I first started making yoghurt in June 2015 when I was thinking about how I was going to get through the Plastic Free July Challenge I’d set for myself – and therefore my family because I do all the shopping. My daughter was obsessed with yoghurt pouches, ‘drinking’ at least two a day and my husband often enjoyed a large tub of yoghurt. My son and I weren’t really fans of yoghurt.
One of my main aims during the challenge was to find plastic free alternatives to everything we already ate and used around the home. I knew that if I started forcing other family members give up things they enjoyed I wouldn’t stand any chance of success or lasting change. So yoghurt was one of the things I had to figure out.
In the beginning, there was no yoghurt for sale in glass in my region, so I decided to make it myself. The good thing about homemade yoghurt is that it is so easy and tastes so good! Even I enjoy yoghurt now (my son still won’t let yoghurt near his lips to figure out if he likes it or not). I think it is because I get to use fresh, raw, full-cream milk. I also really like that I didn’t have to buy anything extra like a yoghurt maker or kitchen thermometers.
To learn how to make yoghurt I pulled my copy of The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans off the shelf and read the Dairy chapter with interest. I also found a video of Matthew making yoghurt which uses a slightly different method to that in the book; finally I tweaked the process to suit myself. This is how I do it, you will need:
- 1 litre full cream milk. If you are not able to collect your own milk in reusable containers (I can collect straight from a dairy vat), you might be lucky enough to find milk in returnable glass bottles. Butterfly Factory is a Gippsland brand of unhomogenised milk that comes in glass bottles. If you had access to package free milk powder from a bulk store you could experiment with this, but if plastic packaging is your only option, buy as large an amount as you can so that there is a less packaging to product ratio – make sure you don’t waste the milk.
- 80g natural plain yoghurt as a starter – choose one with a flavour that you like and check the label to ensure it only contains milk solids and live yoghurt cultures – no flavours, emulsifiers or thickeners. Remember to save a bit from each batch to make your next lot. After a while you may need to refresh your culture with another bought yoghurt. Again, you might be able to find some in reusable glass jars for your first starter.
Add one litre of full cream milk to a pan and heat until just before boiling. You are at this point when the milk starts to look frothy.
Turn off heat and let cool until you can leave your hand on the outside of the pan – it should still be warm. Stir in the yoghurt.
Pour into sterilised jars. I use jars of sizes suitable for school lunches, baking amounts and snacks. To sterilise jars leave in the oven at 120 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.
Bundle the pots together, wrap in two towels and leave in a warm room overnight (about 12 hours). In the morning place in the fridge to cool and eat within two weeks.
As you can see from the picture I have some pink yoghurts. I added a drop of food dye to interest my daughter. Because the yoghurts she had been ‘drinking’ contained a lot of sugar, she did not initially like the change. I am slowly weaning her off the sugar in yoghurt by adding just enough to sweeten it up a bit. I add a little bit less each time, in the hope that she will eat it completely naturally in a little while. She will eat it without the sugar if I mix in berries before serving.
If you prefer a more detailed description of making yoghurt at home, you might find the Green Living Australia website helpful.
UPDATE April 2019:
As suggested in a comment below, I made yoghurt and mixed this with some homemade jam to make frozen yoghurt treats.
I’ve decided to buy a yoghurt making culture from Green Living Australia because it will save a lot of money and significantly reduce the amount of plastic or glass yoghurt containers I would have to buy to refresh the culture. So even though this comes with packaging the overall result will be much less packaging because the culture can make 100 litres of yoghurt.