Monday, May 28, 2012

Yogurt Fail

It seems as if I'm destined for failure every time I attempt to make yogurt.  I've tried for several years now, and eventually I give up and go buy the stuff at the grocery store.  

But this year - this year was going to be different.  This year I was going to make yogurt!  Well, technically, I've been making yogurt for a while now, but most of it ends up in a smoothie or made into salad dressing or dumped into some sort of dinner or dessert concoction.  You see, I'm a yogurt snob.  The "regular" store bought stuff is the thinnest I'd consider eating "as is".  I like my yogurt THICK, like in Greek-Style, like in you can hold the jar upside down and nothing drips out kind'a yogurt.  

Is it so wrong to want to be able to duplicate that in my own kitchen?  Will I have to add gobs of carrageenan or corn starch or gleatin to get it to firm up like that?  It may come to that.  And although I suppose it's not the end of the world if I have to resort to an additional thickening agent, I had lofty hopes of just adding a bit of leftover homemade yogurt or freeze-dried culture to my fresh-otta-the-goat milk, shaking the jar up a bit, then leaving it in a warm spot for 12 hours or so.

Not so much.

I've tried straight-from-the-goat milk.  I tried two-day old milk.  Raw milk.  Pasteurized milk.  I heated up the milk.  I let the milk cool on it's own.  I helped the milk cool quickly by immersing it in a sink full of ice water.  I used Dannon unflavored, unsweetened yogurt as a starter.  I used the store brand plain yogurt as a starter.  I used little freeze-dried packets of L.bulgaricus, L.acidophilus and S.thermophilus. 

I incubated at temperatures ranging from 108 degrees all the way up to 125 degrees.  For six hours up to 24 hours.  Used a homemade yogurt maker using a small Igloo cooler with hot water and towels around it.  Put it in a pre-warmed oven overnight.  I even bought a "real" yogurt maker this past week:

Found this on the local online trading post for $25 and
it  was still in the unopened, original box...what a deal!
And every time - Every. Stinking. Time - the yogurt never sets up.  Even in my brand-spanking-new EuroWhatever yogurt maker.  I mean, it smells and tastes exactly like yogurt, even a bit more "yogurt-ie" than the store stuff, but it just doesn't thicken up.

Candy C. over at Lazy J Bar C Farm recently did a post showing off her yogurt parfait glasses (filled with non-runny looking yogurt) so I asked her how she made yogurt and she gladly posted her recipe for me.  So that same morning I went out to milk the goats, strained the milk, then put what I needed for another batch of yogurt to the side and put the rest to cool in the freezer.

I did deviate a bit from Candy's recipe as I didn't want a sweet yogurt to start with, so I didn't add the vanilla or sugar.  And I didn't have any greek-style yogurt on hand so I just used a bunch from my last batch.  Hmmm.  So actually, I didn't follow Candy's recipe much at all, did I?  But I did add the 1/2 cup of powdered milk and used the still warm, raw milk like she does.  So I kind'a used her recipe.  I put 5 cups of straight-from-the-goat milk into a 1/2 gallon jar, dumped 6 oz. of the last batch of runny yogurt in there along with the 1/2 cup of powdered milk and shook the heck out of it.  Poured it into the little jars and turned the EuroCuisine switch to the "On" position.  

And then I kind'a forgot about it.  Like I let it sit in the incubator for twenty hours forgot about it.  I figured that maybe, just maybe, that the additional time and warmth would give the little yogurt bacteria guys more time to multiply and maybe thicken.  But as usual, I was wrong.  The only thing it did was slow-cook a wee bit of yogurt on the bottom of the jars.  And it still didn't set up anywhere near the consistency of store-bought yogurt, even after being in the fridge for half a day.  And boy, was it tangy!  

So when I finally made it to town, I stopped in the grocery store to buy some Greek-Style yogurt, but they only had honey flavored.  Oh well; I bought it anyhow.  So now I followed Candy's directions exactly (well, except for the honey flavored part) and had another go at it.  I put it in the EuroYogurtThingy for eight hours.  There were parts that were thick, parts that were really runny, but it was still thicker than anything I've yet to make.  I put it in the fridge to cool hoping it would thicken up a bit more, but it didn't.  

I strained it through some cheesecloth in a sieve overnight in the fridge.  Come morning, about half of the whey had drained and I was left with some of the most delicious tasting yogurt I've ever made!

Thick, yummy, homemade goat milk yogurt!!!
Candy's recipe called for 1/2 cup sugar and I'm wondering if that is what made the difference.  As I'd really like to have an unsweetened yogurt, I'm going to try another batch without the sugar and see how it turns out. 

Thank goodness we're flush with goat milk so I can freely experiment.  Although I have had  to make some changes when cooking or baking lately; namely using all that experimental yogurt in everything I cook!  


  1. Hmmmm... Well, to tell the truth, most store bought yogurt has pectin added to it as a thickener. But, I've had reasonable success with homemade yogurt.

    My basic recipe is simple: I always started with whole cow's milk that had been pasteurized but just pasteurized, not the ultra high temperature processing that makes it last forever and kills off many more of the bacteria (don't think this step is an issue for you.)

    So, first scald the milk (heat to 185 degrees) VERY important to use a thermometer and watch it like a hawk! If it gets too hot you'll kill off the bacteria needed to set up the yogurt. Then cool it to around 115 - add your starter, keep warm for 8 hours and voila! I submerge mine in a cooler of warm water and it works great!

    Now... I've tried this with 2% milk and it was a complete and total failure. I also tried it without scalding it first, and that too was a disaster. Also tried scalding in the microwave - total fail!

    I like my yogurt on the soft side (main reason I like homemade yogurt) but I have read that if you want it to set up thicker you can do one of two things.

    You can add some powdered milk, but it can't be the instant kind - it has to be the kind that requires cooking to make. I'm not sure at what step in the process you're supposed to add it.

    The other thing that is supposed to help is to scald it much longer - in other words keep it at 185 for 20-30 minutes before cooling it.

    I think it also helps to use a thick yogurt as your starter because I'm pretty sure there are slight differences in the cultures.

    Good luck with it!

  2. It might be that you need to put the sugar in for the bacteria to "work" properly. I'm not sure though as I haven't made any myself.. but it seems to make sense as the only thing you really haven't done is use a sweetener.

    Silver also suggested trying with a heavy cream instead to add more milkfat to it.

  3. At least you're getting closer to your perfect recipe!!! :)

  4. I have the same trouble making homemade yogurt . . . it's never as thick as store-bought kind. I was going to suggest adding powdered milk, but in finishing up the post saw you've already tried that. I think your method of straining it may be the best solution. A whole other step to have to go through, but if it gives you the consistency you crave . . . go for it!

  5. After all said, you get a great big ol' E for effort! You've certainly got the umfph to keep on trying til you get it right!

  6. Does Candy have a different breed of goat? Maybe your milk is different from hers, Nigerians have a high butter milk content. That is just the thoughts of someone who only wishes she could make cheese or yogurt - I have never tried either yet.

  7. I've only been making my own yogurt for a couple of months, so I am no expert, but I have been getting good results. At least I thought they were good - I didn't expect to get Greek style yogurt without the straining through cheesecloth at the end. Once the yogurt has "cooked" and spent the night in the fridge I leave it in a cheesecloth-lined colander for the whole of the next day, and the end result is a whole lot of whey and a smaller amount of really thick yogurt. I've done it with whole milk, 2% and skim (whatever organic milk is on sale at the store!) as well as with goats milk, and it has turned out pretty well.

    I still think it's pretty miraculous to be able to do this is my kitchen - but then, I'm easily entertained!

  8. I am sooooo happy you made a post about this because I have the EXACT same problem! You are fortunate enough to have fresh from the goat milk, but I will have to do with store bought milk... My fancy yogurt maker has been collecting dust for almost a year now, so I need to but it out and give it another whirl!

  9. At least you are trying, I've been saying I'm going to make soap for 3 years now LOL. You will get it, just keep on practicing! :)

  10. A couple of weeks ago when I made yogurt I placed it by the dehydrator (wrapped in a beach towel) and it was thicker than anytime I have ever made it. Not that I have made it very many times since I am new to this.

    Yesterday I made yogurt and put in the oven, wrapped in a beach towel. The way I started making yogurt. It is much thinner and to think I had the dehydrator going. It's in the laundry room with the door closed so it get warmer in there than the rest of the house. So I guess when I run the dehydrator would be a good time to make yogurt. (Smile)

  11. Cat, there is one more thing I'm going to try; using fresh cow milk. I've heard that goat milk doesn't firm up as much as cow, so as soon as I find me a cow willing to give up a half-gallon of milk I'm going to try it.

    Rivenfae, I was wondering about the sugar thing also. I'd use cream in there, but I'd have to buy it and I'm too cheap!

    Mandy, closer, but no banana (flavored yogurt) yet!

    Mama Pea, straining it seems the thing to do. But it does take time (and I'm impatient) and I lose half the yogurt to whey (and I'm a glutton)!

    RiverBendFarm, this is actually one of the few things I keep doing. I'm usually a "f-this thing, I'm finished!!" kind'a gal.

    Chai Chai, I'm not sure what breed of goats Candy has. I'm sure it has something to do with it, but I find it hard to believe if people can get SKIM milk into yogurt that I can't get my darned questionable milk percentage goat milk to do it!!

    Miriam, yes, we are all quite easily entertained! It's obvious because you wacky people keep reading this blog! :)

    Tiny, honestly, I don't think the yogurt maker made one bit of difference. I'm just going to keep using it because I have to justify spending twenty-five bucks on it!

    Erin, soap! I'd much rather be making soap, at least I know I can do that! I'll do an easy soap tutorial one day soon, I promise! And if I don't, feel free to nag me.

  12. Well, I'm glad you "kinda" had success! LOL!! The only time I get the yogurt to come out pretty thick is when I use greek yogurt as a starter, the freeze-dried packets don't work as well. Then, I can use some leftover yogurt for the next batch. Not sure about the sugar making a difference, the reason I add the sugar and vanilla is because hubby only likes vanilla yogurt! ;-)
    My goats are Alpines and I have heard that it is harder to make thick yogurt with goat milk than with cow milk.
    Keep us posted on your yogurt making journey!

  13. I did mine in the crockpot. I did have to strain mine overnight, but then I used the whey in making bread the next morning. You can adjust the thickness by how long you strain it for. I don't add milk powder, gelatin or anything else. I also added sugar, or honey and vanilla after it was strained. I love it the thicker the better. DD tells me it tastes like sweetened sour cream after I'm done and refuses to eat it. Oh well, more for me. Glad you stuck with it till you got something you liked finally.

  14. I've only made yogurt once, so I don't have any advice. I made mine and kept it warm in a cooler with a towel wrapped around it. Keep posting, I want to make some yogurt soon.

  15. I know that I make a thicker yogurt when using cow's milk compared to goat's milk, just because of the cream content in each. The raw cow's milk that we buy has way more than our own goat's milk.

    Also, straining is the best route in order to ensure a thick greek style yogurt unless you want to add pectin to it. An extra step, but definitely worth it!