For months I have been attempting to master the art of homemade yogurt. That is to say I have been tweaking other people's fabulous easy to follow recipes and attempting to make it in a way that my family will love it the most.
I've read a few horror stories about screwing up entire batches but to be honest I have only screwed up one and it was still edible, it was just a bit bitter for some people's taste. Unfortunately of course without knowing I had made a bitter batch I handed it over to my best friend who then fed it to her yogurt loving children who now hold it against me and won't try my homemade yogurt again... Whatever that's their loss...more for me.
She has since started making her own as well and I'm sure we will change their minds together.
I read and found that all you need is a few simple ingredients, milk, yogurt (or starter), sugar, and vanilla are all I use.
Many many many different recipes out there, so the best thing to do is play with it.
I also just figured out that the quality of the ingredients actually does matter. Originally I would use Walmart plain low-fat yogurt (that's what wic gave us so it was free) and Walmart brand milk in whatever fat content I happened to buy. But lately I've been using whole milk from Braums and just this last time I didn't want a huge container of starter and only wanted to buy one container instead of a four pack and great value only came in a 4 pack so I ended up with Dannon plain yogurt, I don't know the fat Content it was just the first one I found that said it contained live active culture, which is essential for yogurt making.
This last batch was twice as thick as any other I have made to date, and so delicious!
The only thing I have had trouble with in the past was how much sugar and vanilla to add, but I think I have it mastered now... At least to my satisfaction, feel free to adjust it to what you like.
One single serve container of yogurt, vanilla or plain (as mentioned above Dannon helped make my yogurt thicker and creamier, but great value or any other brand works well too.)
One gallon of milk (I like using whole milk but have used as low as 1% without issue)
1.75 cups of sugar
3-4 tablespoons of vanilla (I use about 3.5)
4 glass quart sized Mason jars
One large pot with lid (all your jars should fit inside with the lid on top, seal is not important but you want it as close as possible)
Pour milk into your large pot and heat to 170-180 degrees stirring often to avoid scalding on the bottom of the pan.
Once the temperature reaches this level shut off your heat and leave uncovered without stirring until the temperature reaches 120 degrees (F). (You will likely have a thin layer of milk on top that resembles plastic wrap only white, just scoop it out and discard it.
When the temperature is getting close soak your Mason jars in very hot water to kill any bacteria lingering in them.
In a mixing bowl put sugar, vanilla and single serving yogurt together and add about a cup of your 120 degree milk and lightly stir, your yogurt doesn't want to be beaten, just well mixed, if there are still little parts that are not totally mixed that is OK too.
After stirring pour the mixture into the pan with the rest of the milk and mix a little more. Again do not abuse your mixture, yogurt likes to be treated gently.
Remove jars and shake out excess water and dry the outside of the jars.
Using a large ladle or a coffee cup scoop out your yogurt mixture and pour it into the jars. I typically have only an 1/8 inch to the top of my jars. Then put their lids on them not too tight but tight enough that they won't leak. You may have a little left over, feel free to drink it, it's delicious!
Rinse your pot out really well and put the jars inside, fill the pan up to the necks of the jars with warm water, about like a bath, if your need exact temperature then 120 degrees is as hot as you should go, no more than that.
Pop the lid on the pot and cover with a folded towel, the sides of the pot don't need to be wrapped but you do want the towel to cover any gap the lid doesn't cover.
Set a timer for 4 hours and don't touch the pot or jars inside for the duration.
When the timer goes off remove the jars, dry them gently with a towel and place them in the fridge for 8 hours before opening.
Enjoy your yogurt!