How to Culture Yogurt without a Yogurt Maker
If you’ve come to love store-bought yogurt but not the price, then you might want to start to make your own yogurt at home for a fraction of the cost. You may also think that you are now in the market for a yogurt maker.
Not so fast! You actually do not need a yogurt maker to make good, homemade cultured yogurt. And while a yogurt maker may be nice, it can also be very pricey and maybe even disappointing if it doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped.
Furthermore, yogurt makers require energy resources that some do-it-yourselfers may not want to devote to simply making yogurt.
So making yogurt without a yogurt maker can save you not just money, but also the time and energy resources a maker takes to find and run. But how does one make yogurt without a yogurt maker?
How to Mimic a Yogurt Maker’s Environment
The great thing about a good yogurt maker is that it is fairly consistent in giving yogurt the environment it needs to culture properly.
The environment needed to culture yogurt includes:
It seems easy enough to mimic that, doesn’t it? There are many ways in which to culture yogurt with the above conditions in today’s home kitchen. Remember that for many years, yogurt was made traditionally before electricity was available.
How Yogurt Was Made before Electricity
Yogurt is believed to have originated somewhere near Bulgaria or the Caucasus. Of course when yogurt was first discovered it was most likely by accident and certainly not with the use of electricity.
Most likely the discovery of yogurt went something like this... A sheep or goat herder placed milk in a vessel that harbored some sort of friendly bacteria, unbeknownst to him. He placed his fresh milk in this vessel during a warm time of the year.
When he returned to this vessel to retrieve his milk, he discovered that the milk had soured into a thick consistency with a pleasantly tangy flavor. He then discovered that if he left a bit of the soured milk (yogurt) in the vessel and added more milk he could repeat the process with somewhat similar results.
And so yogurt was born, or discovered, depending on how you look at it.
So the original process of making yogurt was very simple and involved no special equipment or technology, which is exactly how you can make it at home.
Yogurt Maker Alternatives
There are many, many ways that people today can and have made yogurt without the use of yogurt makers. The first step is almost always the same, though. Heat a quart of milk to 180°F and allow it to cool to 110°F or, if you are using raw milk, simply heat the milk to 110°F. Then add about two tablespoons of cultured yogurt to the milk, mix, and incubate using one of the following methods:
An insulated cooler + water. Place your milk with added cultures in jars (pint, quart, half-gallon, etc.). Place these jars in an insulated cooler. Pour warm water (about 105° to 115°F) into the cooler up to about 3/4 of the way up the jar. Cover lid tightly and wrap in a in a towel or blanket to maintain temperature. Incubate for 8 to 24 hours, checking water temperature if desired.
An insulated cooler + a heating pad. Place your milk with added cultures in jars (pint, quart, half-gallon, etc.). Place these jars in an insulated cooler. Place a heating pad on top of the jars in the cooler. Close the cooler lid as well as you can with the heating pad cord sticking through. Plug in the heating pad and turn to low for the 8- to 24-hour incubation period. You can also wrap the cooler in a blanket or towel if necessary.
A crock pot. Using this crock pot yogurt method you can heat the milk, cool the milk, and incubate the milk all in the same vessel. It is a very simple method that mimics the yogurt maker.
A pilot light on a gas stove. Wrap the bowl or jar that you have added the milk and cultures to in a thick towel. Place in a gas oven that has the pilot light turned on. Incubate for the desired 8 to 24 hours.
An electric oven with a light on. Wrap the bowl or jar that you have added the milk and cultures to in a thick towel. Place in an electric oven with the light turned on. Incubate for the desired 8 to 24 hours.
In a dehydrator. If you have a dehydrator that is shaped appropriately you can place your jar of warmed milk+cultures in the dehydrator at a temperature of 110°F and incubate for the desired number of hours.
On top of a warm appliance. Wrap the bowl or jar that you have added the milk and cultures to in a thick towel. Place on top of a refrigerator or next to a warm oven or wood stove and incubate for the desired amount of time.
In a Cooler Set in the Sun. Simply set your cooler filled with jars full of warm milk + cultures in the full sun of the day, assuming it isn’t too hot.
In a coffee thermos. Pour your warmed milk and cultures into a coffee thermos. Cover tightly, wrap in a towel, and incubate for the desired number of hours.
As you can see, there are many, many options for those who wish to make homemade yogurt without the cost of a yogurt maker. This will keep your homemade yogurt venture inexpensive and save you a bit of space in your kitchen.
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