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Yogurt, plain and simple

Throughout the two-plus years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve never dedicated a post exclusively to yogurt. I’ve used it as an ingredient here and there, sure, but it’s never played a leading role. That’s not acceptable. Not for a Mediterranean food blog, at least. I plan on changing that today.

On my recent trip to Aleppo I was reminded how important yogurt is in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s everywhere. Cow, goat or sheep. Strained, plain or cooked. In the Levant there’s even a popular refreshing drink called Ayraan (عيران) that’s made from yogurt, but more on that later. Today I need to set things right. Today is all about yogurt.

Before we begin, I’d like to dispel the myth that suggests you should buy a fancy yogurt maker to incubate your milk. Please don’t. If you already have, I won’t hold it against you, but you really don’t need one. If the machine made the job any easier, I can understand, but the truth is, making yogurt is pretty simple.

While I was in Aleppo, Leila (my maternal grandfather’s brother’s wife’s sister), shared with me her way of making yogurt. Take a look:

Before I met Leila, I used to make my yogurt in the pot I heated the milk in. Not anymore. I really like her idea of dispensing the yogurt into smaller jars.

mise en place

Midway through the process (usually as the yogurt is cooling), I like to turn on my oven to the lowest setting and turn it off after 5 minutes. This helps keep my oven barely warm enough to properly incubate the yogurt — which is essentially what the yogurt machine does, except it doesn’t cost extra money and doesn’t limit how much yogurt you can make.

heating the milk

Once you heat the milk to 180 degrees F (a near boil), you need to cool it. I like to use a thermometer, particularly for this step, so that the yogurt starter has an ideal environment to initialize the incubation process. That temperature should be between 107 and 112 degrees F (41 and 44 degrees C).

nestled inside the oven

Since the pizza stone in my oven can retain lots of heat (as can the metal rails), I like to line the base with a kitchen towel before placing the jars of yogurt inside the oven. Then, as Leila mentioned in the video, you want to cover the jars with another towel so they remain warm throughout the incubation.

plain goat milk yogurt

Keep the jars overnight in the oven and move them to the fridge first thing in the morning. It’s that simple — saha wa hana (صحة و هنا)/bon appetit!

Homemade Yogurt

Makes 1/2 gallon

Components

  • 1/2 gallon milk*
  • 10g yogurt starter*

Putting them all together

  1. Heat milk to 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) over medium heat.
  2. Cool the milk between 107-112 degrees F (41-44 C) and slowly mix in the yogurt starter.
  3. Dispense the milk into 4-5, 16 oz. jars.
  4. Place the jars inside a barely warm oven lined with a kitchen towel and cover them with another towel to keep them warm throughout the incubation process.
  5. After 6-8 hours (or overnight) move the jars into the fridge and store until ready to use.

notes: If you don’t have yogurt starter you can use any plain yogurt that has live active cultures. Usually I like to go with the Organic Stonyfield Plain Yogurt. You’ll also get better results by using full-fat milk — 2% milk won’t get nearly as creamy.

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Posted in French, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, North African, recipe, savory, Spanish, Turkish by Antonio Tahhan on December 29th, 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


26 Responses to “Yogurt, plain and simple”

kamran siddiqi Says:

Great post Tony! I especially love the video! My dad also makes homemade yogurt using a similar method. He tells me that I should write a post on it. If he badgers me enough, I just might.

DianaQ Says:

I’m definitely giving this a try. There will be more Naan baked at my house for sure!
Thank you for this post!

tasteofbeirut Says:

Great post! I always remember my teta’s blue blanket that she used to cover the yoghurt with! Your explanations make it look easy, which it is, but not many people know that!

Kirstin Says:

I’ve been hesitating to try to make my own yogurt, but this is definitely encouraging!

Alépine Says:

Thank you for sharing this great video. She reminds me of my grand mother.

Kate/Kajal Says:

Simple, basic but yet so wonderful. Back at home we also make the yogurt at home. If i ever told my dad to by some from the store he’d kick me out of the house, and let me how lazy and useless i am …lol
We don’t use a yogurt starter though. Just a spoonful of yogurt from the previous batch does he trick :p

Mrs Ergül Says:

I totally agree that making yogurt is so so so simple! Except that we do it differently. The ‘starter’ that we use is just yogurt that we have made the previous time. So as each batch goes, the yogurt just gets better and better. Of course, for the first time, we need to use a good quality store-bought yogurt, preferably one that is unsweetened. The next time, I will try having them in the oven overnight.

By the way, what is the lowest setting of your oven as mine is a dial and the lowest is about 50C.

Antonio Tahhan Says:

Thanks, Kamran! There can never be too much yogurt — you should blog about it 🙂

Enjoy, Diana! Naan is my weakness… I think I know what I should do with the remaining jars of yogurt I have in my fridge 😀

Merci Joumanana!

I hope you do give it a try Kirstin. It’s worth it; especially if you love goat or sheep milk yogurt.

Alépine, I’m glad you liked it 🙂

Kate: haha! Your dad is serious about yogurt — as he should be 😛

Lydia: lol… shh! Actually, I sometimes find washing dishes to be therapeutic … oh, gosh… I hope my mom never reads this. She’ll never let me get out of washing dishes again 🙂

Mrs.Ergül, thanks for your comment! I probably should have cleared the oven part a bit more. What I meant to say is that I turn on the oven to the lowest setting (mine is 170F/76C) and turn it off after 4-5min — before it even reaches that temperature. What this does is barely warm up my oven so that it gives the yogurt a warm and cozy place to incubate 🙂

Peter Says:

Great video clip Tony! My mom also showed me how to make yogurt and it’s amazing how the similar the approach is with your aunt.

We use plastic tubs. Go to a deli and ask if you can buy some or they may even just give you some if you’re a regular customer.

Maria Says:

You know I have been meaning to dabble in making yogurt at home and and have yet to try. You’ve made it seem so simple a task that I have no excuse now!

Ann Says:

LOL..we make yoghurt the same way at my home too. But I like the idea of the individual jars instead of the big old pot – your grand-aunt is SOOO right about that annoying pool of water that collects up in the pot. Cute video, I couldn’t help smiling when the other voice kept cutting in…=)

bellini valli Says:

This looks thick and luscious, so different from our North American yogurt. I thoight it just couldn’t be duplicated…until now.

Heather Says:

Tony, this is the most straightforward and well-illustrated account of homemade yogurt I have seen yet! I love the idea of reusing jars. I will be (finally) trying this very soon.

Where do you get your goat milk? I don’t get to Whole Foods often, but I think they might have it there?

Heather Says:

P.S. Stonyfield Yogurt is made in my hometown of Londonderry, NH. 🙂

om fares Says:

مرحبا طوني

أنا بعمل لبن ولكن أستعمل طنجرة كبيرة للترويب ليش إنتا مستعمل أواني صغار شكل اللبن كان بشهي

jen Says:

i was musing just yesterday about how i would make soy yogurt myself without a ‘maker’. thank you for being the only man to read a woman’s mind weeks before i even thought it.

Lorrie from ReadNEat Says:

I can’t wait to try this. You have taken my fear out of making yogurt.

superkid Says:

هاي توني كان شكل اللبن طيب و كتير وبشهي أنا بحب اللبن كتير لأنو كمان بطعم الأكل

joey Says:

Fantastic post! I love yogurt but always thought you needed fancy equipment or special ingredients to make it. Now you’ve made it look gloriously simple! And the yogurt looks so creamy!

KJ Says:

LOL!

My grandma makes it in a different way, she uses the live cultures and pieces of cloth and medri shu… but in the end all she needs are a few jars and pieces of cloth!

Summer Says:

Beautiful post and i love the video…the lady is so cute and knows her stuff!!
Thanks for sharing.

Divina Says:

Thanks for this post. You’ve made it so simple and easy to make. I better have those jars first.

Healthy Mamma Says:

Delish! much better than store bought. I make my yogurt in my big crock pot turned on the lowest setting & covered w a big towel. I like greek yogurt best.

Helen Says:

I am looking for a recipe for “shanklish.” I would like
to begin making it as it is still a wonderful childhood
memory. Thank you.

Antonio Tahhan Says:

@Helen — I will do my best to post a recipe soon. Thank you for stopping by!

The Foodies vs. Big Food | Broad Street Book Nerds Says:

[…] past year, I’ve canned numerous times (last weekend’s project: strawberry rhubarb jam), make my own yogurt, and signed up for my first CSA share this […]


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