Make or Buy? Yogurt

You can make it in a slow-cooker and even in the oven. You can make it in a special yogurt-making machine. Or you can just buy it at the store. How do you get your yogurt fix?

For purposes of comparison, we'll use Stonyfield Smooth and Creamy Plain Low Fat Organic Yogurt. And for the homemade recipe, we'll use The Kitchn's own method. Note that the homemade version makes double the amount of the store-bought tub. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.

How to Make Yogurt at Home
Peapod Online Grocery

COST BREAKDOWN

Stonyfield Yogurt
TOTAL: $3.99 (for a 32 oz tub)
PER 1/2 CUP SERVING: $0.50

Homemade Yogurt

1/2 gallon milk: $3.09
1/2 cup commercial yogurt (only used for the first batch): $0.69

TOTAL: $3.78
PER 1/2 CUP SERVING: $0.24
Note: If using local or organic milks and yogurts, the total cost rises to around $5.00 and the per serving cost to $0.31.

TIME BREAKDOWN

Stonyfield Yogurt: 0 Minutes
Homemade Yogurt: Active Time: 1 hour; Total Time: 7-8 hours

CONVENIENCE

In my house, we go through about a quart of yogurt every week. Making our own yogurt then works out to an hour of labor for two weeks of yogurt - not too shabby, really!

The trick is finding that one hour and then scheduling it so that we're either awake or at home when the finished yogurt is ready to go in the fridge. For me, that means making yogurt at night before I go to bed and then instructing my husband put it in the fridge when he gets up to go to work before me.

I'll confess: there have been a great many evenings when I'm getting ready for bed and smack my forehead because I realize I forgot to make yogurt and have nothing to eat in the morning. It might be easier to spring for a yogurt-maker, but our apartment kitchen is tiny and already bursting at the seams with cookware.

So on the one hand, it seems like it shouldn't be a great bother to find an hour of time every few weeks to make a batch of yogurt. But on the other hand...for me, it kinda is.

TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS

Personally, I feel that homemade yogurt made with standard store-bought milk (organic or non) is about on par with your average store-bought yogurt (organic or non). This goes for taste and quality both. Some might even consider store-bought to be superior since making a thick and tart-tasting yogurt at home can take some practice. Lots of commercial yogurts do contain gums, thickeners, and other non-yogurt ingredients, so take a look at the ingredient list to help you choose a yogurt that is, authentically, yogurt.

Where homemade yogurt gets a real boost, in my opinion, is if you can get your hands on local milk that has not been ultra-high-temperature pasteurized. Local milk generally comes from a single dairy (not a blend of dozens like commercial and many organic milks). I find that it shows the real character of the cows and what they're eating from season to season, as well as the care taken in processing. It makes for truly superior yogurt.

When I lived in Ohio, I swooned over yogurt made from Snowville Creamy milk. I've tried a few different milks since moving to California, and have found Clover to be pretty darn good.

MAKE OR BUY?

This one is a toughie for me. I think that if you only have access to standard store-bought brands of both milk and yogurt, it's not generally worth the trouble of making it yourself. The exceptions here are when your goal is to save money or if you haven't been happy with the available store-bought yogurts.

But if you have access to some really good-quality local milk, my opinion is to go for it. Make your own. Even the more expensive brands are usually cost-effective when compared to the price of a tub of store-bought yogurt.

VERDICT: Buy

What do you think?

Related: Make or Buy? Granola Bars

(Images: Peapod and Emma Christensen)

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