Yogurt, or 'Dahee', is a great food. Nutritious, yummy, everyone likes it. It makes a convenient breakfast, snack or dessert. You can eat it, drink it, or smear it on your face for a nourishing masque if you like.
But yogurt is not cheap! And many brands have so many ingredients that you wonder just how much of the stuff is actually yogurt.
I have been making yogurt for ever, inexpensively, and now, I will pass on my wisdom to you, because I am so nice like that! It helps to make a few batches, as experience is the best teacher here.
First, milk your cow. Reduce milk over low flame...
Haha! Kidding. First, heat your milk. About a pint or two is fine. For even creamier yogurt use non-instant (regular) powdered milk, and mix it according to the package directions but then add a tablespoon or two of milk powder for extra thick and creamy yogurt. You may use skimmed milk but full cream makes creamier yogurt. Even goat's milk makes decent yogurt!
If you are not using any milk powder, heat your milk for a while until some of the water evaporates, for thicker, creamier yogurt. Be careful, milk will boil over and make a horrible mess the minute you're not looking. After heating, let it cool.
Your milk should now be slightly thicker than normal milk, and it should be just over body temperature so that it feels pleasantly warm. If it is too warm, your yogies will DIE. If it is too cool, it will take a longer time to yogue. The quicker the process, the milder-tasting the yogurt, so you want the milk to be as warm as possible without being too hot.
Yes, making things sound straightforward and clear is my special talent!
So you have a pint or two of warm, slightly thickened milk. Add a tablespoon of yogurt from a previous batch or some you have bought. Mix well.
Don't use Yoplait or any of those fancy brands, unless there is no other choice. The yogurt you get will be kinda runny, or even slimy, and will take a long time to set, so it will taste a bit sour. This runny, sour yogurt works fine as a starter, and the longer you make yogurt from previous batches the better, but if you can BEGIN with a good quality natural yogurt with few ingredients, then it's so much tastier. Trinis, use "Yumma" or "Mount St. Benedict", they are fine. Make sure your starter says "live active cultures" on it somewhere. Some stuff sold as yogurt really isn't.
Look at the list of ingredients when buying your starter. If the list says "milk, yogurt culture" then that is great. Sugar is fine too, and even pineapple doesn't seem to affect the end result. If your list of ingredients says "gelatin, salt, starch, etc, etc, etc" be prepared to make several batches before you get a really tasty result. Sour yogurt is still perfectly edible, so you can blend it into a drink and use it anyway.
Now! You will need a warm, peaceful spot for your yogurt to "yogue". Inside of the oven with the light and pilot light on, or over a heater, or beside a crockpot that's in use, on a sunny windowsill, in an airing cupboard... I have a heating mat that is specifically for yogurt, and it works great, but I have also made yogurt elsewhere. A 'yogurt maker' is useful, if you will be using it regularly. Cover your mixture with a cloth to keep the warmth in and the ants out. Do not cover with a tight-fitting lid, because moisture needs to evaporate out. A big ceramic or glass bowl works fine, but if you have individual little pots it's so convenient.
If the mixture is "jiggled" while it is setting, it will not be happy. I don't know why this is, but just be sure that no-one "checks" it too soon or too often. Jiggling tends to make it separate, so don't place it next to the running washing machine or bread maker. Or on top of a moving vehicle.
Sing it a nice song: "hello, my yogies, you little cuties" or something. Be polite. Yogurt is best when it has not been stressed out. Breathe!
Flick the cat with a dishtowel and chase her away. If she is the type of cat to knock the whole operation over the moment you aren't looking, tie her legs together, put a sock over her head, and lock her in a drawer. Or keep a close eye on her. If, despite all your caution, she manages to knock the mixture down, and it flows down a crack into your kitchen cupboard where it sets into perfect yogurt in all of the nooks and crannies of your cupboard, I just don't know what to tell you to do. I am still thinking. I will let you know.
The time yogurt takes to set varies depending on several factors. Generally, the warmer your mixture is to start with, and the warmer the place you set it, the quicker and milder it sets. Sometimes it sets in as little as four hours, but as long as ten hours is fine too.
Once it has set, place it in the fridge to cool. My kids will eat it warm and unsweetened, but they are weird. I bought small containers which I use for making yogurt in, and they are excellent for packing in lunchboxes (make it uncovered, then put the lids on and refrigerate). You can add brown sugar, crushed pineapple, jam, or honey.
Also excellent in blended drinks! Add frozen strawberries, banana, etc, and some ice cubes, and blend up till smooth. I love this.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any suggestions or tips of your own!