Friday, February 12, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

I love yogurt. And there's not a better known or more trusted brand for all your yogurt needs than Yoplait.

mmm. And fat free, so it MUST be healthy!

But let's turn that yogurt cup around and see what the back says. Are we going to read the Nutrition Facts? Nope, we're going to read the ingredients, which in my opinion, are way more important.

In case you can't quite make them out off the cup:
Cultured pasteurized grade A nonfat milk, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, nonfat milk, kosher gelatin, lime juice concentrate, citric acid, tricalcium phosphate, aspartame, potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness, natural flavor, yellow #5, vitamin A acetate, blue #1, vitamin D3.

What?? I thought yogurt was just milk! Let's break these ingredients down a little. On any food label, ingredients are listed in order of greatest quantity to least quantity. So it's at least good that there's more milk than anything else in this yogurt! Let's move on to High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). There are two "HI's" to always stay away from, and HFCS is one of them (the other is hydrogenated oil). HFCS is the primary sweetener used in almost all commercially processed and boxed foods. It is linked with increased risk of diabetes and obesity, and is generally a controversial ingredient. So why use it? Because it is CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP! Apparently the tariff on imported sugar (which is regulated by the government) is outrageous, and the government gives $40 billion in subsidies to corn farmers, making HFCS very affordable for U.S. food manufacturers. Have you seen those commercials marketing HFCS as "natural"? Guess who pays for them... the Corn Refiners Association. I encourage you to read the entire article on HFCS from, and decide for yourself.
Onto modified corn starch. MCS is a food additive usually used as a thickener. The problem with HFCS and MCS is that they are not foods in their original state. They have been undergone enzymatic or genetic alteration, making them inorganic substances, instead of food in it's natural state as it was intended to be eaten. Here's an article on Modified Starch.

Tricalcium phosphate can occur naturally in cow's milk, or it can be added as a raising agent.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener.
Potassium Sorbate is a preservative.
Yellow #5 and Blue #1 are artificial food colorings.

It seems that there could be more harm than good in this little cup... which is why I say "no way" to Yoplait. But then where should we get our yogurt? There a few natural and organic brands to be found at your local grocery store. I can usually get a cup of natural yogurt for 50 cents on sale, which is about the same price as Yoplait or any other commercial brand.

Recently, however, I tried making my own yogurt! It took me three tries, but I finally mastered the recipe and I'm excited to share it. There are many benefits to making your own yogurt, the main ones being that it's cheaper (the cost of a half gallon of milk for a whole batch), it doesn't have anything in it except milk and "starter," and the taste and texture are FAR superior to store bought!

Here's the recipe:

Homemade Plain Yogurt
8 Cups (1/2 gallon) Pasteurized Milk (not ultra-pasteurized!)
1 Cup live/active culture plain natural or organic yogurt (this is your starter; I used Greek yogurt because it's thicker)
3 Qt or larger Crock-Pot
Large thick beach towel

The milk will not culture if you use ultra-pasteurized milk because too much of the "good bacteria" is killed off in the process of ultra-pasteurization or homogenization.

1) Turn crock pot on low.
2) Add milk; cover & cook on low for 3 hours.
3) Unplug crock-pot. Keep lid on, and completely wrap crock-pot in large, thick beach towel, for insulation, and let sit for 4 hours.
4) At the end of 4 hours, in a small bowl, whisk 1c active culture plain yogurt (to use as your yogurt starter) with 1-2c of the milk from the crock-pot. Return it to the crock-pot, stirring gently to mix.
5) Keeping crock pot unplugged, completely re-wrap in heavy beach towel.
6) Allow to sit for 12 hours.
7) Yogurt will have thickened. Don't be alarmed when you see a watery looking glob in your crock pot. You're not done yet! You need to separate the watery whey from the actual yogurt. Line a strainer with a thin dish towel or piece of muslin. Place the strainer over a bowl and slowly pour the yogurt into the strainer. Let sit for 1-3 hours, depending on how thick you want your yogurt. The whey will drain into the bowl, leaving delicious yogurt in your strainer!
8) When they whey stops dripping through, I gathered the dish towel by the ends and gently squeezed out the rest of the whey. My yogurt turned out very thick after doing this, a little softer than cream cheese. This is an optional step.
9)Then run the drained yogurt through the blender to make it creamier.
10) Serve with favorite fresh or dried fruits, honey, or jam/preserves, adding unrefined sugar if you choose.
11) In a non-reactive container (non-metal), set aside 1c as your starter for your next batch.
11) Store in covered container and refrigerate. Will stay fresh for 7-10 days.

Yields: About 4 Cups yogurt, depending on how much whey you allow to drain out.

Delicious, fresh, no nonsense yogurt! I added apples, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar to this batch, but the possibilities are endless!


  1. Tasha, thanks for posting this! I sooo want to try. Thanks for discussing all the GM stuff that goes into "regular" yogurt (or other food in general). I've recently been learning much more about that stuff by reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and discussing my findings with others. So, thanks for the recipe!

  2. No problem, Kristina! Glad it was helpful. I haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but I'll have to check it out!

  3. I am making this tomorrow, so excited! We love yogurt and it's expensive to buy organic all the time. I bought whole milk to make it. What did you use? I thought the thicker the better, but wasn't sure. Love that I can have all this for just the price of a 1/2 gallon organic milk, that's the price of one pint of yogurt in the store!


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