I could probably write a separate book on my dad’s yogurt. Actually, my dad should probably write that book, because the guy knows more about coagulated milk solids than any human ever should. He’s been making yogurt for decades, using a yogurt culture that’s over thirty years old (you can freeze leftover yogurt and use it many moons later as a culture). And though cooking websites may tell you that you need special machines and containers to make yogurt, all you really need are a sturdy pot and a clean index finger (more on that soon). And the coolest part about homemade yogurt is how it evolves and improves over time, since you can use one batch of yogurt as the culture for the next one. Your first batch will taste pretty much exactly like the first yogurt culture you use. But your fifth batch may turn out even richer, creamier, and tangier. My dad’s yogurt culture is essentially his third child, who he has raised to be smooth, slightly sweet, and pleasantly chunky. It never talks back or complains about the fact that he drives too slowly. You, too, can raise a yogurt child of your own! You’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff again.
Note: Choose your favorite brand of yogurt, as that’s essentially what you’ll be replicating—just make sure it has active cultures as an ingredient.
- Evenly coat the bottom of a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a thin layer of water (this will prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot). Set the pot over high heat and add the milk. Heat the milk until it just comes to a boil, watching it closely-as soon as you start to see bubbles forming, take the pot off the heat. Let the milk cool until it reaches 130°F, 30 to 35 minutes. If you don't have a thermometer, the milk should be warm enough that you can comfortably stick your (clean!) finger into it-it should feel hot, but not so hot as to scald your finger (think of a Jacuzzi).
- While the milk is cooling, smear the bottom of a 1-quart container with 1 teaspoon of the yogurt.
- When the milk has cooled, add the rest of the yogurt to the milk and stir with a whisk or small spoon for 3 minutes to make sure the yogurt has completely dissolved into the milk.
- Pour the milk-yogurt mixture into the container and loosely cover the top, leaving a little room for air to get out.
- Place the container inside an unheated oven with the oven light on and let sit for 2. hours (see Tip). Check the yogurt: When it is done, it will be set (not liquid) but still jiggle like Jell-O. If it's not yet set, leave it in the oven for 1 hour more. Depending on the temperature and humidity outside, the setting process could take up to 5 1/2 hours, so don't fret if it's not done the first time you check it. When the yogurt is done, place it in the fridge to chill and fully set overnight before using. The yogurt will keep, covered, for 4 to 6 weeks (it'll start to get pretty sour after 2 weeks, which, depending on your tastes, could be a good or bad thing).
- Depending on the temperature outside, you may want to vary the conditions a bit. In the winter, we leave the oven light on the entire time it takes for the yogurt to set; in the warmer months, we shut the light off about an hour after we place the yogurt into the oven.
- Want Greek-style yogurt? Line a colander with cheesecloth or overlapping coffee filters and set it over a bowl or deep plate. Pour in the finished yogurt and refrigerate overnight to allow the whey to drain out and the yogurt to thicken.
Excerpted from Indian-ish © 2019 by Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna. Photography © 2019 by Mackenzie Kelley. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Priya Krishna is a food writer and the author of the college-centric cookbook Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks, as well as the upcoming cookbook, Indianish, out in Spring 2019