Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Apr

DIY – Butter, Yogurt, Kefir, Oh My!

While its certainly sometimes easier to stop by the grocery store when you’re out of key household ingredients, it is often healthier – and sometimes even less time-consuming – to make your own at home.

The following are some Mark’s Daily Apple approved recipes for everyday items:

Homemade Butter:

Not that there’s really anything inherently wrong with the butter you might find on your grocers shelves, but sometimes homemade just tastes better.

2 cups of heavy whipping cream or double cream*
1 cup of ice cold water

*when shopping for the cream, its best to opt for those varieties without carrageen or other stabilizers. Also, where possible, select “vat pasteurized cream” as opposed to ultra heat treated (UHT) or HTST pasteurized varieties. Also, where possible, start with cream that is at a temperature of about 60 degrees.

Dig out your food processor and select either the plastic blade or regular chopping blade. Fill food processor about ½ full with cream and blend at medium speed. As you blend, you will notice that the cream transitions from sloshy to frothy to whipped cream to a very stiff whipped cream. Keep blending until the mixture “seizes” and the whirring you previously enjoyed will now go back to sloshing. DO NOT PANIC – this is just a sign of the butter (the yellow bit that surfaces) is separating from the buttermilk (the rest of the fluid). Drain out the buttermilk, then add some of the ice cold water, blend further, and discard the excess. Repeat until the water comes away clear (a process known as washing the butter). Place butter in a large jar and shake to remove any excess water. Store in ramekin, butter dish or in rolls of wax paper. Should yield approximately one cup of butter.


Ahh yogurt…something so simple yet so delicious. Until the manufacturers got hold of it and started adding all kinds of additives and heck, even throwing fruit on the bottom! Here’s a recipe for a yogurt you can be proud of!

1 quart of milk
Starter Culture

A starter culture is basically any compound that already has live active cultures in it. You can purchase dry cultures at your local health store, but they do tend to be on the expensive side. A cheaper – and easier – alternative is to simply obtain a starter culture from plain yogurt purchased at a grocery store. However, when doing this, be sure to select a brand of plain yogurt that clearly indicates on its label that it contains live active cultures or else this will not work. To maintain the culture, store the yogurt – about ¼ cup is all you need for this recipe – in an airtight container in your fridge.

To make, pour the milk into a small sauce pan and, using a cooking thermometer, heat the mixture of 180 degrees F. Then let cool to 105 degrees. Stir in the yogurt and pour into a glass jar. Cap the jar and place in a pan of 105 -112 degree water. Allow the yogurt to “incubate” for between 5 – 6 hours, adding hot water every now and again so as to maintain a consistent water temperature. Once the yogurt is able to retain the impression of a spoon pressed into its surface, remove from the heat and store in a refrigerator for up to 1 week. If it doesn’t thicken up, it may be due to too many heat fluctuations, but don’t panic, it can still be saved! Try adding just half a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin disolved in a small amount of water. If plain yogurt isn’t your thing, consider adding these healthy – and sugar free – flavorings: Vanilla extract, almond extract, or coffee flavoring.


Gaining in popularity here in the U.S., kefir is a fermented type of milk that resembles the consistency of grocery store yogurt drinks.

1 tbsp kefir grains
1 quart whole or 2% milk (organic, non-pasteurized is preferable for this recipe)

Put kefir in a glass jar and fill almost full with the whole . Cover with a clean cloth and set aside on your kitchen counter. Wait 1 to 2 days, stirring periodically with a PLASTIC spoon (this is particularly important since metal appears to damage the cultures). When thick, strain out the kefir grains with a plastic strainer (being careful to keep the grains intact), pour back into a clean jar and repeat. Next time you wish to make kefir, you can use these same grains as they will continue to remain active – just pour them into a glass jar, cover with water, seal and refrigerate.


Although there’s a lot of steps in this recipe, it really is quite easy. Trust us, you’ll never need to buy pre-made tempeh again!

2.5 pounds of dry soybeans
4 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp tempeh starter (available online or at your local health food store)

First boil the soybeans for about an hour. Next, drain and rinse the cooked beans and run them through the food processor (with slicing attachment) to remove the outer skin and split the beans. Then, fill the bowl containing the beans with water and pour off the water with some hulls through a sieve – repeat until you have removed most of the hulls. Next, pour the beans onto a couple of kitchen towels and rub them dry to remove excess water (which will spoil the batch!). Put the beans back into the mixing bowl, add the vinegar and starter, mix thoroughly and then divide mixture and half fill sandwich bags that have been pierced with a sewing needle. Holes should be about ½ an inch apart. Place on a towel and put in an incubator (a warm room or small enclosure where the temperature can be adjusted to between 86 – 90 degrees F. Check every half hour or so to keep the temperature consistent and make adjustments as necessary. After about 15-16 hours you will begin to see condensation on the bags and the bags will also begin generating their own heat (adjust temperature accordingly to remain consistent) At 21-22 hours you will begin to see the white mycelium, followed by grey spores at about 24-26 hours. At this point, they are done and can be lifted out of the bag as a whole piece. You can either eat them fresh, refrigerate it for up to 5 days or freeze it for future use.

Ricecake, roboppy, David Niergarth, mariaboismain Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Alternatives to Canned Soup

Homemade Condiment Creations

Choose Your Own Salad Adventure

That’s Fit: Tempeh vs. Tofu – A Soy Slamdown

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Excellent! Hardly anyone seems to appreciate kefir, so when I tell them I have a colony kefir grains, I get weird stares. The only thing to be keep in mind is that they will grow on you. I think my culture doubled in a few months. Leave them in water long enough and they will die on you, but it takes a while.

    Also, once you have your kefir, you can make something that resembles Greek yogurt just by leaving it in a cheesecloth covered strainer overnight. Really tasty.

    Katie wrote on April 8th, 2008
  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting these recipes. I had looked for Greek yogurt, but our stores only have the bad kinds. And I had assumed getting a starter culture would involve some sort of internet shopping, I had no idea you could just use regular yogurt to start it.

    I’ve never tried either kefir or tempeh, but had resolved to try them if I ever ran across them. Now I guess I can make them whenever, although I don’t know how good a judge of how mine turns out I’ll be, haha.

    Heather wrote on April 8th, 2008
  3. Can you use raw milk to make the butter?

    matt wrote on April 8th, 2008
    • Raw milk is the best thing to make butter with! Just take cream off the top and shake away. I actually use my Bosch mixer, but you could use a blender also, to speed up process.

      Lisa wrote on May 14th, 2009
      • If you want to make the most divine yogurt, try 1 quart raw milk, 1/2-1 Tablespoon vanilla, and 3 Tablespoons plain yogurt as a starter.

        Lisa wrote on May 14th, 2009
  4. Mark, Mark, Mark.. where to begin..

    There’s plenty wrong with butter that you by at the store.

    Namely, it’s made from milk that comes from cows that are raised on CORN.

    Anyone who has read The Omnivore’s Dilemma knows all the ethical issues that surround cows raised in concentrated animal feeding operations and fed a diet of corn and drugs.

    Beyond that however, is the fact that meat and dairy from corn fed cows is loaded with Omega-6 fatty acids.

    Americans already have far too much Omega-6 in their diet, mainly because of corn fed live stock. Why make it even worse by slathering your food in it?

    Smart Balance is a better choice for those seeking to improve their Omega 6 to 3 ratio.

    That said, if you like butter at least buy butter from a local dairy farmer who raises pastured cows that get to live and eat like cows, instead of cogs in a massive industrial machine built for pure profit and the expense of your health and mine.

    Barry wrote on April 8th, 2008
    • I agree. What cows are fed and how it is processed has a lot to do with why people are lactose intolerant.

      Lisa wrote on May 14th, 2009
    • Kerrygold (ireland), Lurpak (denmark) and Cloverleaf (USA, Idaho) all make grassfed butter high in K2 and E.

      Primal Palate wrote on August 16th, 2011
  5. Smart Balance is a better choice for those seeking to improve their Omega 6 to 3 ratio.

    Really? This taken from the container of Smart Balance (organic) sitting in my refrigerator:

    Omega-3: 340mg per serving
    Omega-6: 2720mg per serving

    For the mathematically challenged, that a ratio of 8:1 in favor of Omega-6.

    Dave C. wrote on April 8th, 2008
  6. Don’t forget about goat butter @ health food store(made W/goat milk!) Let’s not forget about the goat, I really dig goat cheese, too!

    Donna wrote on April 9th, 2008
  7. I agree with Dave C. Until i looked closely at the nutrition facts on the label from Smart Balance, i thought it was a better option than regular butter. I dont use either now.

    DP wrote on April 9th, 2008
  8. Yes Dave, really. It’s a better choice for improving, not completely rectifying, one’s omega 6 to 3 imbalance. Butter from corn fed cows has a much worse ratio.

    Barry wrote on April 9th, 2008
  9. By the way, Dave, the regular Smart Balance has a ratio of 5.8 to 1. So don’t buy the organic if you want an even better choice.

    Barry wrote on April 9th, 2008
  10. Barry,

    “Mark, Mark, Mark…” Not the best way to engage me here.

    I appreciate the fact that you have taken it upon yourself to get in shape and eat right. Good move. Congrats. Since you are new here (and apparently new to the art and science of nutrition and weight-loss), you may want to go back and revisit some of our earlier posts (we have over 1100 now). You would have a better understanding of our position. We have no problem with fat (even sat fat). We are really down on carbs other than those from vegetables and a few types of fruit(I note your excessive carb intake on your site). We espouse the use of Omega3 fish (or krill) oils to adjust the 6:3 ratio in light of practical expense- or availability-based issues (grassfed, organic, etc). And we recently had exhaustive discussions on the ethics of beef farming. Those posts would address all your concerns in your comments today. You may not agree with our conclusions, but you’d see where we are. Best.

    Mark Sisson wrote on April 9th, 2008
  11. OK Barry,

    The ingredients list for SmartBalance:

    Natural oil blend (soy, palm, canola, olive), water, contains less than 2% of the following: salt, whey, vegetable monoglycerides and sorbitan ester of fatty acids (emulsifiers), soybean lecithin, potassium sorbate, lactic acid (to protect freshness), natural and artificial flavor, vitamin E (dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate), calcium disodium EDTA, vitamin A palmitate, beta-carotene for color.

    The ingredients list for butter (in this case, Kate’s Homemade brand from Maine):

    Organic pasteurized sweet cream (milk).

    Hm…which one is healthier?

    To quote Mr. Pollan, eat FOOD, not “food products.”

    yunkstahn wrote on April 9th, 2008
  12. I loooove kefir – a frozen kefir store called Starfruit is just now opening here in Chicago (kind of like Pinkberry, but with all the good probiotics and protein and calcium.) Lifeway Low-fat Pomegranate is my fave. I had no idea you could make it at home. Thanks for the tip!

    WeightingGame wrote on April 10th, 2008
  13. Ahhhh, butter, a true health food. I put butter on and in as many foods as possible, it seems.

    Most of the butter I buy for spreading, topping vegetables, and cooking, is organic & raw, from a pastured herd in Central California. Currently, in California, it is possible and legal to buy raw cow’s milk, cream and butter in retail grocery stores, though not all stores carry it. Or it can be ordered direct from the dairy and shipped UPS, for about the same price as retail. I have toured the dairy and creamery, led by the owner, so I have a lot of confidence in this source (high degree of transparency).

    For some cooking, I like to use butter in sticks (easier measuring), so I also get organic pasteurized butter that I am told is from a smaller family farm and is pastured-based, not from a CAFO.

    Anna wrote on April 10th, 2008
    • I would love the name of the dairy. I can buy raw milk where I live, but not raw butter.

      Lisa wrote on May 14th, 2009
  14. Does anyone know if you can add live active cultures to a non dairy beverage (not soy)?

    Activia yogurt is the only thing that’s helped my digestive system but I get too much mucous and sinus problems from it. However, I’d like to use it as a starter in a non-dairy beverage and see if it would have the same effect. I tried it with almond milk but it separated and looked pretty gross.

    Any suggestions?

    Amanda wrote on April 23rd, 2008
    • I have used canned coconut milk and it is good! I use it in my smoothies and I like the taste a bit better than whole milk kefir that I’m probably gonna start drinking it straight. HTH :-)

      Tristan wrote on August 20th, 2012
  15. Amanda,

    Have you tried brewing/fermenting kombucha?

    Anna wrote on April 23rd, 2008
  16. Hi Anna,

    I haven’t tried Kombucha. Isn’t it really strong and also a long process?

    Amanda wrote on April 24th, 2008
  17. Mark– We all know that yogurt starter can be obtained from a “culture” of plain yogurt purchased at the store, but it’s a second- or third- generation, rather then fresh, potent beneficial bacteria. The best way to make an authentic home-style yogurt, rich with probiotics, is to do it with Natren’s Yogurt Starter. For more information, check out or Also, we recommend using either raw whole milk (if you live in California, Organic Pastures makes great raw milk) or Strauss Family Creamery Organic Milk. Make sure to use a yogurt starter in your kefir and yogurt-making endeavors.

    Adriana Trenev wrote on October 1st, 2008
  18. Absolutely love Kefir. I’ve been drinking it for a year or two because my dad started making his own at home with raw milk because the stuff at the store had all the terrible fillers in it. Now that I’m on my own, I’d love to start making my own too.

    Kefir + organic frozen blueberries or frozen pitted cherries make a wonderful smoothie, with no ice needed. Sometimes I add a small spoonful of flax seed but it’s still great without it.

    Rachel wrote on December 15th, 2008
  19. So…I bought some starter kefir but it comes in a packet and looks like salt or sugar, no grains. Not sure if this is just a trait of commercially bought stuff. Also I bought some kefir in a bottle from whole foods to try it out. Is it supposed to have a bitter aftertaste? Cause I’m not really digging it. I should try it with berries or maybe the protein powder I use for shakes so hopefully that makes it better, or I learn to like it.

    Ben wrote on October 10th, 2009
  20. Ben, You won’t do so well with commercial starter kefir; you really need real LIVE kefir grains. Someone nearby will have some to share, as they multiply when looked after.
    Look on ebay, or check the ‘toronto advisors’ worldwide source list for kefir grains. They can be posted easily. Homemade kefir is so yum, & so good for you!

    Anita wrote on October 22nd, 2009
  21. Is it possible to make my own kefir using store bought bottled kefir as a starter?

    pattirose wrote on March 11th, 2010
  22. pattirose,
    You can’t make real Kefir with a store-bought kefir. You need LIVE Kefir milk grains, to innoculate the milk. The grains can be re-used indefinitely.
    (That’s kombucha you’re thinking of-can be made from a bottle of kombucha-but that’s another story)

    Anita wrote on March 12th, 2010
  23. This is a old post and I’m not sure anyone will answer me but…. How is that much soy not horrible for you???

    Mike wrote on March 12th, 2010
  24. Mike, you’re so right, soy is not good for you.
    Only fermented soy products, such as tempeh and miso, provide nourishment that is easily assimilated, especially when combined with other elements of the Oriental diet including rice, sea foods, fish broth, organ meats and fermented vegetables. The nutritional value of tofu and bean curd, both high in phytates, is questionable. I believe this-

    Anita wrote on March 12th, 2010
  25. Thank you Anita for the quick answer. I see there are many sellers on Ebay that offer it quite reasonably. I assume that the live milk grains are good only for milk or coconut milk or almond milk? And the water kifir grains are for juice etc? Does it matter much what country they originate from? I see Japanese ones and Russian ones on Ebay?

    pattirose wrote on March 12th, 2010
  26. Hi pattirose,
    Yes, milk grains are for milks, water grains are for fruits.
    The water kefir grains are also called Japanese Water crystals, this may be where you read that, but that was a long time ago that they came from there.⚇
    The milk kefir grains, most of them originated in the Caucaus, near Russia, but again, that would be a long time ago.
    Get LIVE fresh active grains, not dried/dehydrated. I haven’t heard a lot of success stories about those.
    They travel ok in the mail for a few days, wel-packaged, as any reputable seller would strive for.
    Buying off ebay should be fine. If you are in Australia, I’d get some to you;)

    Anita wrote on March 12th, 2010
  27. Anita wrote on March 12th, 2010
  28. I wish I was in Australia with all that wonderful fresh local fruit and all the sunshine and warm weather but I am in Canada. There is a seller on Ebay that has the Japanese water kefir grains but they are dried so I’ll pass on those and thanks for the tip on that – appreciate it!

    pattirose wrote on March 12th, 2010
  29. I’ve tried making yogurt a couple of times, 2nd and 3rd time I have came out much better, ive read or seen comments saying raw milk and cream is much better, especially if your trying to make greek style yogurt, i tried after a day or two of making it to blend some honey and cinnamon in with it and it went back to fermented milk almost, is it better to leave the yogurt cool after you made it for a few hours then put in the refrigerator, and how long until its ready to eat, the next day or in a week or so?

    Jared wrote on April 22nd, 2010
  30. You can make your yogurt at night and wrap the container it is in with a heating pad, set to low. No messing with a pan of warm water!!

    After it is yogurt, line a strainer with chessecloth (or a clean white tshirt) and then place in a bowl in the fridge. Lest drian for 4 to 6 hours and you have greek yogurt. Add stuff like garlic and parsley and you have a great spread for sandwiches, or add raw honey for a great dessert.

    Patty wrote on April 29th, 2010
  31. How exactly does one do that? After it has been heated to 180 degrees F. or after it has cooled to 105 degrees??

    pattirose wrote on April 30th, 2010
    • After it has cooled to 105, wrap it in the heating pad on low for 4 to 6 hours.

      Patty wrote on April 30th, 2010

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