Posted on Posted in Nerd Stuff

DSCN6448Some readers might recall my previous post on yogurt.  It was one of my earliest posts, and has become one of my most popular articles on Punk Domestics.  In it, I revealed my process for making yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream, all using the same ridiculously easy, practically instant process. 1

This technique worked wonderfully for me, because I have specific needs for my fermented milk products.  I use sour cream for recipes and for whey (to preserve other condiments, like my Eternal Mayo), and I use buttermilk to make my breakfast smoothie every morning.

You will notice that there is no mention of ‘yogurt’ per se in the previous paragraph.

The only way I actually use ‘yogurt’ is to turn it into buttermilk, because I need something that I can simply pour into my Magic Bullet every morning.  My yogurt process 2 results in a barely-set, decidedly ‘curdy’ product that is perfect for whisking into a smooth, tangy, pourable buttermilk, but is a far cry from the thick-set, velvety custard that people generally envision when thinking ‘yogurt.’

If you aren’t scared of eating fat 3, you can still make yogurt with the stupid-easy buttermilk process.  The higher fat content in the milk, the smoother and harder-set the final product will be.  So just use half-and-half.  That’s what I would do.  But like I said, I don’t actually eat container of yogurt.

So I wanted to make a ridiculously easy recipe for the folks that actually do EAT yogurt, instead of drinking it.  There are a billion yogurt recipes out there that are all ‘It’s so easy, just heat milk up to exactly this temperature, then cool it down to exactly that temperature, then add the culture and keep it all at EXACTLY THE SAME TEMPERATURE FOR EIGHT HOURS!’  THAT’S NOT EASY.  Not for me, at least.  All these specific temperature ranges, not to mention the trouble of keeping the mix within the same 10° window for practically half a day…

That’s the part that really gets me.  The holding for hours at a specific temperature.  I’ve seen techniques using crock pots, coolers, thermoses, and full-on yogurt-making machines, and I DO NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH ANY OF THEM.  A whiny yogurt bacterium that is finicky enough that it will only grow in this tiny temperature window is not worth my time.  I knew there had to be a way to get the hardy, active Lactobacillus culture from buttermilk to form the same thick, smooth yogurt product that yogurt-eating folks crave.

I did some research, and it turns out that the thick texture of yogurt is not a product of the culture at all!!!  The texture happens because because the initial heating of the milk causes denaturation of the milk proteins, which when subsequently cultured form a tight matrix that holds its shape when cut.  Like a real yogurt.

I also checked out some recipes on how to make yogurt thicker, and saw that a popular method is to add some powdered milk.  I already has some lying around from my experiment with SOS mix, so I thought I’d try that out too.


So I made science.  In my kitchen.  There was a control cup (Y0), into which I added a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk straight from the fridge.  There was the heated milk cup (Y1), into which I added a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk that had been heated to 185°F and cooled to room temperature, and the heated + dry milk cup (Y2), into which I added a tablespoon of buttermilk to a cup of milk heated in the same manner as Y1 and also mixed in two tablespoons of dry powdered milk.  I set the lid on each container, slightly askew, to protect from air detritus but still allow air exchange.  Then I left them all on the kitchen counter overnight.

The morning results:

Y0 (Control)
Y0 (Control)

Y0 was, as expected, very loosely congealed, with a chunky, curdy texture.  I can just stir that up and add it to my buttermilk; it’s the same stuff.

Y1 (Heat only)
Y1 (Heat only)

Y1 was thicker set, but still rather curdy, not smooth.  The surface of the set milk had wavy deposits that made the whole tiny scene resemble nothing so much as a tiny salt flat.  Strong flavor of cooked milk.  Ugh.

Y2 (Heat plus powdered milk)
Y2 (Heat plus powdered milk)

Y2 was… well, it was yogurt.  IT WAS YOGURT.  It was thick.  It was smooth.  It was custardy, and held its shape when I scooped out a luscious spoonful.  I haven’t done a side-by-side tasting with Dannon or anything, but I am willing to bet real money that I wouldn’t be able to tell the freakin’ difference.

I WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO TRY THIS.  I crave independent confirmation of my results.  I want to make yogurt creation radically easier and more accessible for hundreds of thousands of people.  Please, try this.  Tell me what you think.  Reveal your successes, your failures, your fears and revelations and tips and tasty additions!  Damn The Man and his industrial yogurt!  YOGURT FOR THE PEOPLE!!!



EDIT 02/19/14:  I got a comment from a kind reader (thanks, Christina!) who tried the recipe, and the yogurt failed to set overnight.  I am hoping that the culture is just taking a while to get a foothold; waiting to hear on the result.  If that works, I am changing the recipe to recommend aging 24 hours instead of just overnight.  If it doesn’t work, I might have some more work to do.  Please let me know your results so that I can improve this recipe.  Thanks again, Christina, for sharing; looking forward to hearing how it comes out!

Feral Yogurt
Yogurt has never, never been this easy.
  1. 1 quart milk
  2. .5 cup powdered milk
  3. .25 cup cultured buttermilk
  1. Heat milk to 185°F, mix in powdered milk until dissolved, cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix in buttermilk or yogurt, pour into desired container(s), cover loosely and leave at room temperature overnight.
  3. Cover, chill, and eat.
  1. If you have a quarter cup of yogurt left over from a previous batch of this recipe, you can use it in place of the buttermilk. DO NOT use a starter derived from conventional yogurt.
Feral Cuisine http://feralcuisine.com/
Yogurt Revisited, CONVENTION EXPLODED on Punk Domestics


  1. All I did was add a bit of buttermilk to milk (for yogurt) or half-and-half or cream (for sour cream) and let it sit on the counter for a day.  If I wanted buttermilk, I would just stir up a pitcher of yogurt until it was pourable.
  2. That is, pouring a glug of buttermilk into a pitcher of milk and letting it sit.
  3. If you’re a relatively active and healthy individual, you shouldn’t be.

6 thoughts on “Yogurt Revisited, CONVENTION EXPLODED

  1. The best yogurt I ever ate was a Greek fig yogurt from the Alta Dena Farmers Market. Would you describe the results of your experiment as a Greek yogurt? Because I would love to be able to replicate that taste and texture.

    1. I would not say this has the thickness of a Greek yogurt. One option to get that Greek yogurt texture would be to make this recipe and then strain it. (http://www.thekitchn.com/thick-and-creamy-how-to-make-g-125304) I am also planning on carrying this experiment a bit further, to see if an even thicker yogurt is possible without straining. I might try straining again, as well, but I think this time I’ll use a coffee filter; I used cheesecloth before and it was (I think) more trouble than it’s worth.

  2. Bummer, this didn’t work for me. I did a half recipe–2 cups whole (non-homogenized) milk to 185, 1/4 dry skim milk, let set for a few hours, added 2 T storebought 2% cultured buttermilk (supernatural brand, if you know it). Checked on it this morning and though the cream had floated to the top (which was what I wanted, I like cream-top yogurt), it was more or less the consistency it was last night, maybe ever so slightly thicker. I left it just to see what it will look like when I get home from work tonight. any thoughts? Would this not work with non-homogenized milk?

    1. In my experience, the part that has fully cultured tends to float up to the top, making it look like chunks of yogurt are floating in the milk. After it sits a while longer, the culture works its way through the whole batch and the whole thing sets. Sometimes it takes 24 hours or so. I don’t think there would be any problem using non-homogenized milk. I’d really like to hear how it looks when you get home; please let me know!

      1. Ok, cool, I’m glad I decided to give it a bit more time then 🙂 If it’s similar to getting cream cultured for cultured butter, I found that took twice as long as most recipes said as well, as my apartment tends to be cold.

  3. I let it cool back to 110 or so before I add the culture. Then I just leave it in my oven with the light on. That provides a consistent, draft free, location that is warmer than my cool kitchen.

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