Monday, October 12, 2015

Simply Delicious Homemade Yogurt


We have been making our own yogurt for a few years now. I have had a number of people ask me about doing this, so I thought I would share with you how we DIY our own yogurt, cheaply and simply. There are many good tutorials online with other methods. I read a number of them before I tried to make it, and I recommend that any novice do this as well. That being said, this is how I have tweaked my yogurt making to ensure that it turns out well consistently, is healthy, requires very few ingredients or tools, has little waste, and of course, tastes great!
     First, a few facts...The only things you need to make yogurt are milk (just not ultra-pasteurized), live active cultures, a thermometer and a way to keep it at around 110 degrees for about 8-12 hours. After making my first batch, I freeze a portion and use it as the starter for the next batch. So, my only ingredients will be milk and starter yogurt! Have you read the labels on the yogurt available in the stores? I picked up a strawberry yogurt and found that it had NO STRAWBERRIES in it! It used natural and artificial flavors to give it the strawberry taste and carmine (do yourself a favor and read about how that is made from squashed bugs) to give it the pink color. Silly me, I prefer that I get the strawberry flavor from actual strawberries. If this pisses you off, then it is time to try this out and 
do it your damn self!

This is an actual label of one of the most popular brands of strawberry yogurt. I snapped it at the store as I was standing there, incredulous that there were NO FRIGGING STRAWBERRIES IN IT! Seriously, it should say "no strawberries were harmed in the making of this yogurt."  Plus, look at all the stuff that won't be in the yogurt you make!

     My recipe is for making a gallon of yogurt, but could be made smaller by substituting a half gallon of milk and a small individual yogurt for the starter, I think, but because this is so popular in our house, I just can't make less than a gallon, so I've never made a smaller batch! We initially made this in a large bowl, but now use jelly jars so they are individual servings, which is very convenient and seems to keep the yogurt firmer longer.  We like these best if we flavor them at the time we eat them. Plus, this allows for lots of different flavors!
      Some favorite toppings are:
                *honey with ground flax seed
                *strawberry jam
                *mulberry compote
                *yummy fresh fruit
                *honey and sunflower seeds
                *moreno sugar and cinnamon
             *ch-ch-ch-chia seeds

          the combinations are unlimited , so have fun with them!

             Homemade Plain Yogurt

gallon of whole milk
2 cups of yogurt with active yogurt cultures (most yogurt has this and will say so on the packaging)

large pot

How to do-it-yo-damn-self:

1. Pour your milk into a pot and heat it up to 180 degrees.

    (note: use a medium low heat and stir every so often. Milk may scald on bottom of the pot a bit. Resist the urge to freak out! Just don't scrape that part off so it stays out of your yogurt. Using this lower heat takes much longer, but results in a creamier, better tasting yogurt. Also, those last 5 degrees take FOREVER, or at least feels that way. Do something enjoyable to pass the time. Treat yourself. Or don't. Suit yourself.) 

2. Once the milk is 180 degrees, cool it down to about 115 degrees.

    (Notes: I say 115 because you will be adding cold yogurt which will likely cool it down more. It should be at 110 degrees for the next step. You can cool down by just shutting the heat off, or get this show on the road by setting the pot in some ice water. Just don't get the water into the pot.)


2 1/2.(Do this while the milk is cooling) Start a kettle of hot water to boil. When it is boiling, put it in 2-3 jars and place in your cooler. You will use this in your cooler  to keep it warm.

3. Simply stir in your 2 cups of yogurt that you are using as starter,

then pour into whatever vessel you will be keeping the yogurt in.

(yet more notes:  I use jelly jars here for convenience and also because dipping into the yogurt repeatedly seems to make it watery. But, again, suit yourself, do it YOUR damn way. If you have never used a wide canning funnel and you like to pour things into stuff like I do, then spend less than $5 on one of these bad boys. You will wonder how you never had one before!)

4. Cover your yogurts and put them into a regular old cooler with your hot water.

 Fill in the empty space with a blanket or towels and close. Leave it alone for 8-12 hours (No Peeking! Don't let the heat out!), then refrigerate your yogurt.

(Notes, yes, again: I like to use 3 mason jars of really hot water, spaced out in the cooler. I find that in my first few batches, I get better results at closer to 12 hours, but as my starter ages I can go shorter. I can't explain that, but there you go.)

5. Once the yogurt is good and cold, enjoy!

Mmmmmmm! Strawberry yogurt! Simply mix in a bit of your favorite jam if you like it sweet, or fresh fruit if you are sweet enough already!. This is my homemade strawberry freezer jam. 

(Notes, last one, I promise:  I freeze about 2 cups-ish of my yogurt after it cools and use that as my next starter. Just be sure to leave headroom in the jar so it doesn't crack. Thaw overnight in the fridge or just put the sealed bottle into warm water to thaw at the time you make it. Don't overheat it and kill the cultures though.) 

     Good luck and have fun creating different flavor combos!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It's summer! Say no to bug bites and sunburn!

Here are two easy and useful summer recipes, bug repellent and sunscreen. I have been using these with good results for several  years.  However, in deep woods at night, when  camping,  we do  use a commercial mosquito repellent, because one of our kids swells up until he looks like Quasimodo when he gets mosquito bites. But for backyard  use,  this spray has been effective and smells fantastic! Also, it is very refreshing when  it is hot outside. I admit, sometimes I spritz it on just because I like it!

No more mosquito spray
Mix together:

1 tsp.  Lemongrass essential  oil
1 tsp.  Eucalyptus essential  oil
1 tsp.  Citronella essential oil
7 oz witch hazel

Pour into spray bottle and spritz yourself liberally. Enjoy!


In a heat proof container (I use a thrifted pyrex measuring cup that is strictly for my DIY health and beauty recipes) place the following:

1 oz. Beeswax
1oz. Cocoa butter
1 oz. Coconut  oil

Melt in a double boiler or in microwave (stir every minute if microwaving) until liquid.

Mix in thoroughly :

. 6 oz. Non-nano particle zinc oxide

Be sure to stir it a few times as it starts to cool. For a family, I double this recipe.