How-to: Making yogurt

by April Fortner

Making your own yogurt at home is fast and can save money, especially if you enjoy Greek yogurt. In addition, you can ensure that it has all the probiotics (bacteria) that you want for digestive health without added ingredients like preservatives or thickeners.

Yogurt is all about growing bacteria, but it is important to grow only the edible variety. Anyone with compromised immune systems should use extreme caution. Sterilize the equipment (long spoon, double boiler with lid and thermometer tip) by boiling it for five minutes. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can either make one by sticking a smaller bowl over a pot of boiling water, or just use the pot, remembering to stir continuously. The double boiler helps ensure a slower, more even temperature gain.

The next step is to put half a gallon or less of milk in the double boiler and heat it to 180 degrees uncovered for 30 minutes (do not boil). This kills any unwanted bacteria and thickens the milk slightly. Any variety of milk will work here, but I find that whole milk tastes buttery while reduced fat milk tastes more like store variety yogurt. Your yield will equal the amount of milk you add, or less in the case of Greek style yogurt. Raw milk fans may choose to skip this step at their own risk, as it is essentially an extra round of pasteurization.

Cool the yogurt to 110-115 degrees. The fastest way to do this is to stick the bowl in an ice bath in your sink. Then stir in 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt with active, live cultures to inoculate (or add bacteria) to the milk. You can also buy starters or use homemade yogurt from a previous batch to provide bacteria.

At this point, leave it covered in a warm place for 7-12 hours. Set it on a hot pad, wrap in towel or set in a cooler to keep warm; a crock pot is often too hot even on the warm setting (mine measures 175 degrees on warm). The bacteria will reproduce and consume some of the milk sugars, producing lactic acid as a by-product, which causes the proteins of the milk to denature (fall apart from their natural, curly state) and ultimately thicken the milk into yogurt as the proteins tangle together. 

Finally, strain out the liquids if you want Greek style yogurt and drain in a cheese cloth over a colander (set in a bowl) in the fridge. For plain yogurt, just stir and refrigerate a couple of hours before consuming. Your yogurt may be thinner than store bought varieties since they often contain thickeners. Add sugar, vanilla and/or fruit to taste and enjoy!


A resident of Conway, April Fortner is a wife and mother of four. She has a bachelor’s degree in physics and enjoys cooking, gardening, writing and homeschooling her children. In her free time, she likes to think of creative ways to stretch their income.