Yesterday, I cultured yogurt, so today’s post will focus on whether or not yogurt is best made at home or bought at the store.
In order for yogurt — or any other food product — to be more economical made at home, the final product must either be significantly cheaper than a comparable commercial product, or of a better quality in terms of health and taste. It’s also important to consider the time and effort necessary to produce the product.
Let’s look at yogurt. My husband and I love yogurt. We plop a dollop of it on our pancakes and waffles. We eat it with cereal and oatmeal or alongside Indian dishes.
Yogurt-Making Process and Recipe
1.) To make a half-gallon yogurt, I heat a half gallon of milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit in a water bath. This kills any bacteria in the milk. I often add a cup of dry milk powder at this point because it makes the yogurt creamier.
2.) I cool the milk to 100 degrees by placing it in a bucket of ice water, and add a quarter cup of commercial yogurt as my starter. The commercial yogurt must contain live active bacteria. These good bacteria will gobble up the milk sugar, called lactose, and produce the product we know as yogurt.
3.) The next step is then tricky part. The milk must be kept between 100 to 120 degrees for 4 -12 hours. It its too cool, the little guys will be too sleepy to make yogurt. If its too warm, they’ll die. I’ve murdered several perfectly good yogurt bacteria in my time.
The best method I have found for keeping the milk at an appropriate temperature is to place it in a cooler along with several jars of very hot water. In the past, I incubated the yogurt by setting the milk in a warm water bath and using a crockpot on its lowest setting to maintain the temperature. This method requires more cautious monitoring than the other but in both methods I periodically check the temperature to ensure that the yogurt is not too hot or too cold. After a half day of incubating, I remove the yogurt from the cooler to the refrigerator. And it’s ready to be consumed!
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So, is yogurt worth it?
A quart of commercial yogurt costs about $3.50 on sale. (I found coupons for both Stoneyfield and Dannon yogurt at this price.)
Thus, my half-gallon of homemade yogurt must be significantly less than $7.o0 for it be worth the effort.
Cost of homemade yogurt ingredients:
– Half gallon of milk: $1.5o
– One cup of dry milk powder: $0.70
– 1/4 cup of commercial yogurt*: $0.88
– Total cost (without considering labor): $3.08
– Effort: 20 minutes of easy labor is needed while heating and cooling the milk. Monitoring the temperature throughout the day.
– Fuel required: Very little. I only need gas from the stove to heat the milk and to heat the water in my cooler-turned-incubator.
– Quality: Taste – Both the commercial yogurt and my yogurt are tangy and smooth. My yogurt may even be more creamy than store bought thanks to the dry milk powder.
Health – Both contain pro-biotic bacteria that improve digestion. I know that my yogurt contains nothing artificial or harmful.**
Conclusion: Making homemade yogurt is worth the time! For minimal effort, I can produce a batch of yogurt that is less than half the cost of commercial yogurt and just as good if not better.
* To reduce the price of the yogurt starter, I portion the store-bought yogurt into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen I transfer the blocks to a Ziplock bag. When it’s time to make yogurt, I use 3-4 frozen cubes as my starter.
** Some might argue that the dry milk powder is not as healthy as regular milk. If I wanted to please the real food crowd, I could leave out the powder and settle for thinner yogurt with watery whey.