Making yogurt at home, not so fun

Yogurt after the bacteria had been working for eight hours. The yellow water in the jar didn't seem right.

I’ve been reading Growing a Farmer, and in it, Kurt Timmermeister talks about making yogurt. He makes it sound easy: Heat the milk to 165 degrees, let it cool to 110, add live bacteria and sit the jar in a warm place. Voila! Super, homemade yogurt.

As soon as I read this, I began thinking about making yogurt myself. Then, I was reading Edible Grand Traverse, and the current edition has directions for making yogurt. OK, I thought, this is a sign. It wasn’t. Or, as G. said, it was a sign of madness.

I got milk, organic yogurt with live bacteria, a candy thermometer and a Mason jar. I heated the milk to 165 degrees, following Timmermeister’s directions. (Edible just heats it to 110.) I let it cool to 110 degrees, stirred in the yogurt and put a cap on the jar. I wrapped the jar in towels to keep it warm and put it in a cooler to insulate it. I waited. Periodically, I checked the temperature and gave the jar short stints in a warm oven to try to keep it around 110 degrees. Edible says this is very important. So does Greg Atkinson; I checked his recipe in West Coast Cooking too.

After eight hours, I pulled the jar out and opened it. There was a milky substance that kind of, maybe, possibly could have been yogurt. But there was also a lot of yellowish water in the jar. What to do? I thought about draining the water out, but instead I stirred it in. That was probably a mistake. I ended up with a liquid the consistency of milk that smelled like yogurt.

The milk after sitting overnight. Was the lumpy stuff on the walls of the jar yogurt?

Timmermeister had said he left his yogurt overnight, or at least I thought he did, in contrast to the six to eight hours the others recommended. So, I bundled the jar back up and let it sit overnight. The next morning, the consistency was the same. So was the smell.

But now, I was afraid to even try to taste it because what if unhealthy bacteria had been growing along with the healthy yogurt bacteria? I could give myself food poisoning and spend the day vomiting — or worse, it could be the kind of food poisoning where your kidneys shut down and you die.

I threw it out. The whole jar, without even tasting it. But I kind of want to try again, you know, just to see if I could do it. Just once.

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2 responses to “Making yogurt at home, not so fun

  1. I’ve never made homemade yogurt, but another blogger I read does it all the time: http://carolynchan.wordpress.com/.

    • Thanks! I read her post. She has a yogurt maker to keep the temperature steady. I just ordered one. I suppose other people who are more patient and detail-oriented could do this by maintaining a water bath or monitoring the temperature in a shut-off oven, but I just don’t think that’s me. I get distracted too easily.

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