Make your own healthy yoghurt at home – It’s easy and cheap
Yoghurt has been a staple in our home for years now and we almost always have some in the fridge. The supply has been virtually unlimited since I started making my own at home. It is incredibly simple to do. It is one of the oldest and most popular fermented foods that is eaten in most cultures that keep animals for milk.
What is yoghurt?
Yoghurt is a semi-solid sour food prepared by adding bacteria to milk and allowing it to ferment. The most common bacteria used to make yoghurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Benefits of eating yoghurt
Why is it good for you?
Yoghurt may improve your gut health
It may help with issues like:
- inflammatory bowel disease and
- Helicobacter pylori infection (a common cause of peptic ulcers).
Benefits for colon cancer
It may help to prevent colon cancer by:
- changing the balance of the bacteria that are found naturally in your intestines and
- decreasing the time it takes for food to travel through the intestines.
More health benefits for chronic disease
- It may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- It contains calcium and vitamin D which may help to prevent osteoporosis.
- Blood pressure and cholesterol levels may be reduced by eating yoghurt.
- Yoghurt may help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
- It may help with brain-related disorders like Parkinson’s Disease.
- Yoghurt may help increase your immunity by stimulating white blood cells which help you fight disease.
Are you’re lactose intolerant?
About 70-90% of black Africans are lactose intolerant. Milk contains lactose (milk sugar) which is broken down in the body by an enzyme called lactase. If you don’t have this enzyme or can’t produce enough of it, the lactose passes on to your large intestine.
This leads to varying degrees of abdominal pain, belching, farting, diarrhoea and vomiting. The lactose in milk is broken down by bacteria in the fermentation process. The longer you leave the milk to ferment, the more lactose is broken down and the more sour the yoghurt will be.
Yoghurt benefits for weight loss and exercise
- Yoghurt helps to keep you fuller for longer so you will less tempted to eat unhealthy snacks.
- It may help you lose weight and especially help to reduce belly fat.
- Yoghurt may soothe muscles and help them recover after exercise.
More advantages from eating yoghurt
- It may ease the diarrhoea which can occur after antibiotic therapy.
- It may discourage vaginal infections by helping to keep the pH of the vagina low (i.e. increases the acidity).
To get all these benefits from yoghurt, it must have live cultures in it. This means that the bacteria in it must still be alive. Some brands kill the bacteria in the yoghurt so it can last forever on supermarket shelves. With live cultures, it will eventually go bad. Your nose will tell you when that happens.
Why make your own yoghurt?
Now the big question. Why should you take the time and the trouble to make your own?
You’ll know exactly what’s inside it.
Many commercial yoghurt has lots of yummy extras, like thickeners and preservatives added to them. You avoid all that by making your own.
Remember the great British horse meat scandal? It became glaringly obvious (if it wasn’t already!) that we don’t actually know what we’re eating a lot of the time. Assuming what you’re using is actually milk, when you make your own, what you get at the end is plain fermented milk and bacteria. To be sure of your milk supply, you could always keep your own cows and/or goats. 😀
Some other great reasons to make your own yoghurt
- It’s cheaper than buying it.
My homemade yoghurt typically costs half as much as the one I buy, though recently milk prices have gone up somewhat This of course depends on the brands of both the milk and the yoghurt you use for your starter.
- You can make it just as sour as you want and we like ours cheek-smackingly sour!
- As long as you have milk you can make yoghurt. Milk is easy to find and will keep for a long time (eg. UHT, powdered and evaporated). With planning, you will always have a steady supply.
- It’s really easy to make. Really.
- It takes literally minutes to make. The rest of the time is down time spent waiting for the bacteria to do their thing.
- You can make as much as you want. I typically make 4-5 litres at once. You are not restricted by the size of the jars.
- This last reason is really important. You get to pat yourself on the back and bask in your thriftiness and ingenuity.
Once I decided I wanted to make my own yoghurt, I went out and bought myself a cute little yoghurt maker. Let’s just say, that experiment didn’t go well!
Some major disadvantages of using a yoghurt maker
- It’s expensive when you can find it here in Nigeria. I bought mine before the era of Konga and Jumia and had to cart it back across the waters with the threat of excess luggage hanging over my head. I recently found a listing for a yoghurt maker on Jumia. It had a generous 2.5 star review from an extremely angry shopper who said it was basically a pile of junk.
- It takes up space. How many gadgets do you have gathering dust at the back of your cupboards? Do you really need one more?
- The jars are usually made of glass. If they break, you’re stuffed. Where are you going to get replacements?
- It needs electricity.
That’s a biggie. If you don’t live in Nigeria you may not understand what I’m talking about. Electricity. That scarcest of commodities! The yoghurt maker needs about 8 hours of constant electricity. How often do you have power for 8 hours at a stretch? Are you going to burn petrol or diesel in your generator just to make 6-8 teeny, weeny jars of yoghurt?
The main job of this bulky kitchen appliance is to keep the milk mixture at a constant, warm temperature. That’s it. Nothing else. Nada. Zilch. And I’m sure we can come up with a gazillion ways to keep milk warm. 🙂
How to make your own healthy yoghurt at home
- Sterilise your containers.
- Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt with 1 litre of warm milk.
- Pour into prepared containers.
- Insulate (keep warm) for about 4-6 hours or until the yoghurt sets.
- Refrigerate for about 8 hours.
When it’s ready, freeze some and keep it for your next batch. That way you may never have to buy yoghurt again.
Is it really that simple? Yes it is. Now let’s look at each step in detail to make sure you get perfect yoghurt every time.
You need to use clean dry containers to make yoghurt. Let’s make sure you’re encouraging good bacteria to grow and not the ones that will make you sick. If you wish, you can boil your containers in a pot for about 5 minutes and allow to cool. I recycle my tall, glass mayonnaise jars (sooo ecofriendly!). I’ve used plastic ice cream containers. You can use a pot, casserole dish, anything that you can cover. You don’t even have to sterilise, just make sure your container is clean and dry.
Warm the milk
Warm the milk to about 43°C which is supposed to be the best temperature for making yoghurt. I never bother measuring temperatures to be quite honest. I drop a little milk on the inside of my forearm. If it feels comfortably warm without burning, them I add the plain yoghurt. Please don’t burn yourself.
You can heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave. Make sure it doesn’t:
- boil over, or
Mix milk with yoghurt culture
Use 1 or 2 tablespoons of plain, unsweetened, full fat yoghurt for each litre of warm milk and mix thoroughly. I use a little whisk. Pour mixture into desired container.
Keeping your milk warm
Finding different ways to keep your milk/yoghurt mixture warm is a fun mental exercise. Here are a couple of ways that have worked for me.
- I put my jars in an old microwave. This was a bit limiting because the microwave was small. I like to make big batches.
- I put my jars in a pre-warmed gas oven. Forgot to turn off the oven one time and totally cooked the yoghurt. Other than that one mishap, it worked well. Sometimes though, I needed to use the oven for something else (like baking bread) so it was occasionally inconvenient. You can leave off warming the oven and just put a pot of hot water or a rubber hot water bottle in the oven. Once, I forgot the hot water bottle was still in the oven when I lit it. Minutes later, the smell of melting rubber perfumed the evening air.
- I’ve put the jars in a cardboard box and covered with blankets. This worked great.
- Hot water in plastic containers – I put my jars inside a picnic cooler, put in the containers with hot water and leave for about 18 hours. This is the method I use now.
Here are a couple more ways to keep your milk warm:
- An insulated thermos flask,
- A cooler with a hot water bottle or heating pad inside,
- A slow cooker
How long should yoghurt be cultured?
The experts generally recommend 4-6 hours, or overnight. After 6 hours pick up your container and tilt it slightly to the side. If the mixture stays put, then it’s set and you can decide to stop or leave it a bit longer. We like ours nice and sour so I leave mine for about 18 hours. Also, I no longer warm the milk before hand so some extra time is needed for the mixture to warm up before the process can get started. Some people leave their yoghurt up to 24 hours. It’s up to you to experiment to find out what you like.
If you leave your yoghurt in the fridge, it will last for days without going bad. Refrigeration slows down the fermentation process and makes it firmer.
Making yoghurt – questions and answers
Yoghurt, diet quality and metabolic profile
Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes
Yoghurt and colorectal cancer
Dairy and fat loss
Probiotics and the immune system
Yoghurt and cholesterol
Gut bacteria and brain health
How to maintain a culture
Culture without a yoghurt maker
Long culturing perils