk in France would be like having dinner without wine — c’est impossible!
I have my friend Angela who’s half French and half Spanish to thank for helping me see how easy it is to make your own yogurt. She brought a wonderful yogurt sauce to dinner at some friends’ house to go with a roasted salmon. She explained how she made her own yogurt and I immediately thought “I can do that,” so I proceeded to figure out how to do it using Skyr instead of regular yogurt.
If you like yogurt, you have to give it a try. It couldn’t be easier — heat some milk, stir in some yogurt, let it sit, strain it and bam, you’re done. Plus, you know exactly what’s in your yogurt — just milk and a few billion lovely little bacteria that are soooo good for you (now we know to call these foods probiotics). Nothing artificial. No added sugar and flavorings. I like that. AND, it costs about 75% less per serving than one of those little containers. I love making my own food when I can from whole, clean ingredients, and making yogurt is a perfect example doing that.
Here’s my step-by-step process:
What You’ll Need
- 3-quart or larger stainless steel saucepan
- Silicone spatula or wooden spoon for stirring
- Instant read thermometer
- Small bowl
- One-half gallon milk — organic, grass-fed, either 1% or 2%
Note: I’ve made this yogurt with skim, 1%, 2% and whole milk. I did not like the result as much with skim, the flavor is not as good and it’s not as thick.
- One carton PLAIN Skyr yogurt (Icelandic or Siggi’s brand)
Note: You can use Greek yogurt if you prefer. You can strain it as indicated here to make it thicker or use it as is.
Pour the milk into the saucepan and heat slowly at first over low heat, stirring every few minutes to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pan. Once the milk has reached 110-120 degrees, increase the heat to medium, stirring occasionally until it reaches the 185 degree mark on your thermometer. It will begin to get foamy and you’ll see steam wisping from the surface. Just be sure to stir so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan.
Once it has reached 185 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and set it on a cool burner. Let the milk slowly drop back down to 110 degrees. Once it reaches that temperature, stir a ladle full of the warm milk into the contents of the Icelandic yogurt in a small bowl. Mix it well, then stir that mixture into your pan of warm milk. Use your spatula to stir until the yogurt is blended into the milk.
Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, then place the covered pan in your oven and turn the oven light on. The light will provide just enough heat to help the yogurt do it’s magic. Leave in the oven for 12 to 24 hours. Overnight works.
Line a strainer or colander with a double thickness of cheesecloth and set the strainer over a large bowl. Scoop the yogurt curd from the saucepan into the strainer and let it strain for one to two hours. The liquid whey will strain off into the bowl. The longer you let it sit and strain the thicker it will be.
Transfer the strained yogurt to a large jar or a bowl with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. Will keep for 2-3 weeks, if you can actually make it last that long before eating it all.
I found this one-liter jar with a clamping seal lid that’s perfect for storing my yogurt in the refrigerator. After straining the yogurt made from a half gallon of milk, the remaining thick yogurt is just the right amount to fill this jar.
I’m still looking for uses for the liquid whey. My friend Angela says she uses it water her plants. I tried that and they’re still alive. If anyone has other tips, I’d love to hear them!
When your Skyr is almost gone, don’t forget to save about half a cup to use to make your next batch of yogurt.
Sweeten your Skyr to taste when serving instead of sweetening the entire batch. You may even find that if you add some fresh fruit you won’t need any sweeter, but if you prefer just add the one you like best.
Let’s make peace, not war. Let’s pretend to be hippies again. Let’s make yogurt. I’ll wear my tie-dyed shirt if you will. You can come over and we’ll eat some yogurt. Then because we’re feeling all healthy, we’ll chase it with whiskey. Or wine. Does yogurt go with wine?