You can make this with raw or pasteurized milk, but raw milk will give you more benefits. This makes a nice, mild yogurt, not too sour. My daughter and I eat it plain, my son prefers some all-fruit jelly added to his. You could also sweeten with raw honey. Yogurt provides us with beneficial bacteria and protein. Plus, yogurt is very low in carbs!
This recipe is really easy; I think it takes be about 40 minutes at the most. Just read through the entire recipe before starting (and check out the pictures at the end of the article). Last time I made it, I also folded a load of towels at the same time J. I do this once a week to keep us supplied. It will make almost 2 quarts.
For the starter, I use Dannon Plain whole milk yogurt. Some say you can always save some of your yogurt to start another batch, but I have heard that it will not set up as firm each consecutive time. I buy a container of Dannon yogurt and then freeze it in an ice cube tray for later batches. I use ½ cup fresh yogurt or 4 yogurt cubes as my starter.
I pour 6 cups of milk into a two-quart saucepan and heat over medium heat on the stove until it reaches 180°F. I stir frequently (or rather, I whisk) and use a meat thermometer to accurately test the temperature.
Then I turn the heat off and cool my milk down to 110°F. You will kill your starter if you add it to milk that is heated to 115°F or higher. To cool down quickly I set my pan over a plate of ice and constantly stir or whisk it. When the temp is at 110°F, I then stir in the starter (see above). This will bring the temperature down a bit. If I'm using the yogurt ice cubes I will actually add them at 120°F, since they will bring the temperature down quite a bit. You want the temperature to be 100°F when you are ready to pour into your jars. If it has dropped below this, just put it back on the stove and gently warm it, stirring constantly. If it's a little about 100°F, don't worry; it will cool when you put it in the jars. Now you are ready to pour into quart jars and put on the lids.
You need to keep this warm for 6 hours. Some people will put them in the oven with the light on. I don't think my oven stays warm enough for that. Some people will put them on a heating pad and wrap them in towels. I put mine in a little cooler. Before I start the process I will fill the cooler halfway with hot water to get it warm. Then I dump the water out right when I'm ready to put the jars in. I will put the jars in and pack a few hand towels around and on top of them to insulate even more. Then I set the timer for 6 hours. When it goes off I take the yogurt out and chill it overnight before we eat it.
Homemade yogurt has more of a custard-like texture than store-bought yogurt (I am speaking of plain store-bought, not fruit flavored). This is because the manufacturer has added powdered milk to thicken it up. Store-bought plain yogurt is not a food to avoid, but it is a compromise food; homemade is ideal. Powdered milk is processed milk and you know what I say, "If God created it, it is healthy; if man has processed it, it is unhealthy." According to Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, "commercial dehydration methods oxidize cholesterol in powdered milk, rendering it harmful to the arteries. High temperature drying also creates large quantities of cross-linked proteins and nitrate compounds, which are potent carcinogens, as well as free glutamic acid, which is toxic to the nervous system. (pg. 35)" So powdered milk is something you want to stay away from. Powdered milk is added to skim, 1%, and 2% milk to give it body, also to yogurt to thicken it, and many other packaged food items.
I like thick, creamy yogurt, so I strain some whey out of mine. Plus I need the whey anyway; I use it in my oatmeal, pickles, sauerkraut, and more. You can place some cheesecloth in a wire strainer set over a bowl and fill it with yogurt. Cover it and place it in the refrigerator for an hour or more (I usually leave overnight). I buy unbleached coffee filters (basket-style) from Whole Foods and use them instead of cheesecloth. The longer you let the yogurt strain, the easier it will be to turn it out of the cloth or filter. I strain some of the yogurt and then mix it with some that is unstrained. You will have to play with it to get the thickness you are looking for. I usually end up with a little more than half the amount I originally made. But it's worth it, to me. It's oh so creamy and delicious! If you want to make dip out of it, just strain more whey out of it. Some use strained yogurt in place of cream cheese, too.