As it is not always easy (or affordable, when you use a lot of it) to acquire, I've been making my own yogurt. Once you get into it, the variations can be fun. Also occasionally disastrous, which leads us to tip number one: Keep a small amount of your starter (2-3 tablespoons) frozen, so that when you inevitably need to toss a batch and start over, it's there when you want it. Or just buy a new container of yogurt, use two teaspoons to restart and eat the rest. That works too. I've done both, but due to my late-night yogurt making and lack of desire to plan ahead, lately I have been doing the freeze portions thing.

That's about a quarter cup. Tiny tupperware is earning its keep.

As to picking a starter, it's up to you. What yogurt do you like? Use some of that, preferably of the plain variety. We can add in fun flavors at the end.
So. You have a few teaspoons of yogurt, and some whole milk. What kind? Doesn't matter too much, use what you like. Delicious organic milk will probably make delicious organic yogurt. But regular milk will do just fine too. Lower fat milk works too, the yogurt will probably be thinner. and the whole point of this is to make a nice whole milk yogurt to churn into frozen yogurt, but I won't stop you. If you want to go the other way, substituting in a cup of cream for some of the milk, well, that does sound like a good idea. And will make even better frozen yogurt. (I may have tried this, once or twice).
 Homemade yogurt is usually not as thick as the store-bought kind, thanks to a lack of thickeners such as gelatin. For thicker yogurt, you can drain at the end, using a cheesecloth. The whey will drain out, giving you a greek-style yogurt.  Put the whey in pancakes, You can also add powdered milk. I know, I usually shy away from weird ingredients, but it's not that scary. Get a box, it's also great for breads like this one. What it really does is increase the protein content of your milk and thereby make a thicker, creamier yogurt. how thick depends on how you like it. See what I mean about it being fun to vary? Or really stressful when you have no idea what to do yet.

So, for the first attempt, let's use 4 cups (1 l) of milk, and 1/4 to 1/3 cup of powdered milk. If you are not sure you want that much, halve it, 2 cups of milk and 2 tbsp powdered milk. That should produce something not overly watery but still wobbly and yogurt like. If you go up to a full cup of powdered milk, you essentially have the protein of two liters of milk in one. The result is so thick you can scoop it with an ice cream scoop and it will hold its shape. Cover that in jam or honey, or churn into frozen yogurt, and life is pretty good.
Take out your yogurt starter now to let it warm up a bit - or take it out of the freezer so it comes out of its container by the time the yogurt is ready.

 More milk
 Milk, powdered
 All in the pot
Ready for the stove

So now, you have mixed a liter of milk with 1/3 cup powdered milk, in a pot. A medium-sized saucepan should do nicely. If you have a candy thermometer, clip it to the side. If not, you'll be guesstimating, and hopefully adding a candy thermometer to your next grocery list. They are pretty cheap and you can get them in most baking sections at the grocery store. They are also useful for more than candy and yogurt. Ever wonder why your roux hasn't thickened the sauce yet? Clip on a candy thermometer and you might find out.

On the stove

Turn on the heat to medium, or medium low. and heat the milk, while stirring (milk has a way of burning to the bottom of the pot!), to about 190°F. Depending on what site you go to, each suggests a different temperature, and as long as you get above 170°F, all of them work - you just get different results at different temperatures.  If you don't have a candy thermometer, guess. Once it starts steaming a little, before it boils, that's somewhere around 160-170°F. Worst case, you scald your milk, the yogurt will still work - it will just taste lightly like scalded milk, some people do that on purpose.
170°F yogurts will taste fresher, but be less firm, more watery. But if you like a light, runnier yogurt, that could be perfect to you. 190°F gets you a more custardy yogurt - you can even scald your milk if you would like, it adds that flavour to the final yogurt. 180°F will obviously be somewhere in between, which is where most people seem to like their yogurt.
Time also makes a difference. The heat breaks down some of the proteins in the milk, though I can't remember where I found this, and some of the liquid will evaporate, which makes thicker yogurt.
So, for the extra-simple version, heat to 190°F and let it cool, if you want a thicker creamier yogurt, heat to 190°F and let it stay there for 30 minutes. This can be a bit of a pain if you are stirring, mostly because it is boring. So, it's up to you. If you have one of those nifty pot-stirrers, that is perfect for this job. I'm not quite sure what else it IS good for, but it's really good for this. It will still be perfectly edible and nice yogurt if you get bored immediately, or after 5 minutes, and you can try out different lengths as you go.
The pot stirrer in action

Let the milk cool back down to 120°F (if you poured in the yogurt at 190°F you'd kill the bacteria, and that would not make good yogurt at all), then strain the milk into a yogurt-maker or a jar that's been rinsed and pre-warmed with boiling water. (Or if you don't have a 1l/1quart jar, strain the milk into a bowl, and pour from there. ) The straining is somewhat important since milk forms a skin, as you probably know. You don't really want to stir that back into the yogurt, it stays solid and you just get funny little bits of plasticy texture. You can guess how I know this. So use a sieve!
 Frozen starter yogurt
 Milk and yogurt, ready for a warm place.

Now stir in your starter yogurt (if it's still frozen, oh well. In it goes! Stir it well and it'll be fine. At least, in my experience it's worked out without any problems. If you are worried about it losing too much heat this way, just pour in a cup or so of your milk at 125°F to thaw the whole thing out, then stir that back into the rest of the milk at 120°F), cover the jar and wrap it nicely, and put it in a nice warm place. It doesn't have to be hot, just warm. Apparently a nice warm floor tile if you have floor heating will do, or an oven with the pilot light on. In the winter, you could try your heater - just make sure to put a baking sheet or something in between, our heaters have been known to start pre-baking the bread dough.  Next to the heater might be better. A cooler filled with jars of hot water apparently works too, or a slow cooker on low. If you live in a warm place, "the windowsill" might be your place of choice.
If you have a yogurt maker, that's of course perfect, what we try to do with all those crazy places we put yogurt (On top of the fridge is also supposed to be good!), is approximate what the yogurt maker does, which is just keep it at a warm 120°F-ish for the next 6-10 hours.
Which gives away the next part. Leave it alone! For 6-10 or more hours. How long depends a bit on how sour you like your yogurt. Usually, after 6 hours, the yogurt has set pretty well, it's thickened and looks like yogurt, slightly jiggly, glorious yogurt. If not, leave it there longer and check again in two hours. Occasionally something will fail terribly, in which case, if it smells all right and tastes fine, but the texture is weird? Bake it into things, or blend it into smoothies. The texture doesn't matter then.  If you like your yogurt on the sour side, let it culture longer, until it smells and tastes the way you like it. 10 hours usually does it for most people, but again, up to you. So many decisions!
Once the yogurt is set to your liking, stick it in the fridge. Unless you like warm yogurt, in which case, dig right in. The yogurt will continue to set a little bit more in the fridge. After sitting overnight, you should have something breakfast-worthy. At this point, helpful tip number two: Spoon out some of that yogurt, say, two tablespoons, and freeze that. It will be the starter for your next batch, and you don't need to buy more to start over with when you come home to find the yogurt container licked clean. Worst case, a smoothie or pancakes (anything that says "buttermilk" can also substitute "yogurt"), or best case, a nice bowl of yogurt with granola and honey.
Eventually, you might even have enough self-control to save some for frozen yogurt. Or just make an extra batch, just for that.

One thing though, yogurt like this, since it has no preservatives, won't keep as long as store-bought, so don't save it for a special occasion, eat it and make more, churn it into frozen yogurt or just freeze a little bit to use as a starter for when your yogurt will inevitably turn and inexplicably smell like parmesan. That usually takes about 10-14 days, so as long as you can polish off a liter of yogurt in a week, this should not really happen. Breakfast every day should do the trick. My yogurt still goes though, every once in a while, I think it might be something like the sourdough effect. You know how every place has sourdough strains, wild yeast, floating around? Those strains are local to the area, so even a San Francisco starter will convert to a Worcester starter in about a month, because yeast dough sits around in the open and the little yeasties will be attracted to such a nice home and colonise it. I suspect this happens with yogurt too, though it takes longer, since the milk and yogurt sit out in the open less. So it could just be that I have repeatedly caught a nice friendly Worcester strain of yogurt bacteria, that just happen to thank me by making my yogurt smell like cheese.

The main point is it's pretty hard to get something completely inedible. It all sounds pretty scary at first and the directions got pretty long, which makes it look even scarier, I'll try to put together the shortest version I can, to make up for it.
Even if your pot boils over or the temperature varies, turn it into yogurt anyway! The results will be weird maybe, or they could be great. As long as you don't go in expecting consistency and perfection every time, it'll be all right. And over time and attempts, as you figure out how you like the perfect yogurt, it might just get there.


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