Yogurt Failure - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 04-06-2005, 01:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Hubbie tried to make yogurt the other day with no sucess. Our friends told us it was super easy and all you had to do was put some milk and some yogurt together and keep it at 110 degrees. He used 1/2 quart milk, 2 Tbsp yogurt and kept it in the rice cooker to maintain the temp. It never set up.

Is there really such a simple way to make yogurt? Or do we need to move on to the more complicated methods?

We also used Lucerne yogurt as the starter. Maybe we need to use a better yogurt for this? We didn't have time for a Whole Foods run before starting, so we just went with the Safeway brand. We used Berkeley Farms for the milk.


(PS - if anyone is San Jose area has any extra Kefir grains, I think that's our next project...)
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#2 of 4 Old 04-06-2005, 04:57 PM
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I'm not a yogurt-making expert but there are a lot of things that could have gone wrong with your yogurt.

Did you make sure the yogurt you used for starter had live, active cultures? Was it plain yogurt? Was it fresh?

How long did you incubate it? Yogurt gets thicker (and tarter) the longer it incubates. Whole milk makes thicker yogurt than 2%, which gets thicker than skim. And the less starter you use the longer the colonization takes (I think I've read around here that some folks culture for up to 24 hours. I usually do 12.) Also, even when yogurt is fully cultured, refrigerating it till it's cold completes the thickening.

When I was culturing yogurt from probiotic powders my first batch would be runny and lumpy no matter how long it incubated. I would make that first batch small, and use about half of it as starter for the next batch which would be thicker and smoother. I read other people saying they had the same experience.

Usually yogurt instructions call for "scalding" the milk first, heating it to just below the boiling point, then cooling it to 110 before mixing in the starter. I think this is because even when you use pasteurized milk it can pick up other bacteria along the way. I'm not sure though.

And I've noticed that usually when I have an "unexplained" failure, it's a time when I wasn't as vigilant as usual about washing everything I used very well first.

The rice cooker sounds like a super convenient way to incubate the culture, as long as you can rely on it to keep a constant temp. I use an insulated picnic drink jug for pints and an improvised heatpad setup for quarts.

Hope this helps. I've found that it isn't as complicated as it sounds once you get the routine down, even with the scalding and washing. And I also have had good luck re-culturing (after re-scalding) failed yogurt, so as not to waste the milk -- or you can use it like buttermilk in baked goods.
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#3 of 4 Old 04-07-2005, 03:20 PM
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My method couldn't be easier. I use raw whole milk, heat it to 100ยบ, put a couple TB yogurt in a quart jar & pour in the milk. Then I put 2 quart jars (uncovered) in a small cooler, jam towels in around them, put on the cover & let it sit about 12 hours. The last time I made yogurt, I set the cooler on a heat vent for a while, then on the stove while the oven was on. That batch was WAY thicker than previous batches, so I think keeping it warm is the key. Have great fun! (PS now I'm trying to figure out kefir. Hope that goes well for you, too.)
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#4 of 4 Old 04-07-2005, 08:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for the hints!

I think we didn't check the yogurt we used for a starter to be sure it was active cultures. It was plain and fresh - just the generic grocery store kind.

We will give it a try again. I will give all these details to hubby who is our resident yogurt maker!
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