I’m lucky enough to own three dairy goats. I have a constant supply of delicious raw goat milk, and, no, it’s not goaty tasting. It’s sweet and creamy. I make lots of cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. I love yogurt, and with the store bought good stuff costing $5 a quart, I save a lot of money.
Yogurt is very easy to make, but there are a few tips to making good goat milk yogurt since goat milk has different qualities than cow milk. I think our homemade yogurt is the most delicious yogurt I’ve ever tasted. I encourage you to try making your own yogurt whether you have access to raw goat milk or if you’re using store bought cow milk (I wouldn’t use store bought pasteurized goat milk). You’ll be surprised at how easy it is! I’ll give the basic instructions first, then go into detail about, well, the details.
Ingredients and Equipment for Two Quarts of Yogurt:
2 quarts of raw goat milk (or raw or pasteurized cow milk)
2 tablespoons high quality yogurt or two frozen cubes of yogurt in a glass measuring cup or jar
2 quart saucepan
Yogotherm or small cooler with 2 mason jars and lids
1. Heat milk to 180. Remove from heat and let cool to 115.
2. When milk has cooled, pour a little milk into the jar containing the starter yogurt and stir well.
3. Add the starter back to the cooled milk, stir well and immediately pour into the yogotherm container or into two quart mason jars. Seal.
4. Put the yogotherm contain into the insulator and let sit for 8 hours. If using a cooler, put the jars in the cooler and fill with warm (not boiling hot) water to insulate the jars. Let sit for 8 hours. Then refrigerate. The yogurt will continue to solidify slightly overnight.
You can purchase starter culture. That works great. Bulgarian yogurt is my favorite starter, producing the thickest yogurt. However, it gets expensive, so I just purchase plain whole milk yogurt and freeze it in an ice cube tray and use one yogurt cube per quart of milk as a starter. I don’t bother defrosting the frozen yogurt before using. When the milk has cooled to about 120, I pour some milk over the cube to melt it. My favorite store bought starter yogurt is Dannon. I’ve tried all the organic, greek and bulgarian yogurts as starters over the years, but here in Albuquerque, Dannon has proved to be the most lively starter. When I lived in New York, I would use Seven Stars Farm or Hawthorne Valley yogurt as a starter. Don’t use low/non-fat or flavored yogurts. There must be live cultures in the yogurt. Old yogurt with not so lively cultures will not produce good yogurt. It will make yogurt, but the flavor may be very tart or runny.
You need to keep your yogurt at a steady warm temperature (not over 115 degrees). Some people do this with towels and pilot lights. That’s too much for me. For a long time, I used a small Igloo cooler, pre-heating it with hot water, but I recently purchased a Yogotherm non-electric yogurt “maker,” and I love it. It just makes the process so much easier for me. My yogurt is much more consistent, and I’m more inclined to make it regularly with the Yogotherm. They cost around $30. And since I go through a few quarts of yogurt a week, it’s already more than paid for itself.
You don’t have to bring the milk to 180 if you want a “raw” yogurt. But your yogurt will be thin because the yogurt cultures have to compete with the naturally occurring bacteria in the milk. Bringing the milk to 180 doesn’t really pasteurize the milk, but it kills off enough of the natural bacteria so that the yogurt bacteria can culture the milk without competition. This is important if you want additive-free thicker yogurt.
Cooling the Milk
I fill a sink with cold water and frozen plastic water/soda bottles in order to cool the milk quickly. This saves me time and produces a sweeter yogurt in my experience. To let the milk cool from 180 to 115 would take hours in my hot kitchen. You don’t want the milk to cool down much below 110 (yes, you can make a thin, yogurt beverage by simply adding the culture to just warmed milk, but 110 to 115 is ideal).
Thick vs. Thin Yogurt
Goat milk yogurt is naturally more delicate and thinner than cow milk yogurt. If you are used to store bought yogurt, especially cow yogurt, you should know that it is usually so thick because of additives, usually pectin, carageenan or non-fat milk powder. This yogurt, even the organic stuff, is gross to me. Why would I go to the trouble to make a healthy homemade cultured dairy product and then put something like dry milk powder into it? I don’t get it. But I do get that some people are so used to the sludge-like thick store yogurt that they think goat milk yogurt is too thin or delicate. (Think Yoplait, what used to be gourmet yogurt!). To get the thickest goat milk yogurt you need to heat the milk to 180 so that the yogurt culture doesn’t have to compete with the milk bacteria. The competition weakens the yogurt culture so that it is not able to fully act on the milk. So, heat your milk if you want thicker yogurt. Also you must have an active culture. In my experience, dry bulgarian culture (you can buy them online) and Dannon plain whole milk yogurt produce the thickest yogurt.
You also need to consider how long you let the yogurt incubate. Sometimes I leave my Yogotherm out for 24 hours. It’s still yogurt, but it’s usually thinner and more tart. If you refrigerate (to stop the culturing process) too soon, then the bacteria doesn’t have enough time to work their magic on the milk. The result is thinner yogurt. It’s still yogurt, just thinner. For me, 8-10 hours works the best. Once you get the hang of the process, experiment with different times to see what works best with your milk and climate and taste.
Have fun and enjoy! – Jen