Perfect homemade yogurt, every time

Perfect homemade yogurt, every time

I’ve been making my own yogurt for a couple of years now, since reading a post on making yogurt in a slow cooker. It worked great the first time, but subsequent attempts were hit or miss. Sometimes I got thick, beautiful yogurt and sometimes I got runny, thin yogurt and sometimes I got scary cheese. Feeling quite demoralized, I gave up and bought Nancy’s.

Then I started reading more about the benefits of raw milk. Even though I balked at the high price tag ($10 for a gallon!*), I firmly believe that fresh food is the healthiest food. I also became leery of the powdered milk that Nancy’s uses to thicken its yogurt. The GAPS diet mandates homemade, raw milk yogurt for this reason.

I contemplated buying a fancy yogurt maker, but decided I had enough ingenuity to figure something out using only some towels and a heating pad. If you prefer a nice looking appliance to a pile of towels with a cord sticking out on your counter, I do recommend the yogurt maker.

I think I’ve done it. Easy, fool-proof, made in glass (no hormone-leaching plastic or lead-leaching glazed stoneware) yogurt. Every time.

A note on starter culture: you can either buy starter culture and follow their usage instructions or use a tablespoon of plain live culture yogurt (Nancy’s works well) per half gallon. I just use Nancy’s that I buy at my local grocery store.

Raw milk
Quart or half gallon mason jars
1 T plain, live culture yogurt per half gallon

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium to between 105 & 115 degrees F. This usually takes around 10 minutes for 1/2 gallon of milk.
  2. While the milk is heating, find two large, clean bath towels, a hand towel, and a heating pad.
  3. Lay one bath towel on the counter (or some place it can sit undisturbed for 24 hours) and set your jars on it. Plug in your heating pad and set to “Medium”.
  4. When the milk is ready, pour a ladle full of milk into a small bowl and add your starter yogurt. Whisk well. This is called “inoculation.”
  5. Pour the heated milk into your mason jars. Distribute the inoculated milk evenly to each of your jars.
  6. Wrap the jars loosely in the hand towel, wrap the heating pad around that, and bring the ends of the bath towel up and over all of that.
  7. Take the second bath towel and wrap it around and over the top of all of that.
  8. Let this whole thing sit UNDISTURBED for 24 hours. (I’m serious. Don’t touch it.)
  9. Homemade yogurt drainer - coffee filters in a sieve.

    Homemade yogurt drainer - coffee filters in a sieve.

    Raw milk yogurt is very thin; it has an enzyme that prevents the yogurt from thickening too much. You have a choice if you want thicker yogurt: you can either heat the milk to 165 degrees in step 1 and then let it cool to 105-115 degrees or you can drain it using coffee filters or butter muslin and a fine mesh colander. I prefer draining because then you’ve kept your raw milk truly raw.

*I now obtain milk for a much better price through a small, local farm.

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Probiotic Food Challenge, Full Plate Thursday!

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20 comments to Yogurt

  • Jennifer Reyna

    I make yogurt with half and half and it is so thick and yummy!

  • Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. Your yogurt looks great! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!


  • This is really good 🙂 🙂 I’m working on a batch of fresh, homemade yogurt with raw milk right now 🙂 🙂

    Now I”m curious about why you heated your raw milk? The reason I ask is the GAPS cooking DVD says that for raw milk only, you do not have to heat it. Otherwise, you do have to use a yogurt starter, whether it is plain yogurt or a yogurt starter. I’ll have to watch it again, to remember why they recommend that.

    Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

    • Mama

      We heat it to 110 because that’s the temperature that the yogurt needs to incubate at. Heating up to 165 pasturizes it so that only your starter cultures take hold and you get a more predictable result.

  • You can get cultures that incubate at room temp between 70-80F which don’t require heating. I’ve made lovely raw milk yogurt with them.

    • Mama

      We’ve heard about those but haven’t tried them. Room temperature in our house is definitely below 70-80! What kind of flavor and texture does your yogurt end up with?

  • Michelle

    WHERE do you get raw milk for less than $10/ gallon in Portland? I pay $12!

    • Our milk comes from a very small operation outside of Oregon City. Generally speaking, if you want to find milk for less than $10/gallon, you’re going to have to drive to pick it up outside of town to the farm. These are called “farm gate” sales, they are perfectly legal, and you can find them on Craigslist. We share the driving with two other families.

      There’s also C’est Naturelle, who delivers to several drop sites throughout the metro area and Pokrov Farm. I’m fairly certain they both charge $10/gallon.

  • (you can drain it using coffee filters or butter muslin and a fine mesh colander) I would like to know what you do with the milk that you drain off to make the yogurt thicker?
    I love greek style yogurt and eat so much of it that I would love to start making it myself to save some money.


  • Sigh… I wish I could find a raw milk supplier. This yogurt looks divine!

  • Nellie Dow

    I am starting GAPS on Sunday, I don’t have a source for raw milk and I am a student so I have limited resources. Is it alright to start out by using store bought organic probiotic yogourt such as Nancy’s? if it is alright at what stage should i introduce it?
    thank you

  • I just love homemade yogurt. This is a great post with very good information. Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  • abbey

    Regarding viili and filmjolk yogurt cultures (initially purchased on-line) on the countertop of my 65-degree kitchen:

    I put cold, raw milk straight from the fridge into a jar of just emptied cold yogurt with enough in the jar to inoculate the next batch. Since I am fighting cold temperatures for countertop culturing, I put the lightly covered jar in the oven with the oven light on overnight. I move it to a high shelf the next morning and let it keep doing it’s thing for the rest of the day.

    This process has consistently turned out creamy yogurt every time. I fussed with yogurt making for months and nearly gave up twice before I finally got over it, got these cultures and let mother nature have her way.

  • Trish Carty

    No need to heat raw milk only pasturized milk needs heating! Abbey great response!

    • The heating is only to 110F… the temperature at which the cultures we are using incubate. It doesn’t take off if you don’t the refrigerated milk. Heating for pasteurization is to higher temperatures (165 F, although I’m sure many of the beneficials die at lower temperatures). You can buy cultures that culture at lower temperatures than 110F at Cultures for Health.

      While Dr. Natasha says on page 217 of the GAPS book:

      If you are using raw organic milk, which has not been pasteurised or processed in any other way, you don’t need to heat it [to 180F as she mentions earlier], so you can just skip this step.

      On the next page, she says:

      …cover with the lid and put in a warm place at 40-45 C (105-113F)

      Since our method does not use a yogurt maker that would heat the milk to this temperature, we need to do that on the stove. Then we use the heating pad (others use crock pots and oven pilot lights) to keep it at this optimum temperature.

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