It worked! I made delicious yogourt and it tastes EXACTLY like the store brand I used as a starter. I'm feeling very proud, so let me share the process with you so you can be proud of you too, if you so choose.
I used this recipe but there are lots out there and they pretty much seem the same, more or less. Ever since a friend posted about her yogourt maker I've been wondering if I need one, but apparently I do not! My very not fancy, MacGyver-style, improvised yogourt maker did the job perfectly and I saved $60. Yay for frugality!
I'm now searching for things I could enjoy making myself while at the same time saving money, so check out my math below.
I checked out the prices of organic milk in the grocery store and for a litre of the least expensive 2% milk it's $5.49. I think my yogourt will be tastier if I use 3.25% instead and I THINK the price difference is $0.40, so thats $5.89/litre.
1 kilogram of my favourite, organic, non-homogenized yogourt from Pinehedge Farms is $5.99, plus a $1 refundable deposit for the jar. I'm pretty good at giving those jars back so I won't count the deposit.
I figured out that a 1 kilogram jar of yogourt holds about .75 litres of liquid. So for $5.89 I'm making 25% more yogourt than I would get if I buy it. Hold on a minute while my head explodes and I do some calculating...a full litre of the Pinehedge stuff would cost almost $8!! Whoah. So if we consume a litre of yogourt a week, we're already saving $2.11 per week, which is about $109 a year.
Now, that's not very exciting. I'm not motivated by $100 a year. BUT I'm told that at Costco the organic milk is $2 less than anywhere else! That's $70 more in saving! Off to get myself a Costco card, again..
Okay, still not super motivating, but it's something and should keep me going for at least another few weeks until the novelty wears off.
*** I just came back from the grocery store and realized that I'm a complete boob. I get 2L of milk for $5.29, not 1L! So I'm actually saving more like $340 a year by making my own yogourt! Now THAT is something to get excited about! ***
So here's how I did it:
1. I bought a litre of 2% organic milk at the store and a small container of organic yogourt to use as my starter. I reserved 2 tablespoons of the yogourt and ate the rest.
2. I took a few small mason jars and put them in a big pot of water on the stove and boiled them for about ten minutes to sterilize them. Apparently when making yogourt you want to avoid introducing other kinds of bacteria into the mix which may start to grow along with your yogourt bacterias, but I'm not sure how strict this is.
3. I concocted a double-boiler setup on my stove like so:
In the bottom pot there is water, and milk is in the inner pot. The point is that you don't want the surface the milk is contacting to be in direct contact with the heat of the element as you're trying to avoid the milk proteins globbing together at the bottom of the pot and burning.
3. I heated the milk. The recipe says to heat to 85°C/185°F but as I do not yet have a food thermometer I appreciated the visual reference it provided. It says that that's the temperature at which milk starts to froth, so I watched and when bubbles started to form on their own and it felt pretty hot when I put my finger in, I shut off the stove.
4. I cooled the milk off to 43°C/110°F. The recipe suggests a cold water bath but that sounded too complicated (I think a bath in this case implies circulating water?) so I just replaced the hot water in the bottom pot with cold water and immersed the small pot. I read on another site that if you do the baby bottle test and put some of the milk on the inside of your wrist and don't get burned then you're where you need to be. Took about five minutes.
5. I added 2 tablespoons of yogourt to the cooled milk and stirred to make sure it was all distributed evenly.
6. I poured the cooled milk into my sterilized (and dried) mason jars.
7. Now all that is left to do is keep the jars in a warm place from 4 - 8 hours! Here's where my McGyver-like problem solving skills came in handy. I needed the oven, which is the most logical place to store the jars (leaving the pilot light on provides enough heat to do the job) to make dinner, so I took my cooler and two big jars filled with water and nestled the jars in between, then zipped the cooler closed and placed it near a heating vent.
8. I went off and made dinner and watched a movie with Fred and went to bed and then bolted upright at 11:30pm because I'd forgotten about the yogourt. So I went downstairs and put the jars in the fridge to cool for the next day.
And this morning I opened a jar and treated myself to my delicious, perfectly-textured, homemade yogourt!
I can't believe it's so easy. I hope it's not just beginner's luck that my batch turned out so perfectly. I'll keep you posted as I have to go get more milk today as between my mother and myself it's mostly gone.
Note that for moving forward, make sure to reserve at least 2 tablespoons of your current batch for the starter for the next batch. I think it can keep two weeks in the fridge.
Also, there's no reason why you can't make smaller quantities. Just use half the milk and half the starter.