Why would you make yoghurt at home when you can buy perfectly good yoghurt in any supermarket, health food stores or your average corner shop? I’m not sure I’ve worked out the answer to that one. Homemade yoghurt is not spectacularly nicer than bought – it has a nice, tart, unmucked about with flavour, but there are a lot of good commercial yoghurts that offer the same thing (Rachel’s greek yoghurt is one of my favourites). It’s not a huge money saver, though it does work out a bit more economical as you’ll only eventually need to buy milk, which is cheaper than yoghurt. So, why do I continue to do it? I can only assume it’s the sense of domestic power involved in introducing live bacteria to milk and making something you want to put on your granola in the morning. Also, it’s very easy. After a failed sourdough or a disappointing batch of ice-cream, yoghurt is a way of reassuring myself that I do have some basic food self-sufficiency skills. I’ve tried several people’s methods, and the one I settled on is Stevie Parle’s, which is the most stripped down and basic of all. Despite being the easiest, I can’t detect any difference in quality between yoghurt made this way and with other recipes involving skimmed milk powder or any other paraphenalia. All you need is some milk and some live yoghurt, which will initially be bought, but can subsequently be your own efforts.
Some notes on milk: I generally prefer non-homogenised milk, but for yoghurt making homogenised gives better results (and since the vast majority of milk available is homogenised this is unlikely to be a problem). I always use full-fat milk; I assume you could use skimmed or semi-skimmed, but the result would not be as creamy. By the same token, if you want creamier yoghurt swap some of the milk for cream. I have tried using goat’s milk but the resulting yoghurt was a bit thin – apparently it’s possible to remedy this by heating to a higher temperature, but I’ve yet to experiment with that. Finally, if your yoghurt does turn out thinner than you’d like, or if you want something more akin to greek yoghurt, strain it through a piece of muslin (or clean tights) set over a sieve. The longer you strain it, the thicker it will get, and eventually you will have made labneh, or yoghurt cheese.
Makes about 600ml
600ml full-fat milk
4 tbsp live yoghurt (as fresh as possible)
Bring the milk to the boil, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn or boil over (a stainless steel saucepan is best for the first bit). Transfer it to a vessel in which it will keep its warmth – most recipes recommend an earthenware or pottery bowl; I find a thermos flask does the job. Cool the milk to just above body temperature – you should be able to keep your finger in it for a count of 10. If you have a thermometer, you’re looking for 40-42c and definitely below 63c, otherwise the bacteria will be killed off. Stir in the yoghurt. If you’re using a bowl, cover it with clingfilm and wrap in a teatowel. If using a thermos, put the lid on. Now leave the yoghurt somewhere warmish overnight – room temperature generally works fine in our flat. The next day put it in the fridge – warm yoghurt is not nice. Enjoy, and remember to keep a few tablespoons of your yoghurt back for the next batch.
Adapted mainly from Stevie Parle’s ‘Real Food From Near and Far’ and Darina Allen’s ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’