Every week, I make a batch of yogurt. I use an inexpensive Euro Cuisine yogurt maker that I picked up at Creative Kitchen many years ago, which incubates seven 6-ounce jars, and a two-quart double boiler. I also have a handheld, digital thermometer with a steel probe that I use for both yogurt and meat. Achieving the right temperatures at the right times is key to making a good yogurt.
Over the past few decades (maybe not so few, now), I have used three different kinds of starters: yogurt from the previous batch; store-bought plain, live-culture yogurt; and freeze-dried starter packets. I don’t pay enough attention to what is happening, and so I have the best luck with the frozen starter. Currently I am using Yogourmet freeze-dried starter with no trouble, but I have used others in the past. They do not all taste the same. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
It’s easier with the freeze-dried starter because I don’t have to let it warm to 75°F at the same time that I am heating my (whole) milk to 181°F in the double boiler, and then cooling it to 75°F. So, I heat 5.25 cups of milk in the double boiler to 181°F, and then let it cool until it’s in the 73-77°F range (a temperature at which the heat will not kill the yogurt bacteria). Pour a cup of the cooled milk into another container and mix thoroughly into it the powdered yogurt starter. When the powder is dissolved, pour that milk back into the double boiler and stir it enough to make sure the starter is mixed thoroughly into the whole.
Be certain that your yogurt jars/containers are thoroughly cleaned on all surfaces, so there will be minimal amounts of other bacteria as your yogurt bacteria are incubating. Divide the milk/starter mixture equally into the jars, place them carefully into the yogurt maker. Do not put the lids on the jars yet! Set the timer on the yogurt maker to between eight and fifteen hours of incubation time. I suspect that if your kitchen’s temperature is between 68° and 70°F, like ours is, most of the time, it will take longer to finish culturing than if the room temperature is at the top of the 73-77°F range. You will know that it is done culturing when it pulls back from the sides of the jar.
After I put the new batch in the refrigerator, I fed Sam, my cocker spaniel, kibbles with a tablespoon of yogurt from the last of last week’s batch. Then I added wild blueberry jam and some of the vanilla and blueberry granola for my own dessert.