Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

A gallon of yogurt for the price of a gallon of milk

Everyone knows that yogurt is a healthy food choice (I'm talking natural, live yogurt, free of sugars and additives). Most people also know that it's very easy to make yourself. It's so easy, in fact, that a lot of people already know how to make it, and this blog post is probably little more than an exercise in redundancy for many readers. But making yogurt is an activity that I'm doing on a pretty regular basis, like making bread, and I thought there might be a few folks who read my stuff who haven't made yogurt but would like to give it a whirl.

One of the perks of making your own yogurt is that you can make a gallon of the stuff literally for the price of a gallon of milk, after the first batch. A large (I think they're quart-size) container of store-bought plain yogurt costs around $5, depending on the brand. If you make a gallon you end up with 4 quarts for the price of one, or even less, depending on what you pay for a gallon of milk. 

Here's what you'll need:

  • candy thermometer (cost around $7, but you also might find one for a buck at a resale shop like St. Vinnies or Goodwill).
  • kettle large enough to heat a gallon of milk (of course you can make smaller batches, but I make a gallon at a time, once every week or two).
  • rubber spatula to stir with.
  • containers to keep the yogurt in your refrigerator.
  • heat source that will incubate your yogurt at 100° F. 
  • gallon of milk (I use organic whole milk, but pretty much any milk will do, although you may have some issues if you use skim milk).
  • yogurt with live, active cultures to use as a starter (the container will tell you if it has live, active cultures. This is the only yogurt you'll need to purchase from a store. After this you'll be able to use the yogurt you've made as a starter for the next batch.).


1. Clean and sterilize all of your equipment and utensils. Add the milk to the kettle and slowly bring the heat up, periodically stirring/scraping the bottom to avoid burning or scalding the milk. You're aiming for 185°.

2. Again, 185° F is your target.

3. As soon as you hit 185° place the kettle in a sink of cold water and ice, and bring the milk down to 110°.

4. Once you hit 110° add 1 cup of the active culture yogurt (2 tbl per quart) and gently stir to mix.

5. Transfer the milk/yogurt mixture to containers that will be okay to heat to 100° for several hours. I use plastic freezer storage containers or glass canning jars.

6. Place the milk/yogurt-filled containers in something that will safely heat them to around 100° for 7 to 10 hours. An oven will work if you can regulate the heat low enough not to melt plastic if that's what you're using. I use an old electric blanket set on high. I probably didn't reach 100° but I fold it four times and wrap it around and over the containers, let them incubate for about 10 hours and it comes out fine.

7. After 7 hours or so, check the yogurt to see if it's set up. If not, let it incubate longer. As I said, mine takes 10 hours buried in an electric blanket. When it looks like yogurt, just refrigerate it and that's it...badaboom badabing, it's ready to eat. Add fruit or jam if you want to sweeten it up. Also, if you prefer the texture of Greek yogurt you can get it by simply draining the yogurt in a couple layers of cheesecloth to get rid of the whey. 

* Forgive the shoddy, grainy photography on this post. Had some technical issues with the camera to overcome.

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