If you’ve only ever eaten store-bought yogurt, then homemade yogurt is a revelation. Obviously, homemade yogurt easily surpasses Yoplait and the like, both in terms of nutrition and flavor. But you might be surprised to find out that your very first homemade batch will taste just as good, if not better, than the most expensive, high quality yogurt on the dairy shelf. And it’s so easy to make!
To make your first batch of homemade yogurt, you’re going to need a little bit of that high quality store-bought yogurt to get started (high quality meaning organic, full-fat, unsweetened, with live active cultures). The live cultures are the really important part, and the main reason that yogurt is a good choice if you eat dairy.
Mix a little of the starter yogurt with gently heated whole milk, let the two mingle for awhile in a warm environment, and viola, your first batch of homemade yogurt is done. You can make the yogurt as thick or as runny, and as mellow or as tart, as you like. Either way, the fresh, creamy flavor is hard to beat.
A handful of berries and macadamia nuts with yogurt is a fine breakfast, but that’s not the only way to enjoy yogurt. In the recipe below, homemade yogurt takes a savory turn when mixed with garlic, shallot, lemon zest and sumac, a tart and tangy bright red spice. The dressing has a bold flavor and really eye-catching color. It’s perfect with grilled veggies and herb-flecked grilled turkey kefta.
Servings: 1 quart
Time in the Kitchen: 25 minutes of hands-on, plus up to 12 hours to incubate the yogurt
1 quart whole milk (1 liter)
¼ cup plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurt with live active cultures (can be Greek or regular yogurt) (60 ml)
** Once you make your own yogurt, you can use that as starter yogurt for your next batch. Homemade yogurt only keeps for about a week in the refrigerator, so it’s best to make your next batch within a week. You can also buy dry yogurt starter, but it tends to be less cost effective.
Heavy pot or saucepan with a lid
Optional: 1-quart/1 liter glass jar with a lid
Instant-read thermometer or clip-on candy thermometer
In a heavy pot or saucepan with a lid, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring often. Once the milk reaches 195 ºF/90 ºC, turn off the heat.
Let the milk cool to around 115 ºF/46 ºC. Keep your eye on the thermometer, so the temperature doesn’t drop too far below 115 ºF/46 ºC.
Slowly, stir the yogurt into the milk. When the mixture is smooth, put a lid on the pot and wrap the pot in a thick kitchen towel to insulate it.
Or, alternatively, the yogurt mixture can be poured into a 1-quart/1 liter glass jar with a lid. First, fill the glass jar with boiling water to heat the jar and sterilize it. Let it stand for about 5 minutes, then before adding the yogurt mixture pour the hot water out and dry the jar. Once the yogurt mixture is in the jar, put on the lid and wrap the jar in a thick towel.
Whether in a pot or a glass jar, the yogurt needs somewhere warm to incubate for 4 to 12 hours. An oven that is turned OFF works well, if you leave the oven light on to create a little bit of warmth.
After 4 hours, gently check the thickness of the yogurt by tilting the pot/jar. Carefully dip a clean spoon in to taste it, but don’t stir or whisk the yogurt while it’s incubating. Yogurt typically incubates for anywhere between 4 to 12 hours. The yogurt is done when you like the flavor and it has thickened to at least a loose custard-like texture (it will thicken further when the yogurt is refrigerated after incubating). The longer the yogurt incubates, the tarter the flavor will be.
For the best flavor and texture, chill the homemade yogurt for at least 3 hours before serving.
If the yogurt doesn’t get as thick as you’d like after chilling it, line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour the yogurt into it. Wrap the cheesecloth around the yogurt so it’s in a bundle and tie the top. Let the yogurt drain for a few hours.
Turkey Kefta with Grilled Veggies and Savory Yogurt Dressing
Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour
1 ½ pounds ground turkey, dark meat only (or ground lamb) (680 g)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill (60 ml)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped mint , divided (60ml plus 30 ml)
In a large bowl mix together the turkey, green onions, egg, dill, ¼ cup/60 ml mint, and the garlic, kosher salt and black pepper. Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes – the colder it is, the easier it will be to shape the kefta.
While the turkey mixture chills, cook the zucchini and tomato. First, brush the cut side of the tomato slices with the olive oil. Toss the zucchini with the remaining olive oil. Lightly salt the tomatoes and zucchini.
Heat a grill to medium-high heat.
Put the tomatoes cut side down in the grill and cook until lightly charred. Grill the zucchini until soft and lightly charred on each side.
Or, the veggies can be broiled instead on a rimmed baking sheet, about 6 inches below an oven broiler set on high. Keep an eye on the veggies, as they can burn quickly. Turn the zucchini slices once while they cook.
When the tomatoes are cool enough to touch, cut into bite-sized pieces if necessary. In a large bowl or platter, toss the tomatoes with the zucchini and remaining 2 tablespoons/30 ml chopped mint. Set aside.
Divide turkey mixture into 8 portions. Form each portion into the shape of a sausage, 4 to 5 inches/10 cm to 13 cm long. Insert a metal or wood skewer lengthwise through each portion. Drizzle with oil and then grill, turning occasionally, until just cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
Or, the kefta can be cooked in a skillet over medium high heat instead, without skewers.
To make the yogurt dressing, whisk together the yogurt, lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, shallot, sumac and salt.
Serve the kefta over the grilled veggies with the yogurt dressing drizzled on top.