It took me a while to figure out just how to go about it, but after researching on line, reading my Nourishing Traditions cookbook and consulting my friend Julia, a veteran yogurt maker, I finally attempted making yogurt. So much simpler than I anticipated! I had been wanting to make it for a while since I'm more and more convinced of the health benefits of raw milk, especially the probiotic benefits of raw milk yogurt. For those of you who are squeamish about raw milk, the good bacteria in yogurt keeps any bad bacteria at bay, so yogurt is an good introduction into the world of raw milk products. The probiotics in yogurt peak at day 7 and need to be consumed by day 14 to get the most mileage, so it's almost impossible to get much probiotic benefit from consuming commercial yogurt, thus making homemade raw milk yogurt worth the minimal effort that it takes to make it.
On the big day, I heated the milk, put the yogurt in the dehydrator, then went to bed.
In the morning, I couldn't wait to jump out of bed and come down to the kitchen and find out if it worked. It did! It was like Christmas! Only my friend Julia could understand my elation over such things. :)
Here's my method:
Gently heat milk (whole or with cream skimmed off for butter or another use) to 110 degrees.
Whisk in 2-3 T. yogurt from a previous batch of yogurt or commercial yogurt.*
Place in a wide mouth jar or bowl with lid, allowing 3/4" head space.
Place in dehydrator; set temp to 100 degrees and allow to incubate overnight or for 8-10 hours.
Refrigerate until thickened.
Yogurt is so versatile! If you drain the whey off the yogurt anywhere from a few hours to several days, you can create a thicker yogurt product with less tartness which works nicely in place of sour cream or cream cheese in recipes. Simply line a strainer with a coffee filter, suspend it over a bowl and place it in the refrigerator until the desired consistency is reached.
*I like to keep a small container of freeze-dried yogurt culture in my freezer so I can make yogurt even if I don't have any yogurt on hand from a previous batch. You can purchase the culture at Miller's Natural Foods in Bird-in-Hand or online.