Now I know that the title of this blog post is a lot more excited than a rational person should be about having made some yoghurt at home. After all, plenty of people do it all the time. But somehow whenever I tried, something or other had gone wrong and I ended up with something not quite the same as yoghurt. Let me walk you through my failed experiments.
1. Nothing much happened…
I don’t recall whether I actually followed a recipe or not, but my first try, many months or years ago may have come from the reasoning that, yoghurt is just milk changed by bacteria. So let’s just mix some milk with some yoghurt and see what happens.
Nothing happened. Even after keeping the mixture in the airing cupboard which does get cosy and warm whenever the heating is on. I ended up with just very watery sour smelling stuff that didn’t make me want to eat it for breakfast. Still it didn’t smell all that bad so I cooked with it and nobody got ill.
Cause of failure: I didn’t heat the milk. The bacteria never got a warm enough environment to do their work and thus the yoghurt never set.
Or: The yoghurt used as a starter didn’t have live bacteria in it. Unless the yoghurt you use is labelled to contain “live/active cultures”, “live bacteria” or is “probiotic”, don’t bother with it. It’s not going to make milk into yoghurt.
Or: You heated the milk, and added your starter yoghurt when it was still too hot and thus killed all the bacteria. A good guideline would be to make it comfortable to touch. I’m not a clean-freak so I tend to test the milk temperature by dipping my finger in it. (Don’t worry, I do wash my hands before doing that)
My second try, a few weeks ago did cause a change to be seen in the milk/yoghurt mixture! As I opened the containers of yoghurt and tilted them, the result looked promising indeed! The yoghurt seemed to have set! However as I tried to take a spoonful out I quickly noticed that something was wrong. Rather than breaking up, the “yoghurt” sort of held together in until it tore off the spoon in rather gelatinous globs. I had created Yoghurt slime.
Once again, this sort of texture didn’t inspire me to eat it. Although it smelled yoghurt-like and not offputting, so I finally forced myself to try a little bit. The gooey texture was obvious even in the smallest drop of it. It was simply hideous and I knew I had failed once again.
Cause of failure: After some online research I came to the conclusion that although I had heated the milk beforehand, I didn’t heat it enough. Apparently the protein in the milk causes long strands to be formed when the yoghurt sets, which makes the texture slimy. To counter this you have to boil the milk first to break up the proteins that cause this phenomenon, then cool it down to a cosy, lukewarm temperature before adding your starter yoghurt.
3. It’s liquid and smells rank
My third try at yoghurt making failed as well I’m sad to say. I boiled the milk properly, cooled it down, put the starter yoghurt, and checked after keeping it in the airing cupboard over night. It was liquid. So I decided to give it more time in a warm oven (heat at whatever the lowest temperature is, until it feels cosy when you stick your hand in the oven. Then put the yoghurt in there).
After a few more hours I decided that I couldn’t possibly justify keeping it in there any longer and put it in the fridge. It was still liquid. A day later I decided even if it’s liquid, I might as well try it and use it for cooking and when I opened it, it smelled bad and along the sides the white yoghurt was showing a tint of orange / yellow. I threw it away.
Cause of failure: Much like the first experiment, I don’t think it got warm enough to set. And then putting it in a warm oven just caused it to go bad. It could also be that the container wasn’t fully clean.
Now, you may wonder what I did to actually succeed in the end?
Making your own Yoghurt
Milk (the more fat in the milk, the creamier the yoghurt gets supposedly. I used whole milk)
Yoghurt (the type that’s still live/active/probiotic!)
In a large pan, boil the milk until it froths up. Turn off the heat and let it cool down until it’s warm to the touch. Like a nice, warm shower (whatever you do, it shouldn’t be stinging type hot). If (like me) you forgot about the milk on the stove, heat it back up again until it’s nice and warm.
Mix in about two heaped table spoons of yoghurt to around 2 pints of milk. I don’t know if this is the scientifically correct ratio, but it worked for me.
After it’s properly combined, fill the yoghurt into a suitable container. Since I’ve had bad luck using individual glass jars, my last attempt was in a ceramic casserole dish with a lid.
Since I didn’t think my airing cupboard stays warm enough over night (we have the heating off at night), I preheated the oven at around 60 degrees Celsius until it felt nice and cosy, and put the dish in there. This was at around 6 in the evening. After dinner, perhaps around 10 at night, I turned the oven on for a little bit again to warm it back up. Then I left the yoghurt in there over night with the door shut.
In the morning it had set nicely, tasted extremely mild and smelled of yoghurt. And it wasn’t slimy! Success!