That's right, you don't actually need a yogurt maker to make homemade yogurt. People were turning leftover milk into yogurt for years before these little machines came along, after all! Here are three ways you can make fantastic yogurt using equipment you already own.
In order to thicken and set properly, yogurt needs to be kept at around 110°F for 4-6 hours. That's why yogurt makers, which hold a steady temperature, are so handy. But with a little ingenuity, it's easy to get the same results without investing in another kitchen gadget.
1. The Oven Method - Preheat your oven to around 115° and then turn it off. An oven thermometer is handy for gauging the temperature of the oven, but if you don't have one, just turn off the oven after about five minutes. The oven should be warm, but you should still be able to rest your hand on the wire oven rack. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven while it's preheating - the stone will retain heat even as the oven cools. We also read many sources that recommended leaving the oven light on to add an additional source of warmth.
Once you have heated your milk and mixed in the yogurt culture, transfer it to a dutch oven, sauce pan, or glass container (or you can heat the milk right in the pan itself). We prefer a dutch oven because we think it holds the heat the best. Put the lid on the pan and wrap the whole pan in several layers of towels, which will act as insulation. Set this bundle in the oven for 4-6 hours, until the yogurt has thickened to your liking.
2. The Slow-Cooker Method - A slow-cooker can actually be used for the entire yogurt-making process from heating the milk to keeping the temperature steady while it sets. The best instructions we found for this method come from A Year of Slow Cooking - click through to get the full tutorial.
3. The Thermos Method - A vacuum-insulated thermos will keep milk at a steady temperature for hours. Once you have cooled the milk and added in the yogurt culture, just transfer it to one or more thermoses and screw on the lid. When the yogurt is set, transfer it to an alternate container to be refrigerated. We're thinking of investing in a big 2-quart Stanley thermos (available on Amazon for $34) for this very purpose.
It's also possible to make yogurt simply by setting it on a sunny window sill or in a warm spot in your kitchen. We have to think this method might give some spotty results as the temperature fluctuates, but it's also a way to make yogurt without using any equipment at all. Might be worth experimenting with on a hot summery day!
What's your preferred method for making yogurt at home?
(Image: Emma Christensen)