I didn’t attempt to make my own yoghurt until I had our son, T. We always had some in our fridge, but I guess it never occurred to me that it would be worth the effort to make my own. Prompted by a desire to minimize T’s exposure to additives as he started on his first solids, I tried a recipe I found in a baby food cookbook that was unfortunately a dismal failure. But Google, combined with a mother’s obsessive compulsion can be a powerful thing. The outcome: the unearthing of a recipe from Harold McGee—master of culinary science and precision. A version of it (see below) now resides in my mobile phone.
In addition to the assurance that T gets yoghurt free of sugar and other additives, homemade yoghurt simply tastes better. For one, it’s not mouth-puckeringly tart. And you can control flavour through your choice of milk and starter. When I can, I use organic whole milk and T’s favourite baby yoghurt as a starter. He enjoys his yoghurt with fruit. When he was much younger, he would have it with cinnamon-apple or dried apricot puree. Now he has it with bananas, blueberries, apples, persimmon or whichever fruit of the moment he happens to be obsessed with. It has also made its way into our cake batters, salad dressings and marinades.
When we can afford the wait, I make Greek-style yoghurt by draining regular homemade yoghurt. It has the texture of sour cream and a delicate acidity, which can be quite addictive. But most times, I include the ingredients listed in red below and make a deliciously creamy yoghurt that doesn’t need additional draining to thicken. I now can’t imagine not having a jar of the homemade stuff in the fridge at all times.
Adapted from Harold McGee’s recipe in The New York Times and Michael Ruhlman’s. The text in red gives you the option of creating a thicker yoghurt without having to strain it in the Greek style.
Makes about 450ml regular yoghurt or 500ml thick yoghurt (if you use the ingredients in red)
3 tbs milk powder (I use organic non-fat)
pinch of salt (optional)
450ml milk (I use organic whole milk)
2 tbs yoghurt
Whisk the milk powder and salt, if using, into the milk. I find that it is much easier to whisk the milk powder in when the milk is still cold. Heat the milk to 90° Celsius. It will start steaming and bubbles will be forming at its surface. Pour it into a clean, sterilized glass jar. Let the milk cool to around 50° Celsius, somewhere between very warm and hot. Standing the jar in a large bowl filled with tap water will hasten the cooling process.
Meanwhile, fill a glass measuring jug with 1 litre of water. Microwave at 1000W for 5 min. Whisk the yoghurt into the cooled milk, cover the jar, swaddle it in a tea towel held in place with a rubber band or two, then place it inside the microwave, next to the jug of hot water. If your microwave is too small to accommodate both, you can try placing the jug of hot water and jar of yoghurt in your oven, insulated cooler or some other enclosed space that is likely to keep your yoghurt warm for a couple of hours.
Alternatively, I whisk the yoghurt into the cooled milk and divide the liquid between two 250ml capacity stainless steel thermal food jars and forget the whole swaddling and microwaved jug of water thing. I only use these food jars for making yoghurt and nothing else. And I spray them with my homemade alcohol wipe just before using them.
Leave the liquid undisturbed for 4-5 hours. Once the yoghurt is set, remove the tea towel (or if using thermal jars, remove lids and cover with cling wrap). Refrigerate the yoghurt for a couple of hours before you use it. (Since we have it for breakfast, it usually sits overnight in our household.) When I use the thermal jars, I let the yoghurt cool in the refrigerator for a couple of hours then transfer them into sterilised glass containers.
If you’ve omitted the ingredients in red but want to make Greek-style yoghurt, line a sieve set over a bowl with muslin or cheesecloth. Transfer the refrigerated yoghurt onto the muslin. Leave the yoghurt to strain in the refrigerator for a few hours (the longer it strains for, the richer it tastes and the less yoghurt you end up with). Place the significantly creamier yoghurt into a sterilised jar.