I eat a lot of yogurt. About 1/4 to a 1/2 cup everyday so it was taking a big chunk out of my food budget. I had done some research on yogurt and thought that it wouldn't be that hard to make on my own. Then I hit the jackpot! That very weekend I was thrift store shopping and I found a yogurt maker for $2! I have never looked back! Homemade yogurt is soooooooooo much better than the yogurt you find in the grocery store and it is soooooooo much cheaper to make it at home.
For the sake of comparison, I decided to show the ingredients list and price of Yoplait since it is one of the highest selling yogurts on the market. This is the general Yoplait Peach Yogurt.
As you can see, at my grocery store, it generally sells for $0.99 per container! That may not be a big deal but then we look at the ingredients. Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Gelatin, and Pectin with Sugar being the second ingredient. For $0.99 a container, you really aren't getting that great of quality. Sugar, modified corn starch, gelatin, and pectin are all used to make the yogurt thicker. I know why they add these extras. They add these extras because they don't want to lose money on draining the whey from the yogurt.
When you start making your yogurt, you will see that there's a big difference in consistency from homemade to store bought. I like my yogurt really thick, like a greek style yogurt, so after the yogurt is done incubating, I have to drain it.
I make my yogurt batches 1 quart at a time as my cravings for yogurt change from week to week. Some weeks I blow through a batch in a few days, some batches will take a couple weeks for me to eat.
Pour 1 quart of milk in a stainless steel pot and add your thermometer and heat the milk over medium to medium low heat. You want to heat the milk up to 180 degrees. No more and no less. You want to whisk the milk while it's heating up to keep it from searing.
One you have the milk at 180, take the milk off the heat and pour it into a heat proof bowl (preferably one with a little spout.) At this point you want to let the milk sit and cool. While it's cooling, whisk it every so often so that a film doesn't develop over the top of the cooling milk. When the milk has cooled between 110-115, you want to add 2 tablespoons of starter.
A starter is just 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt. When I need a new starter, I buy the plainest most organic small carton of yogurt I can find at the grocery store. From there you can use your current batch of yogurt to make a new batch of yogurt.
Whisk the starter to incorporate it throughout the cooled milk well. Then you can put the milk in your yogurt maker (if you have one) - however - You do not need a yogurt maker to make yogurt. You can pour the milk in a glass jar, put a lid on, place it in a cooler, and wrap a warm towel around the glass jar (one that has been tossing in the dryer for a bit), shut the lid of the cooler, and voila! Yogurt maker. I like my yogurt to be tangy so I let the yogurt sit for 12 hours but you can do anywhere from 8 - 16. I like 12 hours because I can make my yogurt at night, pour it in my yogurt maker, and let it incubate while I sleep; then in the morning I just put it in the fridge.
I find that the yogurt drains better if I drain it when it's cool. So, when I get home from work, I dump the yogurt out on a filter and let it drain for 20-30 minutes.
When I filter the yogurt, I place a fine strainer over a bowl and use a damp paper towel as a filter (you can use a coffee filter as well). I then cover it with cheesecloth so no bugs can bother my fresh yogurt. Like I said above, I generally let the yogurt drain for 20-30 minutes.
As you can see, we started out with a quart of milk and after draining we are left with about 3/4 a quart of yogurt and a pint of whey. Don't throw the whey out because we will make bread with it in the future.
It may take a little while for your palate to get used to homemade yogurt as it doesn't taste anything like the yogurt from the store - it has no additives! It's important not to add flavorings to your main quart of yogurt or else you can't use it as a starter. Flavorings tend to mess with incubation. I always add jam or honey and fresh fruit to my yogurt as I go.
And there you have it! Homemade, fresh yogurt!