Making Yogurt

Before I even start, let me tell you – you don’t have to have a yogurt maker to make yogurt! Yogurt is VERY easy to make. No long list of ingredients or steps to follow. 2-3 ingredients and heat, stir, pour, incubate. That’s it.

I haven’t done it in a while – since we went off “real”/cow’s milk. (I haven’t tried it with the alternative milks yet. Soy milk* is said to work well. Update: I’ve now made raw goat’s milk yogurt. Click for instructions.) I had an individual yogurt maker in the past and for several years used the yogurt making kit that goes with my dehydrator. (It’s time to pull it out and try our own soy yogurt.)

If you don’t have a yogurt maker and want to make yogurt, here are some other sources you can use to hold the right temp. I’ve used them all in the past when I didn’t have a maker.

You need:

Milk (raw, store bought, powdered milk mixed to proper proportions, or soy) about 4 cups (but you can make as much or little as you want.) Heat, in a heavy saucepan over low heat, to a bit under a boil. (Be careful not to scorch it!) Then cool to 115°. My old candy thermometer didn’t go low enough, my new one does. I’ve used a fish aquarium floating thermometer for this and my sourdoughs.

Optional, for “thickening power”. Homemade yogurt is sometimes a little thinner than store bought, more like European yogurt. –

Powdered Milk. You can add extra powdered milk for a firmer yogurt – either regular powdered milk, or soy. I’ve heard that with the “other” starter, linked below, you don’t need to add this. If you do add it, add 1/2 – 1 c. per 1 qt. of milk before heating milk.

Or agar agar powder – dissolve 1 tsp in 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil (watch closely) add to milk.

Live Yogurt Cultures. Stir into the milk AFTER it has cooled to 115° or you’ll kill them! –

From either a Yogurt Starter – I’ve used Yogourmet, I’ve heard of another one that is good for a thicker yogurt. Use the amount listed on the package.

Or from Plain Yogurt with *live, active* cultures. Use 2-4 Tbl. plain yogurt for 1 qt. of milk.

Pour yogurt mixture into perfectly clean containers. (A good way is to pour boiling water into washed and rinsed containers, then empty them.) Small glass jelly jars make a good individual size, or pint or quart jars are fine. My yogurt maker came with small plastic containers with lids.

Incubate – You want a steady temp of 95-115°. Use your thermometer to check that it maintains this temp.

It will take anywhere from 3-9 or so hours for your yogurt to set up. Test it by tilting the jar a bit. Refrigerate as soon as it is set.

Here are some ways you can incubate your yogurt without a yogurt maker:

Pour milk/culture mixture that’s at 115° (or just slightly lower) into an insulated thermos and wrap with a thick towel.

Or place a folded towel on top of a heating pad turned onto low and place yogurt containers on top of it and cover with another towel. Or put containers in a covered box on top of the heating pad.

Or in a box (or styrofoam cooler) with a small light bulb in it. ( I built one of these – cooler with light bulb – for my sourdoughs.)

Or in a gas oven (turned off) with a pilot light.

Or in a ceramic crock, wrapped in a blanket, or placed in an insulated cooler.

Or place containers in a water bath in an electric skillet or slow cooker/crock pot on low. If you do this be sure to test it out with a thermometer in a jar of water (instead of yogurt) to make sure it holds the correct temperature over that length of time. I have not found newer crock pots to hold the proper temp. My newer one, on keep warm setting, still needed the lid off to maintain a temp of 115-120. Also water (of proper temp) needed to be added several times, since it evaporates with the lid off.

Or any other place you can keep a steady proper temp. This is the key thing, find a place that you can test out to make sure it holds the required temp steadily.

My fave place in my dehydrator that has a thermostat control. I can set it at 105-110° and know it is going to stay right there the whole time. But I’ve also had good results with a heating pad on low with a thick (double layer) towel between it and the jars and another towel thrown over it all.

What can you do with your yogurt? (Stir in any additions after the yogurt has incubated.)

You can eat it plain.

You can sweeten or flavor it – with fresh fruit, or fruit only spreads, or honey or agave nectar or vanilla or maple syrup, etc.

You can make awesome smoothies with it and fresh or frozen fruit.

You can make “ice cream” (frozen yogurt) with it.

You can use it in place of buttermilk in recipes. Just stir it to thin it a bit.

You can use it in breads – especially good in sourdough types.

You can use it in place of sour cream or even creme cheese. Put it in cheesecloth and pull up the corners of the cloth and hang over a bowl or the sink to drain/drip overnight. This will make a thicker yogurt, perfect as a substitute for either of these, depending on how thick you get it. Use this on baked potatoes, in dips and dressings, and other recipes.

*Note: Homemade soy milk will need a “sugar” of some type added to it for the culture to feed off of in order to set up. Honey and maple syrup won’t work. (Since I haven’t made this yet, I’m not sure yet what I will use.)

(See update on Making Soy Yogurt)


Want more help for yogurt making? Get our dirt-cheap Freedom & Simplicity™ Guide to Yogurt Making.

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Lisa’s Homemade Tomato Soup

This recipe fits under the “comfort foods” category. It isn’t a living food, It isn’t a junk food. It’s just part of the 15-25% cooked, wholefoods category that can be included, if we are relatively healthy, for our “comfort” if we so desire. It’s a Soup again. We serve this with a large raw veggie tray, and usually a few homemade or whole wheat Good for You ingredients graham crackers.

Anyhow, here’s our recipe:

1 qt. tomato juice (if using canned, make sure there are no other ingredients.)

Heat 3 cups, reserve 1 cup in a shaker.

In the shaker add with the 1 cup tomato juice, and shake well:

1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. honey
1/2 t. salt

When tomato juice in the pan comes to a boil, whisk in the contents of the shaker. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring often.

Optional: Stir in 1 Tbl. real butter.


If you have 48 oz. canned tomato juice, just increase the other ingredient by half. (3/8 c. flour and honey, 3/4 t. salt, 1.5 Tbl. butter)



Cough Syrup?

I just heard the latest. “They” are now saying, “Don’t give your children cough syrup.” Hmm, haven’t I been saying such things for years? But I’m sure my reasonings are not the same as theirs, nor my solutions.

Oct. 11, ’07 – “the voluntary withdrawal of oral infant cough and cold medications from store shelves.” Oct. 18-19, ’07 – An advisory committee “voted to recommend to FDA that cough and cold active ingredients should no longer be available for use in children under six-years-old.”

Anyhow, the news didn’t affect me in the least. I haven’t bought or given my children OTC cough syrup for decades. But I thought if any of you did, you might want to know my grandma’s recipe. She wasn’t a big herbalist or anything, so there’s nothing unusual in this recipe. It’s easy enough for anyone to get the ingredients and anyone to make.

My mom was raised on it herself, and used it for her 7 children. She found it especially helpful for my older sister who has bad asthma that the doctors didn’t diagnose right away back then. And I’ve used for our 10 children when we’ve needed it.

It’s onion syrup, and it does a great job of cutting through the phlem and soothing the cough. This weekend, after a night at Chuck E Cheese’s while we are on the road, a couple of my children started coughing at grandma’s house. She pulled out the onion and started chopping. Here’s how.

Slice one large onion into a stainless steel sauce pan. Cover with raw honey – a cup or more. Put the lid on the pan and heat on a very low burner. Stir occasionally. How long? Hmm, good qustion. Until it’s done? The honey will turn to the thin liquid. The onions will get limp and transparent – and the fragrance will fill the house. I figure the aroma begins the healing benefits before you even consume the syrup. Anyhow, a couple hours maybe? Maybe less, maybe more. Let it cool enough to take. Take a couple tablespoons full. You can keep it in a sealed container – glass jar with lid or Tupperware. If you won’t use it all up right away, you can store it in the refrigerator as is, or you can strain the onions out an keep in the cupboard for a while. Especially if you refrigerate, reheat gently, until a warm thin syrup, before taking each time. You may be able to heat it enough just by putting the container in hot water. If you don’t refrigerate and don’t have time to rewarm it each time, just use as is.

At home I generally will add fresh lemon juice too, either to the batch after it is cooled or just to the individual dose. When we aren’t able to cook the onion syrup, or if we’re dealing with a sore throat and not cough, we just mix raw honey and fresh lemon juice. If even that can’t be done, if we’re somewhere else, I just take a spoonful of honey and add a drop or two of therapeutic-grade Lemon Essential Oil.

I hope you find these beneficial real foods helpful when your family needs a health boost.

Lisa’s Simple Potato Soup

I promised a Corn Chowder recipe about a month ago – ouch! – but I still haven’t found where the children hid the recipe card so here’s Potato Soup instead, for now. This can be made on the stove or in a crock pot.

Simmer in water to cover until soft:

3-4# diced potatoes
2-4 stalks chopped celery
1/2 diced onion
(optional: 2-4 Tb. “BacUn’s” dried bacon bit substitute)

If needed, drain off any excess water, so it just barely covers the vegetables.

Blend, until fairly smooth, 1-2 c. of the cooked potatoes/ vegetable mix with:

2 c. not milk (homemade Almond Milk)
1/2 stick butter

Return blended mixture to the pot. Reheat if necessary.