Most of what you find in the grocery store that claims to be Greek Yogurt is really Greek-style yogurt. Big difference. Real Greek yogurt is made with certain strains of bacteria that lend a less tart flavor, and the final product is strained to remove the whey creating that thick and creamy texture Greek Yogurt is so famous for. Greek-style yogurt often uses the same cultures as “regular” yogurt and is thickened with things like pectin or gelatin. This is especially done for fat-free Greek yogurt, four words that really just shouldn’t be allowed to exist together. It’s not bad, it’s just not right. So let’s do it right!
The first step seems ironic… you’ve got to get some Greek yogurt. You need this for your starting source of the bacteria. Pick one that has only dairy and bacterial cultures in the ingredients. Look for L.bulgaricus and S.thermophilus to be near the front of the list. No flavors or sugars added as these products tend not to contain enough live cultures and can prevent new ones from growing. If you can’t find any at the store try this: Greek yogurt starter culture
You’ll also need a yogurt incubator. I prefer having a single, larger container rather than several smaller jars. You get more flexibility: make a lot or a little. This one is specially designed for Greek Yogurt. How convenient! Dash Greek yogurt maker
To make one quart unstrained yogurt:
- ½ c yogurt starter
- ½ c heavy cream
- 3 ½ c whole milk
- ½ c powdered milk (optional, it gives a less-watery result and boosts protein and other nutrient content)
Depending on your incubator’s instructions, you should put your starter in and allow it to start warming up while carrying out the next steps.
Mix the heavy cream, powdered milk (if using), and milk in a large pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn to high. The trick with heating milk is to keep it moving continuously. I like to use a flat paddle for stirring and run it along the bottom of the pan to keep the milk from scorching. This can be about 5-10 minutes.
Using a thermometer (this is what I use) and stirring constantly, bring milk up to 180 oF and quickly remove from heat. Continue to stir off-and-on until the mixture cools to 110-115 oF. This will take 15-20 minutes.
Add the cooled milk mixture a little at a time to your warmed starter in the container for your yogurt maker. Gently stir to mix evenly. Repeat until all the milk mixture is used. Place the container into your incubator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Incubate for at least 6 hours, but not more than 24 hours. Less time creates a more mellow flavor, but the end result will be very loose and liquid-y. More time creates a firmer, but much more tart product. My preferred time is between 8-10 hours.
Place your container in the refrigerator for several hours to cool after the incubation is done. This allows your yogurt to set up more firmly. BEFORE YOU EAT ANY make sure to take out ½ c of your yogurt to be your starter for the next batch! Keep your starter in the refrigerator, tightly sealed. I have neglected mine for up to three weeks, but after that it’s pretty much a loss. Don’t use yours if it has any sign of mold, odd smell, or funny colors. Just start over again.
Your yogurt won’t be the same as commercial yogurt because it doesn’t have added thickeners like pectin or gelatin. It also won’t be anywhere near the consistency of Greek yogurt… yet. The next step is to strain your yogurt. Use a strainer lined with a clean muslin cloth, or a few layers of cheese cloth, and place it over a container. Pour your yogurt into the strainer and cover with the edges of the cloth. Place it into the refrigerator until enough whey has drained from the yogurt to give you the consistency you want. I like mine thick so I usually let it set overnight.
At this point carefully dump your thickened yogurt into a container and enjoy! The cloth will easily peel off the thickened yogurt. Topped with fresh berries and/or sliced fruit and a drizzle of honey, you have a delectable treat worthy of the gods!
DON’T DUMP YOUR DRAINED LIQUID! It is a nutritious treat for any acid loving plants in your yard. I dilute it down with a bit of water and give it to my blueberries. They love it!