Think of the economy — buying one gallon of milk (about $4.50) versus one gallon of yogurt (easily $20, particularly if you wander into the fancier varieties). In this economy, who can afford to not make their own yogurt? Oh, what’s that? You don’t need a gallon of yogurt? Well, this is not how they would have viewed it during the Great Depression.
Homemade yogurt tastes great, is extremely easy to make, and requires no specialized tools. The premise is simple — yogurt contains bacteria (think about all those ads for live cultures and their wonderful health benefits). Bacteria like warm places where they can eat, and yogurt bacteria likes to eat milk. If you put a little yogurt into warm milk and give it enough time, the bacteria will multiply and create more yogurt. If you are looking for more detail, Harold McGee describes it in the New York Times better than we dare try.
Basic Homemade Yogurt
adapted from a recipe by Harold McGee
1 gallon of milk (whole milk will produce the creamiest results)
¼ c yogurt with live, active cultures
Heat the milk to 180° F. Remove from heat, and allow to cool until the temperature drops to 110-120° (this is the temperature bacteria loves). Add yogurt and stir. Cover loosely and then wrap in a large dry towel for insulation. Because you want the temperature to stay around 100° overnight, you can place the bowl and towel into an unheated oven, a microwave, or a small insulated cooler to maintain heat.
Twelve hours later, you will have yogurt. Store in the fridge; jam jars from the hardware store are one neat solution to the problem.
Once you’ve made your massive pile of thrifty and delicious yogurt, you are, of course, faced with the problem of how best to consume it. Stirring in a spoonful of homemade jam is a great solution — and if you want to get all locavore on it, make a jam using rhubarb from your backyard, or the backyard of a neighbor unsure how to otherwise dispose of the 10 pounds a week of the stuff that his or her rhubarb patch generates.
Homemade yogurt also works wonderfully in this extremely reliable and delicious chicken tikka masala recipe that can be adapted for outdoor summertime grilling if you’re so inclined.