Cheap, easy, full of calcium and protein — and it’s delicious, too. The Perfect Man makes yogurt about twice a week, using his own foolproof method. In response to several hungry-sounding email requests, I’ll pass along his recipe and some basic directions. Creamy white, mildly tart, with the texture of heavy custard…. mmmmmm. You’ll never buy commercial yogurt again.
1. Assemble the supplies pictured above:
- A half-gallon glass jar. Just this once, resist the urge to save the planet by using a recycled pickle jar. For yogurt making, you need a heavy, heat-resistant jar that will hold up to hot liquids. The one we use is sold in the kitchen department at Target for food storage.
- A wooden spoon.
- A kitchen thermometer. Ours is digital, with a six-inch probe.
- A large saucepan. A nice heavy one is best.
- 1 cup nonfat powdered milk. It adds nutrition and gives your yogurt a wonderful, smooth, custardy body.
- 6 ounces of plain yogurt. This is your starter culture, the troupe of happy little beneficial microbes who do the real work of transforming milk into yogurt. After your first batch, you can simply set aside a little of your own for this purpose. But at the start of your first yogurt adventure, you will need to use yogurt from somewhere else. Buy the best-quality plain yogurt (no sugar, no flavors or fruit) you can find. Make sure the label says it contains live cultures. We have used Dannon with good success, but other brands work, too. Take it out of the refrigerator before you start, so it can warm to room temperature.
- Slightly less than 1/2 gallon of milk. It’s “slightly less” because you’ll need to leave 6 ounces out, to make room for the added yogurt and yet still be able to fit the mixture into your jar. So, what you really need is 58 ounces of milk. You can use skim, 2 percent or whole.
2. Okay! Here we go. In the saucepan, combine the milk and the nonfat powdered milk. Suspend your thermostat probe in the milk mixture and heat slowly (stirring now and then) to 170 degrees. The Perfect Man uses a wire whisk to keep the probe in the center of the pan:
3. When your thermometer says you’ve reached 170, pour the hot milk mixture into the heavy glass jar. (Transferring the liquid while hot will help sterilize your container.) Move the temperature probe into the jar and set it all aside for awhile, to let it gradually cool down to 100 degrees. This can take two or three hours, so go on out in the garden and pull some weeds. See you later.
4. At 100 degrees, it’s time to stir in the 6 ounces of yogurt. Then, put the jar in a warm place (105 to 110 degrees is ideal) so that your live cultures can get busy. The Perfect Man puts our yogurt in the oven on the “proof” setting. I have known people who used an electric heating pad for this step. Others use the top of their water heater. Think about where you put your bread dough to rise — you need that same constant warmth for yogurt. You’ll need to leave it there for eight hours.
5. Enjoy! Eat it with granola. Eat it with fruit. Put peanuts on top of it. Make cucumber yogurt sauce and pour it over grilled veggies. It’s good.