A little over a year ago, I began drinking raw milk. I had been on the fence about this for quite some time (there are a lot of fear mongerers out there when it comes to raw milk and well, I'm a worrywart by nature). The tipping point came when I found out that I actually grew up on raw milk, which came to us in glass bottles from a neighbor's cows.
Now I should confess, I'm not much of a milk drinker. At least I wasn't. I didn't really like milk. At least I didn't think so...until I tasted my first glass of nice, cold, raw milk. DELICIOUS! I was hooked and never turned back. The laws on selling raw milk vary from state to state. In MA, dairy farmers can obtain a license to sell raw milk to consumers on farm. You will find a list of farms that sell raw milk here (along with a list of the benefits of raw milk).
While I may not have been drinking a lot of milk a year ago, I was consuming it in yogurt form. I would pack a container of Greek yogurt in my lunch on a daily basis and add a healthy amount of yogurt (or Kefir) to my morning smoothie. The cost was adding up, as was my guilt over tossing all of those individual yogurt containers into our landfill (they aren't recyclable here).
SO....I began to Google homemade yogurt recipes. It's a simple process, really. But it did take me some time to get the incubation part down. I tried using my crockpot (there are many people in the blogosphere who've had great success with this method, but my end result was repeatedly more of a smoothie consistency vs. the sour cream consistency I was aiming for).
I finally invested in a Yogotherm, which I purchased at the Cricket Creek Farm store. After trying several different starter yogurts, I also purchased this starter from the New England Cheesemaking Company. It yields a slightly sweeter (and I use that term loosely), nice, thick yogurt.
With the proper tools, I've been consistently making homemade yogurt on a weekly basis. Here are the steps I follow.
Heat 1/2 gallon of milk to 185ºF, hold for 5-10 minutes then cool to 112 - 115ºF (you do not want to exceed 120ºF here or you will kill off your culture). I used a enamel-coated cast iron dutch oven to heat my milk. It heats evenly and I've found if I place a few ice cubes in the pan to 'chill' the bottom before I begin making yogurt, it prevents the milk from sticking. I use a quick-read thermometer to monitor my temperature. It's what I have and it works! At 185ºF, the milk will begin to froth like this.
Pour into Yogotherm. Add 1 packet starter culture,
let rehydrate 2 minutes then stir. Cover and let set on the counter for approximately
6 hours or until thickened to desired consistency (the longer you let it go, the more tart it will be).
Place yogurt in fridge to chill before eating. Once you begin scooping it out, the whey will be released from your yogurt. You can strain the yogurt through butter muslin for a couple of hours in your fridge, you can gently pour the whey off OR stir it right into your yogurt. If you strain or pour it off, don't dump it down the drain! Here are 16 ways you can use that whey.
Once it's chilled add fruit, vanilla, maple syrup, honey or whatever your heart desires to your yogurt and enjoy!