Monday, February 21, 2011

Yogurt Saga, Chapter 1

I used to think Yogurt meant Yoplait.  Plain yogurt was something "crazy health nuts" or "people who really like super-sour stuff" ate, and it had no place in my fridge as a child!  My grandpa tells a story about his college roommate from Albania who cultured yogurt under his bed in their dorm room!  According to said roommate, "Yogurt never goes bad, it just gets better and better with time."  That sounded pretty far out there to my Standard American Diet family, along the same lines as KimChi (rotten cabbage?) and sauerkraut (same reaction).

There was no appreciation for the lovely distinction between fermentation and rot.

Well, I've come a long way in my understanding of beneficial bacteria since then!  After digging into Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell, we started eating plain yogurt as well as experimenting with sauerkraut, lacto-fermented dill pickles, and homemade fermented ginger-ale.  But making my own yogurt?  Scary!  Would I have to grow it under my bed?  

I have tried traditional yogurt recipes a few times, with the milk-scalding, cooling, adding of commercial yogurt, and then incubating in a warm place overnight.  It has kind of worked.  My house is cool, my oven doesn't have a pilot light that I can leave on, and my "incubated" yogurt has always turned out a little suspiciously stringy.  Not sure if that is okay or not.

Anyway, last week, I read an idea that revolutionized my life!!  Well, my yogurt-making life.  Laurie from Common Sense Homesteading described her Fermenting Sock that she uses to help keep her Villi yogurt warm in her cool house.  Huh.  Villi yogurt?  What's that?  Welp, a little trip over to Cultures for Health taught me that it's a type of yogurt that can be cultured at room temperature!  Room temperature!  No stressing over my oven temperature!  No expensive yogurt maker!  No keeping my yogurt in a cooler of hot water overnight (which is a good idea, I guess, but I can't leave it on the floor with my kiddos around, and I don't have any counterspace to spare for a cooler).  

One packet of Villi yogurt culture?  Sold!

Now, apparently, you're supposed to use pasteurized milk to revive the culture.  I plan to exclusively use pasteurized milk to make the yogurt, because the raw stuff is prohibitively expensive and I want to save it for drinking!  But we seem to be all out.  I am not willing to sacrifice my "good" milk for a yogurt experiment, so I will go get some dead milk at the grocery store and try to bring it back to life. 

Will the initial yogurt culture succeed?  Will I become a yogurt-making diva?  Or will I fall flat on my yogurt-making face?  Find out in the next exciting chapter of the Yogurt Saga!  (I know, I'm excited too!)

Want to know how the yogurt-making is progressing?  Check out the Yogurt Saga, Chapter 2!

This post is shared at Monday Mania at The Healthy Home EconomistHearth and Soul, and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop


  1. We make matsoni room temp yogurt and I love it. If I want it to be thicker I just drain off the whey. You have to maintain a pure starter if using raw milk but that's pretty easy to do.

    We are waiting for our cow to calf so we can have milk again but I am really blessed and found someone that sell her raw milk for $2.50/gal. Its from jersey cows and almost half the jug is cream.

  2. Megan, I haven't heard of matsoni; I'll have to do some more reading! Room temp was a totally new concept to me, so I'd like to pursue it more!
    Best wishes for your new calf-to-be. :)

  3. My boys love yogurt but I have yet to take the plunge with the "homemade" variety so far. I'm interested to know how this turns out for you.

    Great post and thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop.

  4. Oh my gosh, I am soooo living vicariously through you! LOL! You are experimenting with like everything I am interested in! Love your blog!

  5. I make my yogurt in a cardboard box with a desk lamp in it. I love that there are so many ways to get the job done. Good luck on your adventure, and thanks for linking to the Hearth and Soul hop.

  6. Butterpoweredbike, what a good idea, using a box with a desk lamp. Depending on how this batch of yogurt turns out I may need to try that!

  7. That sounds VERY interesting! I recently started making "crockpot yogurt" and posted about it here:

    That is the easiest I've found, so far, and it is very successful and I start with my raw goat milk. I had never heard of room temp. yogurt, though! How nice! Thank you for sharing this.

  8. I love your crockpot yogurt idea - that sure takes the guesswork out of trying to keep it warm. If this yogurt doesn't turn out to be all I hope it will be, I will give your method a try. Thank you so much for the info!


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