There are many ways to incubate yogurt. Many prefer the simplicity of an electric yogurt incubator which allows you to start it and forget it. Others enjoy the many do-it-yourself methods of making yogurt, even if they aren’t as sure of a thing. Over the years I have made yogurt using many methods, but never have I ventured into using the electric incubators. This is for no particular reason other than perhaps a bit of an independent streak when it came to the need for electricity. Now that we’re off-grid, that choice is already made for me. But here in Central Texas weather is wild and unpredictable and our young homestead is no match with an uninsulated kitchen. So when I came upon a simple yogurt-making method involving a pot on top of the stove I decided I might be able to use this method. A glut of goat milk all in one day sealed the deal. And this was my first successful batch of thermophilic yogurt I’ve made since moving off-grid! Here’s how I did it.
Whenever I make yogurt I like to make a lot at once and this time I opted to make one gallon. I poured the four quart jars the milk was picked up in (we acquire it from a neighbor) into a pot on the stove. Then I heated it over medium-low heat until it was getting close to the boiling point. You can tell because it’s visibly steaming and tiny bubbles begin to appear around the edge. I then turned off the heat, covered the pot, and walked away for about an hour. This is the most time-consuming part but I learned long ago that it takes at least an hour for a pot of milk to cool down to the 110-120 degrees we’re looking for for incubation. Meanwhile I began heating about 3-4 inches of water in a large (~3 gallons) stock pot until it was very warm but I could still place my hand in it without burning. I then turned the heat off.
Once cooled, I poured the milk right back into the (unrinsed) jars the milk had originally come in. I added a couple of tablespoons of thermophilic yogurt starter, stirred briskly with a fork, and then placed the lids on tight. I then transferred the jars to the hot water-laden stock pot. The water level at this point was just up to about the 2.5 cup mark on the jars. I knew that in our drafty kitchen it wouldn’t stay warm for long and that I’d need to add more hot water after 3-4 hours. So I placed a lid and a couple of towels on top of the pot and let it culture for those 3-4 hours.
I then heated up some additional water until pretty hot but not boiling and poured it carefully around the jars so that it came up to the bottom of the rings. Then I left it to culture for the rest of the night, a total culturing period of about 20 hours. The next morning the yogurt was thick and tangy and delicious! The water was then reheated and used as dish water so as to not go to waste. Our oldest son came in right as I was testing the finished product and taking pictures. We haven’t had homemade yogurt in a while and he was a little excited. I’m pretty sure I’ll be trying this method again.