Monday, November 11, 2013

Make Your Own Greek Yogurt and Prevent Toxic Waste

Fresh homemade yogurt with fresh mulberry syrup and chia seeds...
my mouth is watering just thinking of it!

Greek yogurt is all the rage at the moment, and I am one of those who adores it. It's creamy and rich, and great for so many recipes. I use it almost exclusively in place of sour cream, and also I love to eat it plain with a bunch of chia seeds mixed in, topped with a touch of honey, or with a swirl of homemade jam.
However, like so many commercial products that we enjoy, there is a downside to this healthy Greek yogurt. I only just learned this myself; it takes 4 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of Greek yogurt, and all the whey that is strained off is a huge nuisance to try to deal with. It's toxic to rivers because of its acidity. Farmers make some use of it for fertilizers and feed, but for the most part, no one knows what to do with this huge influx of waste. Click on this article for more information: Greek Yogurt; Toxic Waste Hazard?
Making your own Greek yogurt creates whey, too. However, on a small scale in your own home, whey can be used for a variety of things. Check out this article for examples of what to do with it: 18 Ways To Use Whey

Other delicious ways to use your whey from home:
16 Ways to Use Whey (The Prairie Homestead)
"Wheys" We Use Up Extra Whey (Faulk Farmstead)
*Chai Spiced Whey Pudding
Lemony Iced Tea with Whey

The good news is, making your own yogurt is incredibly simple. You do need a tiny amount of yogurt to start out with, but once you've started making yogurt you can start saving a bit from each batch to start again. The live cultures love to grow on and on and on!
I find this method so easy, and the yogurt it creates surpasses the commercial stuff by leaps and bounds. I usually make half a recipe (using 4 c. milk).
Following are step by step pics, but here is the 'recipe' if you wanna skip all the scrolling and need to make yogurt like, immediately. ;)

8 cups milk (whole works best, but you can use skim or reduced fat if you want)
1/4 c. Greek yogurt

  • Heat milk in a pan until it reads 170-180 on a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally. 
  • While the milk heats, fill sink with an inch or two of ice water, and fill two mason quart jars with hot water. 
  • When milk gets to 170-180 (170 is sufficient but some people swear getting it to 180 makes a thicker yogurt), put the pan in the sink of water until it goes back down to 110. 
  • Take a portion of the milk from the pan, whisk the yogurt into it, then stir into the rest of the milk. 
  • Pour hot water out of the quart jars, then fill them with the milk. 
  • Place in a warm spot, undisturbed, for 8-12 hours. I like to put them in a little cooler and fill the cooler up around the yogurt with hot water. Some people swear by wrapping a heating pad around the jars. Try it different ways and see what works best for you!

When I saw this gallon of organic milk marked down to 1.99 (originally 6.99) I knew it was time to finally try making yogurt. (I had never been so lucky to find 'bargain' organic milk before). I already had a method in mind, which I'd read months ago in this book. I only had to tweak it a little bit. My first yogurt making adventure was a success! Which made up for my huge failure at making freezer jam earlier this summer with my hard-earned mulberries (which you can read about here).

I didn't want to commit to using a whole 8 cups of milk, because I didn't know if I would succeed, so I used 4 cups.

All you need for this method is a couple quart canning jars with lids, a small cooler, milk, and some plain yogurt. These plastic lids made for canning jars are perfect for projects like this: plastic lids for canning jars(affiliate link) Make sure the yogurt you are using as a starter has nothing added to it, you just want the happy little live cultures.Oh yes, you also need a candy thermometer. Don't worry, they are inexpensive. I'm on my second one already (broke the first one; note to self--do NOT place a hot candy thermometer in cold water).

Over medium high heat, warm the milk until you've reached 170 degrees F,
stirring occasionally. Some sites suggest going to 180.

While the milk heats, fill a couple of inches in your sink with ice water.

Also, fill your quart jars with hot water to warm them.

An extra pair of hands; or a bossy preschooler???

Once your milk hits 170-180, place it in the ice water to get it down to 110.

When the milk is at 110, ladle a small amount in a separate cup, then whisk in 2-3 T. plain yogurt.
Pour the mixture back in with the rest of the milk, and stir.

Note: Sometimes I take the jar of yogurt I just finished (that still has yogurt clinging to the sides), pour a bit of the warm milk in, replace the lid, and shake it gently. Then I pour that back into the pan. This uses up the last of the empty jar of yogurt; very useful if you continually keep and use yogurt like I do.

Pour the mixture into your jars...

And place the lids on. (because I was only making one quart, I left the other quart
filled with hot water).

Filled up around the jars with hot water. Close up the lid,
and place your cooler out of the way where it won't get bumped.

After 8-10 hours (mine took a bit  longer), the milk will thicken into yogurt! Voila!
Often, the finished yogurt is so thick and creamy, I don't even need to
further strain it, but for an extra decadent treat...

...strain it using a fine mesh strainer and coffee filter.

This is seriously some of the best tasting yogurt EVER. I like it so much better than store bought.


  1. I can not wait to try this. Running to the store to buy my last yogurt ever. So excited!!

    1. You'll never want store-bought yogurt again, Becky! Some seriously delicious stuff. I have the best luck using whole milk, and getting the temp to 180 when I'm warming it. I have been using the same starter for months, now, and it seems to get better and better every time! Good luck and thanks for the comment. :)

  2. I found my way back here from your fermenting intro post :) My weekly yogurt is sitting on the counter waiting for tomorrow. The turkish style of yogurt (a turkish word!) is not strained though. And I am glad for that as hmemade yogurt tends to be on the runny side :D

    1. I remember when you first told me about Turkish style yogurt...funny that over here we are only familiar with the term "Greek yogurt." I may start saying Turkish yogurt just to start conversations. ;) I have not strained my yogurt in ages, and it has turned out thick enough without. That makes me so happy. Though, I may strain some soon just to get some of the whey (I need the whey for a different ferment I want to try). Thank you for commenting, Nihal!