Sometime in the last couple of years, post-Colter but pre-Elliott, a yogurt maker was passed along to me via my Mom-mom. Making yogurt sounded right up my alley, and I thought I would put it to use. And then it sat, and sat, and sat. I even considered taking it to the electronics recycling because I wasn't using it, but then forgot to send it along with Keith when he took a bunch of stuff over on the scheduled day.
Then, a month or so ago, my mom told me she found a yogurt maker at a flea market and she was so excited about it. After she told me how simple it was, I got mine out and cleaned it up. By this point, I had lost the hand-written cards that came with it telling me how to use it. If I needed any proof that you can find anything on the internet, it came in the form of being able to find manuals to early 1970s yogurt makers. I was in business.
Really, the process is so simple. Take a quart of milk. Bring it to a boil. Let it cool down a bit. My yogurt maker came with a handy spoon thermometer that actually shows you when it is cool enough, then you stir in starter you can buy at a health food store or a tablespoon of fresh yogurt with live active cultures (ideally, a tablespoon from your previous batch).
Once the starter is mixed in, you pour it into the five glass cups and put the lids on, place them in the yogurt maker, and plug it in.
The top of the yogurt maker has a little "time out" dial so that you can show what time to take the yogurt out, about 10 hours. It isn't actually a timer, just a marker so you can keep track of what time it will be done.
My first batch was an experiment. Since Elliott can't have milk, we sometimes buy coconut milk yogurt. At over $4 for 16 ounces, it's a little pricey for me. Coconut milk is more reasonable though, so I thought I would use some of the coconut yogurt we had for the starter, and try a batch using coconut milk. I was really excited about the possibility of making our own, because of both the price and that our local grocery store doesn't carry coconut milk yogurt so it is a special trip to get it. Well, lo and behold, it didn't work. It never thickened up. Maybe the coconut milk yogurt I was using as a starter wasn't fresh enough, maybe there is a totally different process to making yogurt out of a non-dairy milk. Anyway, it was a bust.
But fear not, I carried on. Armed with some packs of yogurt starter, I started a batch using 2% milk we buy at the donut shop in town. It came out perfectly. Nice and thick and smooth, just as it should be. The next batch, I kept just a little yogurt from the first round and used that as my starter and it turned out just as well. I know it is hard to tell, but that's the finished yogurt below.
So, now we are making yogurt using local milk, and it comes out cheaper than buying it if we don't have to use a pack of starter each time. Plus, there is no extra sugar or anything in it to start. And we aren't using yogurt out of plastic tubs all the time so that waste is eliminated as well.
Boy, am I glad I didn't pitch the yogurt maker!