Pantry Basics: Homemade Yoghurt

Posted on July 20, 2012 by S

Homemade Yoghurt with Persimmon

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.

About Su-Lyn Tan

Su-Lyn is Aun's better half and for many years, the secret Editor behind this blog known to readers simply as S. Su-Lyn is an obsessive cook and critical eater whose two favourite pastimes are spending time with her son and spending time in the kitchen. She looks forward to combining the two in the years to come.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Robin July 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

    > 1 tbs yoghurt

    Do you have any recommendations on which locally available brands work best as a starter culture or should I go knocking on the door of one of my Indian neighbors?

    Thanks!

    • S July 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Dear Robin, funny that you should ask about knocking on the door of your Indian neighbour. My baby food book literally instructed me to do that! I’ve read that your yoghurt will basically taste like the yoghurt starter you use. I prefer Barambah Organics, which I get at SuperNature, for its subtle acidity. I have also used organic ones I’ve purchased at Cold Storage. Generally, when I use the full fat organic yoghurts, the yoghurt I end up with is a little gloopy (since there are no stabilisers in homemade yoghurt), so straining it for a Greek style yoghurt works out better. But Harold McGee recommends “one of the ubiquitous global brands, sweeteners and stabilizers included. They tend to have very active bacterial cultures, including EPS producers, and the additives end up diluted to insignificant levels.” I suggest just checking that they have live cultures and try a few different brands until you find one you love.

      • skipper July 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        We use Farmer’s Union Greek style yoghurt for the starter. To make the yoghurt thicker, add in additional milk powder to the milk and a little salt. The yoghurt will turn out a lot thicker, almost like tofu, almost like Greek style yoghurt. We have experimented making yoghurt for more than 10 years.

        • S July 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm

          Dear Skipper
          Thanks for the tip! How much milk powder would you add to 500ml of milk, please? And would just a pinch of salt suffice? I look forward to trying this out.

          • skipper July 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

            Dear S,

            We usually use 1 liter portions of UHT TetraPak milk (no need to heat compared to fresh milk).
            For added calcium, we add about 5 tbsp of Anlene Gold milk powder and one teaspoon of salt. Somehow the salt helps to thicken the yoghurt from our experience and it is also not so sour.

            You may need to experiment, since we use a yoghurt maker where the tub for the yoghurt is immersed in boiling water in an insulated container, as our method is different from yours. The yoghurt mixture is left overnight to form.

            Also yoghurt made with low fat milk doesn’t turn out as well as full cream milk and of course taste wise, full cream milk is richer in taste. Hope the info is helpful.

          • skipper July 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

            Dear S,

            Apologies. Looks like I was behind time. My wife says for 1L milk, add 4 tbsp milk powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Apparently, too much milk powder makes it difficult to stir and dissolve the milk powder and too much salt makes the yoghurt gooey. Perhaps you should reduce the proportions slightly initially and increase it slightly later.

  2. Livvy July 20, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I have always wanted to try homemade yogurt; but thought Singapore’s humidity would affect the yogurt’s taste. I would love to try this recipe, just need to find some cheesecloth/muslin. May I know if you have any suggestions on where to go about getting some? :)

    • S July 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Dear Livvy, I actually use clean, unused baby cloth diapers. They work just as well as muslin and are a little easier to find. I know that they have them at Mothercare, but you should check out the baby sections in major department stores.

  3. Niki July 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I started making my own yogurt while living in China, and finding plain yogurt was difficult. I bought an inexpensive yogurt machine so it’s even easier – pour in a litre of milk (I prefer skim milk) and a scoop of yogurt, plug it in and leave it for 8 hours. I usually start with greek yogurt the first time but then I save a bit of my own yogurt each time to start the next batch. If I want to strain it I just line a sieve with a coffee filter. However I usually find it thickens up nicely after refrigerating. I make fresh fruit smoothies using the yogurt every day for my family for breakfast.

    • S July 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      Dear Niki, thanks for the coffee filter tip! It’s a much easier way to drain yoghurt. I’ll try it out.

      Yes, a yoghurt maker makes things infinitely simpler. I just didn’t want to commit scarce kitchen real estate to yet another single use machine :) Hence, the convoluted method here.

      I use whole milk because babies (the lucky things) need the fat. But I do confess that I generally prefer the taste of whole milk yoghurt over low fat (even though I certainly don’t need the fat). But I must now attempt, as you suggest, a Greek-style yoghurt using skim milk. It may be the perfect compromise.

  4. Meister @ The Nervous Cook July 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    This is the simplest and least-intimidating set of instructions I’ve seen for making yogurt! I just started myself, and though my first batch could use some improving, I think I’m hooked…

    Thank you for making it seem so much more approachable. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of walking-through.

    • S July 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Dear Meister, thank you for stopping by. As with most things, all it takes is a little practice and some experimentation :) It is useful to use a thermometer until you can spot the visual clues that tell you that you’ve reached the right temperature. And there are so many variables. While it takes 5 hours for me, it may take longer for you.

  5. Esther July 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Cant wait to try this, i hv been wanting to make my own yogurt for a long time. Thanks for sharing this. Just to check with you, can i leave the yogurt in the microwave longer than 5 hours? Say if i make this about 9pm at night, is it ok to leave it in the microwave till the next morning at 7am? I live in KL, so am a bit worried if the humidity or warm temperature will affect the process. Also, how long will this last in the fridge?

    Thanks!

    • S July 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Dear Esther, the longer the yoghurt sits, the more sour it gets. I know people let it sit for up to 8 hours or so. I haven’t let it sit for as long as you’ve suggested, so I don’t know how it will turn out. You can always try. I usually keep mine in the fridge for about 4 days or so (sometimes longer).

  6. S July 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Dear Skipper,
    Thank you so much for your advice! For 500ml of whole milk, I tried 2 tbsp yoghurt and 3 tbsp milk powder. Turned out quite nice. I will experiment and update this post.

    • skipper July 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      Dear S,

      Glad that it turned out well. Actually, my wife makes the yoghurt and I am more of a bystander but we do discuss the processes and how to improve them. I concentrate more on the heavy stuff like mains and desserts.

      • S July 27, 2012 at 10:49 am

        Dear Skipper, it’s always fun when both partners enjoy spending time in the kitchen :) Thank you for generously sharing your tips.

        • skipper July 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm

          Dear S,

          I am only reciprocating what you guys have been doing for the rest of us all this while. What fun is there in cooking if you don’t share ? Same goes for drinking wine.

          • S July 31, 2012 at 8:22 pm

            Dear Skipper, it’s meeting readers like yourself who enjoy sharing that makes blogging so rewarding :)

          • skipper August 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

            Dear S,

            Those who can, should do. Those who can’t, should support those who can do.

  7. S August 2, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Dear Skipper, haha. I look forward to more of your tips!

  8. w. August 4, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Hmm. You guys have a Sous Vide Supreme, right? Would that work as a substitute yoghurt machine, instead of hot-water-in-a-Pyrex-jug-in-the-microwave? (My microwave is ridiculously small, and I think if I fit 1L of hot water in it I would no longer have space for the yoghurt!)

    • w. August 4, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Oops, my bad! Just clicked the link to Ruhlman’s post and realised that’s exactly what he suggested doing. :)

      • S August 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        Hi w.
        Do let us know if you like the sous vide method :) I must also clarify that while I use the microwave to hold the yoghurt at a suitably warm temperature, you can also do the same thing in the oven or an insulated cooler.

  9. Robin August 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I just thought I’d check back in and let you know how it turned out: spectacular.

    I cannot believe I wasted money on a yogurt machine when it is this easy. I used the farmer’s union greek as a starter and Meiji whole milk. You are right, I have been getting batches of essentially farmer’s union greek ever since. I don’t even find I need to strain it – it is quite thick. There is very little whey and what I have skimmed off I’ve used quite successfully to make lacto-fermented sauerkraut.

    I am at about the 6th generation of yogurt now with no drop off in quality. I am now quite keen to try other yogurts to explore different tastes. Thanks for the post. I still cannot get over what wonderful results I’ve had.

    • S August 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Dear Robin
      I am so thrilled! Out of curiosity, is sauerkraut difficult to make? I haven’t explored the possibilities out there for using the whey. I generally drink it :)

      • Robin August 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        It requires a bit of elbow grease but is otherwise quite easy and tasty. I used the recipe from Nourishing Traditions which you can find here: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/homemadekraut.htm

        I’ve become a fermentation nut lately and not only have yogurt but always have a batches of Kombucha and Kefir going. If you ever want to give either of those a go, I would be happy to pass you some starter culture.

        • S August 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

          Dear Robin
          Thank you so much! I will research kefir recipes and may take you up on your kind offer.

  10. Nicky October 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Dear Su-Lyn,

    I tried coconut yogurt for the first time when I went back home in Sydney. It was so delicious. I googled to see if I can buy them here in Singapore but no luck. Have you tried making coconut yogurt? My naturopath was raving about it so I tried it first time and I couldn’t stop!!!

    • S October 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Nicky, no, i haven’t. But now my curiosity is piqued. Do you use fresh coconut milk? What’s your favourite recipe?

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