So, today I decided to try my hand at making yogurt. Emma's home from school this whole week, and without a car we're often rather lean on things to do. Seemed like a good time to try it.
Most people probably have all the required equipment right in their kitchens. You need a candy thermometer, pots of varying sizes, measuring spoons, a wire whisk, and lidded containers of glass or porcelain. I used canning jars.
The first step was to sterilize the containers we were going to make it in - you don't want any undesirable microbes getting in there. Just submerge them in boiling water for one minute (or, if you have a dishwasher, you can run them through the rinse cycle).
Then you're ready for the yogurtmakin'. This recipe is from my boyfriend's copy of Country Wisdom and Know-How.
1 quart whole milk
1/3 cup instant nonfat dried milk
1 rounded Tablespoon plain yogurt or recommended amount of powdered culture
Scald the milk; you want to heat it up till your candy thermometer reads 180 degrees. This kills off any undesirable wee beasties in your milk.
Remove it from heat, add the dry milk, and cool it to 90 to 120 degrees. I just let it cool on the stovetop, and it took about 45 minutes or so.
Add the starter - the plain yogurt or culture - and stir until smooth. Pour it into your jars and put the lids on for incubation.
There are lots of methods for incubating yogurt; I used the warm water method, which seemed the simplest to me. I heated a large pot of water to 110 degrees and put the sealed yogurt in. I put the lid on, stuck a towel on top, and left it over the pilot light on top of my stove.
Now I'm waiting for it to incubate for three hours, after which I'll check it. The book says to incubate for two to five, but three hours is a good time to test it.
Once the yogurt is made, you can thicken it for varying purposes by draining it through cheesecloth. You can substitute it for mayonaise by draining it for 10-15 minutes, for sour cream by draining it for 30. For Greek yogurt I've read that you drain it 2-3 hours, and you can make cream cheese by draining 6-8 hours.
This first round I'm following the recipe exactly; the next time, I'm going to try taking out the powdered milk. It's supposed to give you a thicker, nicer texture, but if I can eliminate it by a little bit of draining, I'd prefer that.
ETA: Three hours was just about the right amount of time for incubation. The water method worked fantastically, and it was nice and thick. I put it in the refrigerator and tried it out about three hours later. Best yogurt ever, hands down. Even better than Stoneyfield's whole milk yogurt, in fact, and all local. Plus, now I have a reason to buy some local jams and jellies the next time I hit the farmer's market!