Make It Yourself – Greek Yogurt

July 3, 2014

in Cook What You Like, Fancy Pantry


No special equipment needed.  No fillers, no thickeners, nothing artificial.

Making yogurt is easier than you think – just 2 ingredients and 2 steps. And a little time.  Making Greek yogurt is just a step beyond and a bit more time.

Two ingredients:  milk and a small amount of starter yogurt with active cultures.  Two steps: heat milk, mix in yogurt.  Make Greek yogurt: strain the yogurt you’ve just made.

Yogurt is made by combining milk with active bacterial cultures, such as lactobacillus, bulgaricus and streptococcus. These little guys can be found in store-bought (read the ingredients label) or home-made yogurts.  The bacteria thickens the milk and imparts a tang by converting milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid.

Greek yogurt, double yogurt, yogurt cheese –  names for the same thing: strained yogurt.  When yogurt is strained, the watery yellow-green whey separates from the solids for a thicker consistency.

This post makes cow milk yogurt.  Yogurt can be made from other animal and plant milk but that’s for another time.

Let’s get started!

DSC_0006Clean the jars and lids that you’ll be using to hold the yogurt.  The jars don’t have to be sterilized but should be very clean.

Double BoilerHeat fresh milk over low heat.  A double-boiler can be made by placing one pan inside the other with water in between the pans.  Bring the water level about halfway up the top pan.  Alternatively, use a large heavy- bottomed pan, such as a Dutch oven to gradually heat the milk.  A flame tamer works great with gas stoves.  The objective is to slowly heat the milk to 180° F to manage unwanted bacteria, and denature the milk proteins so that they set together en masse like in yogurt instead of forming curds like in cottage cheese.

Yougurt Heating PadIf your house is cool, a heating pad is an indispensable aid to making yogurt.  Insulate both sides of the heating pad with towels (thin on top, thick on bottom).

Yogurt TemperatureA thermometer helps you keep an eye on the heat.  105-110° F temperatures are optimum for the active culture to ferment milk into yogurt.

Yogurt JarsCool the heated milk to 110° F.  Mix a small amount of active culture yogurt starter into the milk, stirring well.  If the milk is too warm, the active culture may die. Pour milk into jars and cap.

Yogurt BundledMaintain the 105-110° F temperature range by wrapping the heating pad and towels around the jars.  Periodically check the enclosed thermometer and adjust temperature if necessary. After 3-4 hours, taste for tang.  Letting the yogurt ferment longer yields a more tangy and thicker product.

If your house is warm, you may not need the heating pad or towels.  Leave the jars of yogurt in a warm place (not in sunlight) to ferment.  This method takes longer, sometimes overnight, to achieve the flavor and consistency you like.

Yogurt DrainingTo make Greek yogurt, gently pour cooled or refrigerated yogurt into a colander lined with a double-thickness of cheesecloth.  Suspend the lined colander over a large bowl or pot and allow the yogurt to drain for 6-12 hours depending on the consistency you like.  I drain for 2 hours at room temperature, pour off the whey, and fold the cheesecloth over the top to cover the yogurt and refrigerate overnight.

To easily remove the strained yogurt off the cheesecloth,  invert the strained yogurt on to a clean shallow bowel or plate.

Greek Yogurt

The photo immediately above is Greek yogurt. Its consistency is thicker than “regular” yogurt that’s pictured at the beginning of this post.  Yogurt is a lower fat alternative for sour cream in baking, atop baked potatoes and on other foods.  Or, make Lassi by blending yogurt and fresh fruit such as mango for a refreshing beverage that’s the welcome partner with a spicy dish.

Mango Lassi

To make Mango Lassi, cut 2 mangos into small chunks by making a slice parallel to the seed down the length of a mango.

Cut MangoCut the mango slice into cubes.  Take cubes off the skin.  For a large serving, use 1 cup of mango cubes, 3/4 cup yogurt, and 1-2 teaspoons of sweetener of your choice (white sugar, honey, brown sugar palm sugar).  Freeze half of the mango cubes that you’ll be using.  To make lassi, throw all ingredients together into a blender and blend until smooth. If not using frozen mango cubes, add 2-3 ice cubes to keep lassi cold.  If a thinner consistency is desired, add 1-2 tablespoons cold juice, milk or ice water.

Or, make a lowfat (but not low buzz) creamy yogurt cocktail with Greek yogurt.  The recipe for Joaquin Simo’s Pearls Before Swine is at Food52.

Recipe: Yogurt

You’ll need premade yogurt with active cultures as a yogurt starter – premade yogurt with only milk and active cultures as ingredients is best. The higher the milk’s fat content, the creamier the yogurt will be.  When making different quantities, keep the ratio of 1 1/2 teaspoons active culture yogurt to 1 cup milk. 


  • 1 quart (4 cups) fresh cow milk (whole, reduced fat, low-fat or non-fat)
  • 2 Tablespoons yogurt with active cultures (ingredients should state “active cultures”)


  1. Clean and dry the jars that will be holding the yogurt.  The jars and lids don’t have to be sterilized but should be very clean.
  2. Heat milk: in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat slowly heat milk. Stir frequently; do not allow milk to stick to bottom of pan. Bring milk to 180º F; check frequently with thermometer. This might take 20-40 minutes.
  3. Cool and inoculate: Remove from heat and let cool to 110º F . Mix in a ladle of warm milk into the yogurt starter, mix well and add to the remaining milk. Mix milk well and pour into very clean jars. Cap securely.
  4. If your house is cool: place jars in a warm place or use a heating pad lined top and bottom with towels. Wrap towels around jars. Tuck in a thermometer to check temperature and adjust it to keep around 105-110º  F.
  5. After 4 hours, check jars for taste and consistency. Ferment for up to 7 hours for maximum tang.
  6. If your house is warm: filled jars can be left at room temperature for 6-12 hours. A higher shelf or top of refrigerator are ideal spots as they are warmer. Test for taste and consistency periodically.
  7. To make Greek yogurt:  line a large colander with a double layer of cheesecloth.  Suspend lined colander over a large bowl. There should be some space between the bottom of the colander and the bowl for the liquid (whey) to drain into.  Gently pour in yogurt and let drain for a couple of hours and pour out whey.  If thicker consistency is desired, cover top of draining yogurt with the by folding over the cheesecloth and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  8. To easily remove yogurt from cheesecloth, place a shallow bowl or plate over the uncovered yogurt and flip the strained yogurt onto the bowl or plate.

Keep yogurt refrigerated.  Makes about 1 quart yogurt.


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