Equipment and Supplies You Will Need
Equipment and supplies are one of the most practical aspects of making yogurt. Yogurt-making is far from cooking; you simply assemble a few magical ingredients and tools and let them do their work. If you’re making yogurt at home for the first time, it’s advisable to pay attention to the equipment that’s required.
Milk or Milk Substitute
We’ve talked about the various milk types and milk substitutes to make yogurt in earlier chapters. The most preferred milk is traditional cow’s milk as it is rich in fat and produces yogurt that has great texture and flavor. People who are watching their weight and are concerned about their cholesterol, switch to 1% and 2% milk or even skim milk to make yogurt. These contain lower fat but keep the nutrition intact. For those who have access to other animals’ milk, such as water buffalo, sheep, goat, or even reindeer, they can prepare and enjoy yogurt that’s richer and different in taste, while gaining many valuable nutrients.
As we know, plant-based dairy has also taken over the commercial market and is highly preferred by vegans or people who are trying to avoid dairy. It’s easy to find soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, or any other nut milk to make dairy-free yogurt. It provides lactose-intolerant people with relief while letting them enjoy their favorite products. If you’re using any of these alternative plant-based sources, it can get difficult to make dense yogurt on your first attempt, as they usually lack in fat content.
A stainless-steel saucepan or pot is an important piece of equipment to make yogurt. It is used to heat and prepare the milk, but the pot can also be used to form the yogurt if it provides sufficient depth. We would recommend using stainless steel instead of aluminum, as the latter is thinner and can burn the milk while heating. It can also damage the flavor as it is considered to be reactive. Therefore, a good-quality, stainless-steel utensil is important to achieve perfect results. Choose a pan or pot that has an aluminum core for adequate conduction of heat, protected by a layer of stainless steel to give it enough thickness.
We talked about a few types of yogurt culture and some storage instructions in the previous chapter. Here, we’ll discuss how it works and why it is considered to be extremely important. We all know that making yogurt from milk is impossible without a yogurt culture. Every starter culture comprises useful bacteria that grow in the treated milk at the right temperature and storage conditions. During this process, the milk captures a specific kind of aroma, texture, acidity, and flavor that are distinctive and help to characterize the type of yogurt. The lactose present in the milk is converted into lactic acid, and the nutritional value of the resultant product increases.
It is recommended to use a culture type that is live and active because live culture provides many health benefits such as improving gastrointestinal issues and making it more tolerable for people who are lactose intolerant. It also reduces the effects of diarrhea and abdominal bloating, in addition to being healthy and nutritious. We should also note the difference between yogurt cultures and probiotics. Among the healthy bacteria and microorganisms that are present in yogurt, probiotics provide specific health benefits. The main difference is that even though bacterial cultures are present in all yogurt types, probiotics are not necessarily present in all cultures. To find a yogurt type that contains probiotics, you need to check the label of the product.
Incubation is the most crucial step in this process, and you must get it right by paying maximum attention to it. Depending on the type of culture you are choosing, you might have to use different tools and follow specific steps.
Electronic Yogurt Maker/Incubator
Fresh, creamy, homemade yogurt is always a better idea than the store-bought yogurt that contains a lot of preservatives. To make yogurt consistentlyof good quality and safely, an electronic yogurt maker or incubator is your best bet. Even though you can still do it without a yogurt maker, this device is a wise investment if you regularly make yogurt at home.
A lot of people feel intimidated before starting to use a yogurt maker. But the process is extremely simple, and you can find a ton of recipes and instructions for almost any brand of yogurt maker that you use. And with a yogurt maker at home, you can always encourage your kids to eat healthier.
But before choosing a certain model or brand, you need to make sure that it makes the type of yogurt that suits your needs because every yogurt maker is designed for preparing specific types of yogurt. To choose an optimum yogurt maker, look out for these features in any brand:
- Check the capacity of the yogurt maker. A large-capacity device usually comes with a 50-ounce container instead of separate jars, which is perfect for a large family or for parties. If you want separate servings, you can buy a yogurt maker that includes 6-ounce glass jars with an average serving capacity of six to seven people.
- A built-in timer would come in handy when it comes to making sure that the yogurt has had a timely incubation. You don’t want to leave it inside for a longer or shorter duration. Aside from the built-in timer, a temperature-control feature would be helpful, as well.
- You’d need a built-in cooling system to regulate the temperature and provide the resultant yogurt with the optimum atmosphere to gain the desired texture and density. Also, an automatic shut-off feature is quite helpful when you have a busy schedule and cannot pay attention to your yogurt maker at all times. It saves a lot of energy and increases the longevity of the appliance.
- Most importantly, make sure that it suits your budget. A yogurt maker is a good investment, but you can always find a more affordable option with all the required features by doing some research.
Buying a yogurt maker is a great idea if you don’t want to go through the efforts of making your own yogurt incubator at home and set some time aside for this process. But there are always other options you can consider, which involve basic kitchen utensils and appliances.
This is a classic alternative in case you don’t have a yogurt maker or an incubator. The oven uses the pilot light (if it is a gas oven) to provide the thermophilic culture with heat. If you own an electric oven, you can use the oven light for the culture. Always check the temperature of the oven before putting in the milk and the starter culture. You can do this by using a thermometer and a jar of water. Take a baking pan and set your milk containers on it. Set a reminder or leave a note around your oven to remember taking the containers out when it’s time. This is a great and inexpensive way of making yogurt at home if you don’t own a yogurt maker or an incubator.
Now, using an electric blanket is a weird but effective method for making yogurt. An electric blanket will provide the optimum temperature for the culture and incubation process to work. One thing that you need to take care of is boiling or heating the milk at the right temperature so that it ferments into creamy and thick yogurt. You’ll also need a thermometer to check the temperature at each stage. For this process, you’ll need a pot to heat the milk and combine it with the culture. Once it’s done, cover the pot with a lid and wrap it with your electric blanket. Don’t unwrap the blanket and leave it in the same position for around 12 hours. Next, take the blanket off, and place the pot immediately in the refrigerator for another 12 hours without opening the lid. Your yogurt should be ready.
Similar to an electric blanket, a heating pad is another unusual device to make yogurt, which works just as effectively. For this, heat your milk to 180°F and let it boil. Keep it aside to cool until it reaches 110°F. You need to cool it immediately using the shock treatment with ice and cold water. This way, you’re pasteurizing the milk at home. Add the starter culture of your choice or a small portion of store-bought yogurt with live culture and pour it in sanitized jars. Prepare a setup with a towel and a heating pad and place your jars over it. Wrap the jars with towels and set the heating pad to a medium setting. After an hour, lower the heating pad setting and leave it for the rest of the day. Your yogurt should be ready in around seven to nine hours.
This is another easy and convenient way to make yogurt if you don’t own an incubator. A crockpot in itself is super useful; imagine using it to make yogurt, as well. Not only can you prepare and treat the milk in one vessel, but you can also culture it in the same utensil. However, certain starter culture types such as Bulgarian and Greek cultures are not suitable for crockpots and thus shouldn’t be used. Make sure that you check your culture type first and then use it for this method.
Cooler with Hot Water Bottles
An insulated cooler is extremely useful to make yogurt when you don’t have any other suitable equipment. For this method, you’ll need a cooler and a few hot water bottles. You need to heat and cool the milk as discussed above and prepare it with a starter culture. Pour hot water in the hot water bottle and place it inside the cooler. Place your jars or yogurt containers on top of the water bottle in a way that they won’t move. Cover it entirely with a blanket or a pillow and close the lid of the cooler. Let it stay like this for seven to eight hours, then put it in the fridge immediately.
The last option you can use to make your yogurt incubator at home is through a thermos and a few towels. For this, you need to heat and cool the milk in a similar way to the other methods. Preheat the thermos by rinsing it with boiling water. Then, pour some milk in it and add the starter culture of your choice, and mix it thoroughly. Add the rest of the milk, close the lid, and wrap it with a towel. Let it sit for around 12 to 24 hours, depending on the level of sourness you prefer. Transfer it into a storage container and put it in the refrigerator.
Usually, 6- to 8-oz glass jars are used to store yogurt if you make it at home, as they are ideal for single servings. You can prepare your yogurt in these jars and serve them directly to your guests. We don’t recommend using plastic jars as they can cause contamination. For safety purposes, you need to check whether your jars are made of lead-free glass or not. These jars are usually accompanied with airtight plastic lids that are BFA free, and keep your yogurt fresh and delicious for a longer time. If you want to store homemade yogurt in larger quantities, then you should go for mason jars, also made of lead-free glass. But be sure not to store eaten yogurt back in the jars to avoid spoiling it. You can also reuse these jars to store other food items for an airtight seal.
Paying close attention to the equipment is necessary to gain perfect results. In the next chapter, we’ll give you a few extra tips you can use while making yogurt at home.